5 Days of Black Diamond — Day 5 – Go Skiing

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Marble, Colorado

Marble, Colorado

(Please note, this TR covers our Monday adventure, but publication got delayed because of a snafu and another ski expedition. Take my word for it, the snow in Marble is now baked down mank. Don’t go. Ski Aspen Mountain instead.)

Yeah, I know, day five was going to be Eagle bindings. Shucks, that got delayed (look for it in a few days). Instead…

This past Sunday was a crazy thaw day that most avalanche prognosticators rated “considerable” on into Monday, since a rowdy winter storm on the horizon was figured to drop a boatload of snow on top of a thawing and unstable midpack. They were correct about the new precip, but somehow the dishrag mank held steady, and the new snow stuck to the old surface like epoxy on cardboard. Thus, with our son Louie still home from Pacific Northwest college and jonesing for more backcountry two planking, pursuit of smokey COLORADO powder was our destiny.

Backcountry Skiing

So, after checking the avy reports Monday morning I surfed over to some local snow reports. Six to eight inches here and there -- not exceptional for our resorts -- but up in the 'powder triangle' I knew we'd find twice that. So we headed for the Marble, Colorado area. With the 'Considerable' rating in the back of my mind, I wondered if even driving the Quarry Road was wise, but I figured the drop in temperature would prevent any huge climax slides that could reach the road, and the amount of new snow wasn't enough to make for huge slabs, so good. Even so, we did turn our beacons on for the drive (as usual, and note, everyone, please do turn on the beepers when you drive the quarry road. You're crossing under at least fourteen avalanche paths.) Photo above: Louie finds the Colorado white room.

Backcountry Skiing

We stuck to totally safe zones for our first lap. But our snowpit revealed a bomber midpack with the new snow glued to a dirty ice lens from a mud/rain start to the storm. From our pit and general observations after cutting some test slopes, we rated avy hazard as low to moderate, and would have gone for a low if it hadn't been storming hard (it was snowing about an inch an hour). We got slightly more agro on our second lap, but still kept out of the main avalanche path as I simply do not ski that thing during storms, as danger can increase to deadly levels from one lap to the next, and the powder frenzy can make you stupid. Visibility was crumby anyway, so by sticking to our favorite tree runs we had good visibility and super safe fun. (During our first climb we noticed another group gang skiing the avalanche path. What's up with that? Darwin Award auditions?)

Backcountry Skiing

OK, 5 Days of Black Diamond. That's Louie with his original model Verdicts and his Alias Avalung backpack. The young man is skiing well, it's so fun taking photos I'm thinking of leaving my point-and-shoot at home next time and bringing the SLR. (But then, do I really want to lug that thing around when the Canon A720 does this well?)

Backcountry Skiing

I always try to get a grab shot as the skier comes by me. Shutter speed was a bit low on this one, but I like it anyway. Oh, and those are indeed Black Diamond ski poles. Flicklock, to be exact. One thing Louie does that I really like is he doesn't use pole straps. One you get in the habit of that, you're eliminating the possibility of shoulder injury from a trapped pole, as well as upping your odds if you do get caught in a slide.

Backcountry Skiing

Ah, yes. The ubiquitous lifestyle shot? Or too posed? Either way, yeah, those are original model Black Diamond Verdicts, probably one of the two best Colorado human powered powder ski models ever made (the other is Dynafit Manaslu). They're light for their width (foam core), with an interestingly subdued sidecut that provides a somewhat unique but reliable ride that's not so hot on hardpack but great in anything soft. Louie says they're a cult ski on Mount Baker, and he's been offered good money for his, no questions asked. I'm not sure what Black Diamond's present equivalent is to the early Verdict. Though a bit heavy, Kilowatt perhaps comes closest in downhill performance.That's the Dynafit Comfort binding, and of course the Alias Avalung backpack is providing stowage. Good trip. More tomorrow.

Kilowatt ski review.

