Baking with the Baker Superlight? We’ll, in truth we weren’t exactly baking this weekend here in central Colorado. We spent the weekend up around 10,000 feet, where the sun had indeed baked some exposures to crust, but cold air preserved powder on northerly aspects. Thus, other than skiing hardpack or corn I had a good snow conditions to test the new Mount Baker Superlight backcountry skis that K2 fired our way a few days ago.
|K2 Mt. Baker Superlights with Dynafit Comfort bindings.|
As noted in comments to the previous blog post, I do use somewhat short skis these days. My body weight hovers around 150 lbs and I’m 5′ 11″ tall, so big long planks are more a sometime luxury than any sort of necessity. And less so every year as I seem to spend more time in dedicated ski touring and ski mountaineering, with less time at resorts and less desire to ski at high speeds. That said, skiing shorter boards can be an adjustment if you’re used to longer skis, and not every model/make skis well in shorter lengths, so at the least apply your own style to our opinions here, and best please demo when possible.
When I spoke with Mike Hattrup at K2 (after cleansing my mind of weird images from his days as a Greg Stump ski movie star), he didn’t flinch at the idea of sending over a pair of 167 cm Mount Baker Superlights. “They’ll be perfect for what you do,” he said.
Mike was right.
First, width of the Baker is that magic “around 90” under the foot (tip/waist/tail/ 122/86/107, as measured by us). While skis with even more girth can be fun and effective in skiing down everything from glop to breakable, they’re often heavy, and require climbing skins the size and weight of area rugs from an Aspen mansion. More, with super wide skis the weight of snow they can pick up on top can actually injure your muscles and connective tissue when you’re breaking trail.
In terms of flex, the Baker SL is not a noodle, but it is far from being a 2×4. Thus, you do feel something useful under your feet when you require an arc through breakable crust, or, Uller forbid, hardpack. That said, let’s be clear that this is a ski built with less mass, skied in a fairly short length, so it’s not going to rail like a bigger, heavier plank would do.
As for soft snow, in my opinion the Baker Superlight is ideal. The width provides a totally adequate platform for everything from hop turns in tight trees or couloirs to higher speed arcs when you’ve got the room. The wide tip tends to stay up where you want it, so you can make a casual choice about moving your weight forward and playing with a more aggressive powder stance — rather than being constantly forced into the unnatural rearward position that narrower skis with less tip frequently require.
P.M. update: A big question with this sort of low-mass ski is do they chatter or bounce on hardpack, or just feel wimpy? I didn’t notice any problem with that while ski touring. Today I got out on the ski lifts for a few runs that varied from highly chopped crud to fairly hard pack. I could lean the Baker’s over into a carve, though they’re certainly not asking to do that. They had average edge hold that would be totally adequate for ski mountaineering, and would work as a resort ski as well so long as you weren’t expecting a super agro plank. I didn’t have any trouble with chatter — they felt solid for something so short and light. Bottom line: I’m looking forward to using them for spring corn tours, since they’ll behave even if the bottom drops out of the snowpack, as it sometimes does in Colorado on a warm spring afternoon.
K2 of course makes a famous ski called “Mount Baker,” of which the Baker Superlight is a stripped down sibling. The parent Baker is said to yield full-on hardpack performance due to a metal layer that was removed from the Superlight to save weight. Probably true, so the question is if the Superlight can hold up on hardpack enough to be an all around touring ski. I suspect it’s fine as K2 added some Kevlar and stuff like that to make up for the lack of metal, and my lift skiing on the skis this afternoon bears that out (see above).
Another feature of this ski, for me, is the lack of twin tip tail. Unless you need a tail tip for tricks, looks, or your style of skiing, all the tail tip does is use up ski length, add weight, and make your ski tails difficult to stab into the snow next to the gasthaus door (or when you need them as an anchor or climbing aid). That’s the case with me. So I’m a happy camper without twintips. If you need ’em, and I totally respect it if you do (so long as you can land a 30 footer switch, otherwise just say “style victim”), look elsewhere at skis such as BD Voodo.
In all, you get the impression from the Baker Superlight that it’s designed for ski mountaineers, in other words, for people like us here at WildSnow.com weight has been trimmed to compare favorably with other lighter brands and models; it has the incredibly useful (for alpinists) holes in tip and tail; width is perfect; skin notches in tail are greatly appreciated. As for length, they fit crosswise in my pickup bed in front of the Yamaha, what’s not to love about that? My only gripe so far is the Baker graphics. I’m just not finding that toothy weird face to match the sublime emotions a day of backcountry powder pulls from my soul. Oh well, there is always a WildSnow sticker to take care of the problem. And at least they’re not dark colored, which causes even more ice and snow to build up on top than would normally be the case.
In all a WildSnow thumbs up for the Mount Baker Superlight, as a fine ski for earning your turns.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.