Spring and summer skiing is here. Succulent corn. The reason why you get up at 3 am to skin in for miles to reap a bountiful harvest. And then get up the next day and do it all again, like you were never even there the day before. Warm season skiing is my favorite by far. Don’t get me wrong, I love powder, floating effortlessly through pristine virgin snow, but spring and summer are for me. You can let your guard down a little, relax, take that steep line you’ve been lusting for all winter and not fear that the grim reaper is hot on your heels waiting for you to make one small mistake.
But if there is one thing about spring that tends to wear on me a little, it’s that you usually have to start your tours so dang early and skin on sometime icy and hard snow. But the plus side is that you get to skin and climb on bomber snow. For those icy starts, having a set of great ski crampons has been invaluable. And in this case, they are some B&D ski crampons that were recently sent to WildSnow HQ for review. I begged Lou to let me test them out, so he gave me the papal blessing and told me to get after it.
B&D crampons come in multiple widths, from 80mm to 120mm for the Dynafit compatible cramps. They also have ski crampons available for Fritschi and telemark bindings and even for you splitboarders out there. For our latest test we received two sets of Dynafit-compatible crampons from B&D in the 90 mm and 95 mm sizes. The crampons come with two pair of shims / boot spacers, a 1/4″ and 1/2″, that are designed to attach to the top of the crampon, with the provided screws. The crampons we received are designed for the more recent ST / FT vertical bindings, so they have a large cutout to accommodate the plastic piece coming off the binding toe. (Also, this latest B&D crampon is improved over all earlier versions, with small divots in the 90 degree bend that make it very strong in that area, though you can still bend the teeth if you stomp on rocks and that sort of thing, as with any ski crampon.)
In my case I have an 88mm wide ski. The crampon I used was a 90mm, which was actually about a 93mm, so for a tighter fit to the ski to prevent side torque we just customized it a bit (you can still bend the B&D crampons for custom fit, but not by much due to the reinforcements) and made it narrower. Works great. And, again, cutting off that plastic piece from the toe unit made no difference at all in performance.
I have actually used the 90mm crampon on a 78mm ski with the older classic TLT toe, which has a plastic crampon slot that’s not reinforced like the ST / FT models. I was worried that the crampons would torque out sideways and break the mount as some folks report, but I had no breakage, even with some steep, frozen side-hilling. Maybe I got lucky, but they seemed to work great as long as I was paying attention to what I was doing. That said, I’d rather have the crampon fit fairly tight to the ski, so torque is not an issue.
As far as durability, B&D ski crampons seem pretty bomber to me. I’ve had them out on a number of trips so far, and I tend to use them. They’re aluminum, of course, so they’re lightweight. Also an upgrade from previous models are the dimples on each side of the crampon, right where the radius of the main 90 degree bend is. Those dimples add more strength and resistance to twisting and torquing. I experimented with side-hilling on some steeper slopes (like 30-38 degree range) and never noticed any overt flexing. I climbed up, and I even downclimbed, like you might have to in a sketchy situation. They felt simply bomber in all conditions I used them in, and ultimately gave me much more security on the typical frozen, glazed over early morning spring snow that we often had to traverse or climb to access the goods.
I typically ski in the Scarpa F1 boot, so I have a shim on the ski to mitigate the metatarsal flex of the F1, it sits about 12mm high off the ski. I was worried that B&D’s cramps wouldn’t work because of that shim, as the crampon rides on top of the shim. My worries were unfounded. When climbing my Dynafit heels are usually in the 2nd or 3rd setting, rarely are they flat. So, I just set the crampons to work with those settings by putting on the appropriate boot spacer that B&D provided (in my case the 6mm or 1/4″ spacer), and they work great. B&D does offer a slick crampon specifically for the F1, but using the universal cramp worked fine.
Overall, B&D’s crampons work great. I’ve got more security on the uptrack, which keeps me relaxed and probably even lowers my heart rate a few beats per minute. They work amazingly well on steep side-hills which is where I tended to slip them on. But don’t get too angulated, as any ski crampon has a nasty tendency to lose its grip if you try and edge in at too steep an angle. I took a couple of falls to verify this. So they do have limits.
(WildSnow.com guest blogger Scott Nelson and his wife Jenny live in and enjoy the mountain life around Carbondale, CO. You’ll find Scott out running, skiing, climbing, cycling, and whatever else he can do to stay healthy.)
Scott lives near Carbondale, CO with his wife Jenny. He often meditates on finding that perfect career while pushing his heart rate to places it probably shouldn’t be.