This spring season in Colorado was big. At first it did not seem like winter wanted to end. The snow would not stop falling. But once the snow did stop, the ski mountaineering lines looked amazing. There were even places that had never been skied that not only looked doable, but fun.
With such a season, all I needed was a pair of skis. Lucky for me I got to test the 2011/12 Voile Vectors that those Utah denizens of the deep sent over for the incredibly involved WildSnow vetting and evaluation program.
When I first got to take a look at the Vectors I was a little skeptical. My main beef was that I was holding the longest length, 180 cm. Normally this would be fine for me, being 6 feet and 155 pounds soaking wet. I come from a racing background however, and usually use a longer ski especially when it has both a tip and tail rise. Well, as they say, you can’t judge a book by its cover, so I took ‘em out.
My first day on the Vectors was an overnight trip up to the Tagert Hut near Aspen. Getting to the hut is a little bit of a slog without a sled, but I was not worried in the least. Weighing in at a mere 7 lbs/pair and with a Dynafit TLT Vertical ST binding to keep the weight savings going, I was able to motor up to the hut with minimal effort.
At the Tagert we were blessed with perfect powder conditions. The Vectors lead me happily through the pow harvest that was had. With the 121/96/110 dimensions and the tip and tail rise, skiing the powder was effortless.
But when is skiing perfect powder on low angle terrain not effortless? The Vectors would need to show me more before I was sold, and they would have their chance over the next month: Ski mountaineering season.
My first true test of the Vectors came on Mt. Sopris while skiing the Laundry Chutes. Thanks to the lightness of the skis, strapping them to my pack was not the grimace inducing chore that it can be if your skis are the size of snow cat tracks, as many of today’s planks seem to be.
Thus, having the Vectors on my rucksack while booting up the chute, and then the mixed alpine climb to exit the chute, was no problem. Then came the ski. The entrance ramp into the chute that we skied is very steep, but again I was blessed with near perfect snow. Making turns down the entrance ramp and into the chute was effortless once more. Then on the apron at the bottom I decided to give them a little test and opened it up into fast GS sized turns. I was pleasantly surprised. A ski that I was afraid was going to be too short was holding its own at speed.
There was only one more test that the Vectors need to pass to be Anton approved. The dreaded steep hard-pack. I had the perfect place in mind.
Up until June I had the almost unbelievable joy of skiing powder no matter where I went on the Vectors. From the Tagert Hut, to the Laundry Chutes, to Mt. Shasta in California. This changed when I ventured up Capitol Peak in the Elk Mountains between Aspen and Crested Butte.
On my fourth attempt this season I finally made it to the summit of Capitol on June 6th. I clicked in and made my way out onto the south face. Steep, very exposed, and rock hard. Oh man. I made a jump turn, and the skis held. I made another. Again they held. Then a long traverse over to the East face with some sidestepping to get around some rocks. That wasn’t too bad.
We made our way over to a notch on the ridge where we were wanted to drop into Capitol’s north face and into uncharted territory. Being north facing, the snow was quite firm. It was also not that consistent. I dropped in. Needless to say I was a bit nervous skiing steep firm snow above a 300 foot cliff. The Vectors made things much easier however. They felt solid. Once I had time to think (e.g., when I got to the bottom of the extremely long and scary rappel that completed our route), I was sold. The Vectors had done it all, and made it all fun.
In summary, I found Voile Vectors to be a terrific ski mountaineering or backcountry ski. They have perfect dimensions that balance width with weight and quickness, and the tip and tail rise definitely make the funky stuff easier. The only drawback that I could find to this ski was that when I made a turn from the backseat (yeah, happens to the best of us) the ski seemed to shoot out in front of me. I think this is because with the tail rise and length of 180cm, not much tail was behind my boots. Easy to get used to (stay out of the backseat!) so minor detail. WilldSnow thumbs up for the Voile Vector, another in the grand crop of skis for next season that’ll make ski lifts obsolete.
(Guest blogger Anton Sponar spends winters enjoying the skiing ambiance of the Aspen area, while summers are taken up with slave labor doing snowcat powder guiding at Ski Arpa in Chile. If Anton didn’t ski every month of the year, skiing would cease to exist as we know it.)