With complicated construction and shapes, boutiques to mass producers, picking out new skis can be perplexing. I work on Mount Hood, so skis must attack a huge variety of conditions—corn, windblown, steeps, ice, and pow—and varied four-season terrain. It must be light and compact for travel and mountain rescue missions, which sometimes last all night. The key: versatility. Of the multitude skis out there, here’s my skimo gear for this season.
Skis: When a big winter storm hits, I reach for the pow slayer for backcountry tours and inbounds yo-yo laps during the height of the avalanche cycle. The Dynastar Cham HM 97 (dynastar.com) has a generous tip rocker, short radius, mid-fat underfoot, and light paulownia core. For one-day spring volcano climbs, spring corn, and the glaciers of Europe, I eyed the traditional-shape, 5.5-pound, 90 mm-waist Black Diamond Carbon Aspect (blackdiamondequipment.com).
Binders: For 15 years I’ve been a Dynafit devotee: inbounds and out. Light, strong, simple, and time-tested. This year’s I’m using Dynafit Radical ST 2.0 with brakes and ski crampons.
Boots: I really tried to love the low-volume, ultralight skimo race boots, but my feet got cold and the boots lacked the heft to drive a fat ski. The light, stiff Dynafit Vulcan TF (dynafit.com/en) with Intuition Pro Tour liners (intuitionliners.com) balance weight and performance.
Other gear. The precut, ski-specific skins not quite as versatile to swap between skis in the Wallowas or repair in a Chamonix hotel. This year I chose the Black Diamond Ascension skins: a bit heavier than mohair but better grip. I’m using Black Diamond Razor Carbon poles. For ski mountaineering, I have skied both the Haute Route and Ortler Circuit with the ultralight skimo-specific Black Diamond Raven Ultra Ice Axe, Neve Crampons, and Couloir Harness.
Avalanche: I’m using the Backcountry Access Float 36; after deploying it for air travel, I’ve refilled the canister—with some preplanning—in Chamonix, Davos, and Portland, Oregon (backcountryaccess.com). I’m using a Backcountry Access tour shovel, a CAMP Carbon probe (camp-usa.com) and a Mammut Barryvox beacon (mammut.ch).
Head gear: I’ve got three helmets to test this year. The ultralight CAMP Speed, the warmer Smith Maze (smithoptics.com), and the burly Poc Receptor Backcountry MIPS, the new multi-impact protection system (pocsports.com).
Now, let’s hope for snow!