Past two days were the Manaslu backcountry skiing weekend. I’m talking Dynafit skis, not the 8,000 meter peak. But our climb and backcountry ski of Mount Sopris on Saturday was good training for a big one. And a good ski test. We scooted up the snowmobile trail using our trusty Yamaha, parked in the timber, and ended up climbing the peak in winds that peaked at 70 mph. Despite the weather we got some good turns, and even skied more backcountry powder yesterday in another zone. Check it all out.
|Jason got a new Canon Rebel with a nice lens. He used it. That’s me looking ethereal and Louie heading up. We got gusted a few times here with winds strong enough to knock us off our feet. The boys were digging the adventure. We’d get these crazy snow whirlwinds that would start above and head our way, leading to gleeful shouts of “duck, another one’s coming!”|
|Counting my past trip to Europe, this was about my tenth day on the new 08/09 Dynafit Manaslu ski. I’m here to tell you I’m wondering how in the world Dynafit designed a ski specifically for snow climates like Colorado? More on that below, but also check out our backcountry skiing gear weights for quick stats.|
|We climb and ski Sopris a couple of times every year. It’s Carbondale’s signature mountain — some of the Boulder transplants around here even think some of the Shasta Lemurians dwell up there. We haven’t seen any white robed shimmering beings over all our years up there, but I’m open to the possibility.|
|Since chicks dig scars, the boys were jealous when the wind knocked me over and a rock barked my knee. Looks worse than it was and luckily only damaged skin, not kneecap. Weird how you can get cut through your pants with no damage visible to the fabric. I’ve always liked knee pads, and wish they’d build lightweight removable ones into all randonnee style ski pants. I’d use ’em. Louie says he would too.|
|What it looked like. We kept doubting the summit, but after bundling up in every piece of clothing we carried, the peak was ours.|
| Dynafit Manaslu skis — my take: Naturally, as Coloradans we constantly attempt to perpetuate the state’s hard marketed image of perfect powder every day under bluebird sky, as if storms, wind, and drought are not words in our lexicon (and most certainly not in Vail’s). Reality is different.
During most winters we get a collapsing snowpack that requires fat, soft skis. Add some breakable crust to that, and well, you get the picture. Not to say we don’t get perfect storms and perfect seasons. We do. Like this year. And most winters gift us a legendary corn season. But our average winter snowpack can be tough.
So what’s the ski for that? We feel it needs to be fat, but not so wide its weight shreds your groin muscles (bear in mind we are ALWAYS are talking human powered skiing). We like a big tip that rides up out of collapsing junk; ski geometry we learned about years ago but seems to presently be out of fashion. The tip has to be soft, and the ski should be somewhat supple but still have enough snap to do something more than take a nap on hardpack or bouncy powder. On top of all that, the ideal plank should be incredibly light for its width.
Thus, time to talk Dynafit Manaslu.
Update, this just in from Dynafit Brand Manager Reiner Gerstner:
These are a no-compromise planks for difficult conditions, and we like ’em. We like ’em mucho. Indeed, as mentioned above it feels like Manaslu is designed for human powered backcountry skiing in Colorado’s wild snow. They have huge long “slow rise” tip. In fact, the almost reverse camber tip combined with a low twintip tail means this ski in a 178 cm length has the hardpack running surface of a ski nearly 10 centimeters shorter. As for width, we’re talking 122/95/108 — fat enough, as far as we’re concerned. Manaslu weight is amazingly low: our test pair weighs 51.4 oz (1457 gr) per ski, for a 178 cm length! As far as I know, the only ski that compares to that mass per unit length and surface area would be a Goode carbon fiber. Manaslu’s weight reduction is done by using low mass plastic for the tip and tail core, as well as using a couple of foam laminations in the wood core.
How do they ski? In powder Manaslu is easily as fun as any supple wide body, and if the snow tends to the difficult side, the tip does resist those abrupt dives that can ruin your day. While a wider heavier ski might rail better in breakable crust, Manaslu does fine in that arena as well. On boilerplate hardpack or white ice you’ll get a bit of chatter if you get off the sweet spot, but on packed powder or softening corn they’re totally friendly, totally stable, and totally at home. As many of you know, I’m not a fan of twintip tails, so I could do without even the Manaslu’s small twintip butt. That said, Dynafit says the Manaslu tail is designed for maneuvering in tight couloirs. I’ll admit such is useful for that, so I rest my twintip case.
What else? Manaslu does have the dedicated Dynafit skin anchor tip. Don’t let this scare you off, as the tip anchor can be modified or even removed to allow use of any brand’s skin tip loop system. And if you choose to go with Dynafit skins, it works well (Dynafit skins are improved this year with a stronger rubber tab in front). Perhaps most disconcerting to me as a fan of short skis for mountaineering, is that going back to a 178 cm length seems awkward once I strap them on my rucksack (the ski will also be sold next winter in 169 and 187 cm). Sure, how they carry has nothing to do with how they ski and they’re amazingly light once you shoulder said pack. So go ahead and laugh at me for my weird climber inspired views. But seriously, for true alpine ski mountaineering this is something to consider.
One other thing: Manaslu is pre-drilled with two different Dynafit binding positions, and can be mounted conventionally as well if you want to go for or aft of the pre-drilled holes. Thus, it’s amazing how fast you can get a pair of bindings on these things. Terrific for the home mounter, and should eliminate most of the pesky shop errors we keep hearing about.
Manaslu summary: A superlight widebody ski with perfect weight and geometry for human powered backcountry skiing in North America’s mid continental snowpack. Recommended. But they should have called them the Dynafit Colorado. Or Wyoming. Or Montana. Or Sopris.
|On Sopris we skied everything from breakable crust to perfect powder, then yesterday we got in a few lower altitude storm laps after yet another pulse dropped 8 inches of dust. Ho hum, another day of Colorado backcountry powder. At this point, it’s feeling like it’ll go on forever.|
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.