Shop for BD Verdict and Dynafit Manaslu here.

Comments

17 Responses to “5 Days of Black Diamond — Day 5 – Go Skiing”

  1. andyw March 25th, 2009 12:06 am

    photos look good to me mate.

    Also good awareness advice for folk like me in there if you read into it. Trouble with all sports though big cocks, small brains..every sport has it`s jocks.

  2. Colin March 25th, 2009 12:41 am

    I ski the same ski in a 180. Currently mounted with O1s, but I’m converting to the Dark Ski and they’re getting Dynafits. Never selling them.

  3. Bert March 25th, 2009 1:49 am

    “I’m not sure what Black Diamond’s present equivalent is to the early Verdict.”

    If you believe the rumors/hype that would probably be next year’s BD Justice. Though “light” at 115mm (or so) underfoot may of course not be the notorious “dynafit light” :-)

  4. pete anzalone March 25th, 2009 4:45 am

    Lou,
    Bring the SLR but have the young buck hump it up the hill for ya. Good for his fitness and our viewing.
    -Pete

  5. Njord March 25th, 2009 7:45 am

    @Andy: Even worse when you are blessed with both a small brain and small cock like me!

  6. Scruppo March 25th, 2009 10:08 am

    I’d nominate the K2 Coomba as one of the best Colorado powder skis as well. A little heavier than the Manaslus (probably similar to the Verdicts) but much better torsional rigidity for those hardpack / ice moments. Also a little wider for a little more float.

  7. Lou March 25th, 2009 10:16 am

    Float is over rated (grin), but I’ll add those to the list!

  8. ATBob March 25th, 2009 11:15 am

    Any thoughts on how the 08/09 verdict compares to the earlier BD Verdict in various snow conditions? I’m thinking of picking up a pair of this season’s 180s on closeout but haven’t been able to find them in this size to demo.

  9. Chase Harrison March 25th, 2009 11:31 am

    Lou,
    I totally agree with you on the comparison of the first generation
    Verdict to the Kilowatt. I have both and I am finding that I like skiing
    the Killowatt better than my Verdicts. Once I started skiing on the
    killowatt consistantly I found the Virdict to be some what noodlly. There
    both great skis, though.

  10. Lou March 25th, 2009 12:37 pm

    AT Bob, new Verdict is a totally different ski and probably a bit better on hardpack, and heavier.

  11. al March 25th, 2009 1:41 pm

    Any thoughts on how the 08/09 verdict compares to the earlier BD Verdict in various snow conditions

    I got both versions of verdict ,the newbies are better in every way than the oldies ,more dampening ,more float ,less hooky and a bit stiffer …all around better ski IMO

  12. Frank Konsella March 25th, 2009 3:05 pm

    If Louie is getting good offers for old Verdicts in the PNW, I would happily sell mine. Probably the worst ski (and least damp) I have owned in the past 10 years. A number of my friends also got that ski at the same time, but everyone else got rid of that ski as quick as they could. To each their own, though.

    I hear the new ones are much, much better.

  13. Mark Worley March 25th, 2009 9:13 pm

    The new wood core Verdicts ski well and are somewhat different from the old foam core version which I also liked. I skied the new Justice recently, and the ski is NOTICEABLY, MARKEDLY different from the Verdicts. In powder, likely a dream board, but not as versatile as Verdicts for non-powder conditions. Verdicts are considerably more well-rounded in harder or icier conditions. Next year’s Coombas are nice too and do handle hardpack better than the BD Justice. For the record, the Coombas are significantly heavier than the Dynafit Manaslus, though both are really great skis.

  14. Lou March 26th, 2009 5:25 am

    And, all remember that the Coomba will next season be the Coomback, as part of the K2 Backside gear line. Next year’s version has slight shovel rocker. Also, remember that the Anti Piste is the same ski as the Coomba, only with inserts.

