Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gear Review: Some Backcountry Ski Ideas

Given the conspicuous lack of snow the last few weeks, the local skiing holes have all but dried up.  I tried to go to the backcountry trails around Blue Hills on Saturday, but found more rocks and grass than snow.  What is a backcountry ski addict to do when there's no snow?  Shop for gear, that's what!

Gered actually got me started on this when he recently asked what kind of ski I would buy if I was looking for something new (which I wasn't).

After my Saturday attempt at adventure skiing failed miserbly,  I ended up at the nearby Blue Hills ski area as it was the only place in a two hour radius that had snow. It was there that I  managed to test out the still nameless $25 Ebay skis: the ones I had used at Jay Peak when Rudy was injured.  After multiple runs down the icy couloirs at Blue Hills I came to the conclusion that the Ebay skis would not serve well on steep, narrow runs, and that I may need to find a more specialized ski.


First, lemme just say a few things about Blue Hills:

1. Music selection on the loud speakers sounded like a 13 year old's Ipod.  Miley, Gaga, autotune, etc. ... (Um yeah, I kinda enjoyed it. Is that so wrong?)

2.The best run is called Beer's Bluff.  Unfortunately, I learned from the locals that  it hasn't been open in ten years because of lack of snow. Well, Blue Hills, I call your friggin' bluff! Even if there was enough snow, the lifts run so low that you can't go on it unless you're under 4 ft tall.

3. Big Blue: (In my best Tommy Heinsohn Voice) "You call that a Black Diamond! That is a terrible call! A TERRIBLE call!"

4. Great place to bring kids to learn how to ski.  Awkward place for a 35 year old with no kids to go and test his new gear. I was one of the few in the parking lot not getting dropped off by Mom.

Needless to say, this wasn't the backcountry trip I had aspired toward.  In fact it was pretty much the exact opposite.

And so when I got dizzy from skiing Big Blue repeatedly, I retreated home and numbed the pain with Excel.  Being the nerd that I am, I drew up a chart of some of the most popular, and most appropriate skis for backcountry use.  I started by looking for a ski with a deep side-cut (difference between widest and narrowest part of the ski), one that was versatile (not specifically for powder or for packed trails), and one that was less than 8lbs.

Here's what I came up with:

Name                            Sidecut(mm)  Length(cm)  Turn Radius   Weight(lbs)   Best Deal($)
Karhu Spire BC               122-86-108     177                   *                     6.9                   290
Karhu Jak BC                  124-90-113     179                                                                  250
G3 Baron                         116-81-104     177                                         7.0                    300
Black Diamond Havoc      122-88-110     175                                        7.9                    370
K2 Wayback                   124-88-108      174                                        6.7                    419
K2 Backup                      125-82-110      174                                        7.1                    350
Dynafit Manaslu               122-95-108      178                  21                  6.2                    549
K2 Mt. Baker                  120-88-108      174                                        8.6                    330     
K2 Mt. Baker Superlight  120-88-108      174                                        6.6                   unavail 
Black Diamond Voodoo   123-88-112     175                  21                  7.3                    350
Black Diamond Stigma      123-79-108     174                  17                  6.8                    300
Black Diamond Machine   123-79-108     182                  18                  7.5                    199
Atomic RT86                    127-86-113     176                                        6.5                    350
Head Monster Alpinist       114-74-103     177                  17                  5.2                    250
K2 Shuksan                      119-78-105     174                  16                  7.1                    275

*I was too lazy to research all the turn radius data for these skis, so get your lazy fingers dancing on the internet to look it up for yourself.

I eventually settled on the Black Diamond Machine ski.  (And not just because I'm a cheap bastard)

First of all, for a longer ski it has an extremely tight turn radius.  This is due to the dramatic sidecut (123/79).  Also, given the huge shovel head on the front, the Machine will be less likely to dive under deep snow, and thereby Ill be less likely to go flying over the skis like I did on those cliffs on Mt. Hunger.

Truth be told, if money was absolutely no object I might have gone for the K2 Backup.  These are slightly lighter, and received good reviews.  

Also, if I didn't already have a pair of skinny skis (my Ebay specials), then I might have strongly considered the K2 Shuksan.

Ultimately, I like the mid range weight for the Machine.  Rudy, which will still be my go-to ski for glades, can get chattery on hardpack at a mere 6lbs per pair.  In order to round out my quiver, I need a ski that leans toward being a carver, and less of a floater.  This is why I eliminated the ever popular Mt. Baker Superlight skis ( and because I couldn't find one pair for sale)  The Machines are the perfect compromise between my desire to keep the pack light, but have a ski that can cut icy slopes.

My new G3 Onyx bindings, and Garmont Megaride boots have been enough to handle the nameless Ebay skis, which are about the same weight, so I'm not worried about the ski being too much for my backcountry boots.  This might be a concern with a juicier boot.

This brings us to my final note, and another backcountry vocabulary moment.  This one is brought to you by the word "juicy".  Skiers use this one alot for skis that like to wander, boots that are too weak, or whenever they can't think of the right word.  For example, "I kept turning some tight lines in the icy coulior, but then the skis got all juicy on me."

This is the point at which you can look your friend in the eye and knowingly repeat your other key phrase, "Torsional rigidity, my friend, torsional rigidity..."  They might even think you know what you're saying.  Until they find out that you ski at Blue Hills.

1 comment:

  1. Any chance you'd share the location of skiable spots in Blue Hills reservation? We've got a big snow coming!