When the crisp air of September gusts your town like something splashed from a mouthwash advertisement (whoops, did I write that?!), thoughts of backcountry skiing gear surface like sharks rising to tasty chum scattered by eager fisherman (ok, ok, I’ll stop…).
In cubicles and wireless hotspots across this great nation, keyboards click and monitors burn with queries about the latest tools. Magazine gear guides become dog eared, but their brevity and advertiser appeasement dilute their power. Shop employees may help, but their eyes glaze over when asked about things like ramp angle, binding flex and sock construction. Forget all those sources. WildSnow is here for you.
Lou, love your site, I check it almost daily all year long. I have never owned an AT set up. I have looked at reviews and tried to get as much info from the site as possible but I wanted some suggestions from the horse’s mouth. I know you’ve got tons of reviews a person can find with your search box or by using your categories, but I figure folks may be buying gear soon so it would be good to get a more immediate take. So following is my question:
I am an advanced intermediate alpine skier, beginner tele and snowboarder. I am 5’10” (gulp) 240 lbs. So I need some beefier gear.
I saw the Scarpa Spirit for sale for $209, would you recommend them?
I also would like to have gear on the lighter side but still have the heft I need for my heft.
Any help is appreciated and thanks.
T, first off you WILL loose some of that heft if you get some backcountry skiing gear and start uphilling. And as you allude to, gulp, you need to do that (the weight part).
All backcountry skiing gear is designed for average weight users. The only reason it works for big guys is that it’s over engineered so it’ll hold up with time or heavy use. Thus, If a guy like you straps on a backpack and asks any binding and boot to handle nearly 300 lbs (you, backpack, boots, clothing, etc.), you’d better be looking for beef and not worrying about weight (of the gear).
What’s more, the effect of weight savings in your skis/boots/bindings is only as effective as a percent of your total body weight. Thus, if you’re a big boned guy who will always be somewhat heavy, you need to be on gear that’s proven to work well for the large, and not be thinking about trimming ounces from your boots/skis/bindings. Ounces that will have little to no effect other than imaginary.
From an athletic training point of view, it’s also important to remember that loosing fat weight is incredibly effective in terms of endurance, and much more important than shedding gear weight.
I’ll use myself as an example. With the help of our terrific WildSnow sponsors I get to ski with the lightest gear on the planet. Adding to that, I’m always experimenting with trimming grams. All fun. But when I really notice my uphill speed increase is when I simply loose a pound or two of fat. That’s because body fat is not only baggage, but detracts from blood supply your muscles could use.
Granted, I’m not carrying a lot of extra body weight so a bit of loss makes a large percentage difference in my case. But my point is that people with lots of body fat should devote nearly ALL their weight worries to shedding even mere ounces, rather than directing much (if any) money or mental energy to how light their ski gear is.
Specifics, assuming you’ll really be using this stuff for uphilling in powder and natural snow conditions:
First, I’d advise you to go with AT gear. You’re already a good alpine skier. Why learn a new way of skiing (tele) when you’ve got the whole wild world of the backcountry to break any boredom you might have with the alpine turn?
For skis, stick with wider but don’t go too wide as the real fatties pile up with snow and may become difficult during the uphill, if not downright bad for your hips and knees. So go with something at around 95 mm at the waist or a bit wider. In terms of ski length, go a bit longer than “normal,” probably in the 185 cm range.
To support your mass you do need a beefy boot, but vary that by your style of skiing. If you’re a mellow skier, get any of the hefty 4 buckle boots. Spirit 4 you mentioned would be fine, as would many of the new overlaps such as Dynafit ZZeus. If you ski fast and huck, at your weight you should be at the upper end of the scale in terms of boot beef, such as the Garmont Endorphin or Black Diamond Factor. If this is a cross-over setup that’ll be used quite a bit at the resort, consider simply using any alpine boot that opens up enough for walking, or has a walk/ski mode switch.
In terms of bindings, with guys like you I feel there are two choices. If you don’t charge too hard and are doing mostly backcountry, go with the Fritschi Freeride. If you’ll usually be using this gear on the ski hill or otherwise mechanized, go with the Marker Duke. Have your bindings mounted by a pro (by “pro” I don’t mean a kid with an apron and a screw gun who’s three brews into his latest sixer, but rather a guy who actually knows what he’s doing), and request that the screws be set with epoxy.
WildSnow comment minions, you got some ideas on how to set up gear for bigger folks?
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.