  15. al March 26th, 2009 7:06 pm

    if I wanted to ski Verdicts in the BC and was worried about the size/stiffness I would go down 10cms from what they recommend for my weight for ease of handling … there would still be more than enough ski there to handle whatever

    I think I might put tele binding back on my old verdicts ,leave my new verdicts alpine and put my AT bindings on some apache chiefs I am getting cheap from a heli op

    anybody know anything about the chiefs ,apparently they are the same size as the coombas but heavier without the coomba tip .

    For 80$ I figure give em a try … on a lost night you can easily spend 80$ in the bar

  16. Dan October 26th, 2009 11:02 am

    Lou,
    Looking for some BC ski quiver advice. Been reading much of your site after hearing about it a few weeks ago.

    History:
    I\’m trying to get into the backcountry skiing. Been an avid 4 season hiker, backpacker, snowshoer and resort skier for 7 years, and am now comfortable enough with my ski skills to venture into the BC to get some more extreme turns in. Extreme skiing has always intrigued me and been a goal since I first heard of skiing. My nearer term goals are to ski mountaineer the 14ers and other peaks, but also just get out and rip some big lines in wide open untracked snow, and maybe get in a few hut tours.

    Skier type…:
    Height: 5\’ 9.5\". Weight without pack: fit 180lb. I do not have any backcountry skiing experience, so all I can do without going out on a tour with you is to inform you what type of skier I currently am. I typically head straight to the backcountry gates/back bowls at any of the resorts, hike as far in as I can with my skinny alpine system (7 year old 176 Fischer RX8\’s & clearance Dalbello boots). Once I get there, I attempt, with the skinny alpine set up, to rip a GS line down any wide open bowls/faces such as available at Breck or Keystone, then manuever through the trees at the end as fast as I can, looking for soft freshies. Or, if at A-Basin, or Breck\’s Lake Chutes for example, I maneuver through the chutes, when/if they\’re open, then try and rip a GS line down to the names trails. Taos I feel had two types of skiing from the ridges. Either extreme chutes and trees, or wide open Kachina peak to Hunziger bowl ending in trees and/or narrow moguled up named trails. I\’m drawn to the double diamond slopes and back bowls whichever resort I go to… So basically I love the technical aspect of chutes, and also the high speed nirvana aspect of wide open untracked snow. To me trees are simply an ever present force that must be dealt with happily, with a set of capable skis, to enjoy the rest of the day, but also have the gift of untracked powder when the rest of the resort is packed out.

    That said, I\’m a big fan of Black Diamond gear and have been very impressed with the reviews on their BC skis. I found a pair of 08/09 170 cm Verdicts (The 180\’s were not available, and the salesperson, without knowing my weight, insisted 170\’s would be great), and a pair of Garmont Mega-Rides on a good discount. Now looking back: Are the 170\’s too little ski for my height, weight, and skiing type? Should I have gotten the 180\’s…even for narrow chutes? Or, are Verdicts even the right ski to begin my BC quiver? What are your expert opinions on these questions based on my height, weight, and \’verbal\’ skiing description? And a third question: Are Dynafit FT Z12\’s enough binding for this type of skiing?

    Thanks so much for reading my novel above. And thanks so much in advance for any expert opinion you can provide.

    DT

  17. Lou October 26th, 2009 1:11 pm

    Dan, at your weight and considering you’ll probably be doing sidecountry, I’d think the 180s might be better, but you should try the 170s as it’s surprising how short you can go in fatter skis.

    I think you’ll find boots such as the Mega-Ride, while excellent for human powered vert, to be a bit soft for larger skis carrying your weight if you’re doing multiple laps.

    The FT-12 will be fine if you’re mostly oriented to human powered vertical, but don’t expect any lighter weight rando binding to hold up for multiple hard core resort days. If you want a one-rig setup that will see tons of resort vertical, Marker Duke or Baron is the way to go.

    Louweenie will now retreat back to his mountain cave for some meditation on cosmic snowflakes.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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