10 Radical Backcountry Skiing Items – Available Right Now

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | September 26, 2013      
Arctic Cat M900

Arctic Cat M900

1. SPOT Global Sat Phone – Black
(We still like Iridium, but Globalstar has the edge in price and performs fine in most areas of North America. Nonetheless, be careful what region you expect this phone to function in. For example, as far as I know you’re not going to get good performance in the Alaska Range. We’ve been testing here in Colorado and it’s working fine.)

2. DPS Wailer 99 Pure Wider might sometimes be better, but that 100 mm waisted form factor continues to rule when you’re earning your turns. And in a DPS, who could want more?

3. Dynafit TLT6-P boot (Evolution, the latest species.)

4. Garmin GPS radio. (Smartphones are nearly there for backcountry GPS, but we still like the stand-alone units when the going gets rough. We also like FRS radios, so why not combine both items in one unit? You can get a more expensive model with a camera in it, but really? Touch screen might be iffy for extreme conditions, test and return if you don’t like it.)

5. Dynafit Beast ski binding package (Not for everyone, but could be the only ski binding you need both on and off the resort. Availability will be limited this year, but if the binding does well in consumer testing look for better supply next season.)

6. Petzl Headlamp. Some models are programable, USB charging, work on AAA batteries if necessary.

7. Canon EOS Rebel SL1 18.0 MP with a couple of lenses. Ramp up your action photography with a real SLR camera, only this one is incredibly small and lightweight.

8. Fully guided Denali ski trip, Mountain Trip can do a custom designed guided ski expedition. About $11,000 each for you and two friends. If guided you’ll be required to stay roped up during every part of the descent (Park Service regulations the guides have to abide by). Being roped on Denali is not such a bad thing, but it’s not necessary for skiing from the summit down to 16,000 feet or so, provided conditions are good. Still, I’d say getting a fully guided trip to the top of North America, with your skis, is radical.

9. Cilo Gear backpack. The sack of life — in that it’ll last a lifetime. You might have to adapt their packs to use for ski alpinism, but they’re designed to be user configurable.

10. Arctic Cat M900 HCR. What costs more than a guided Denali ski trip? Your new ticket to ride. Push button reverse, electric start, configured for athletic brilliance. Click the link, but get your drool towel ready first. When you walk into the dealership, please tell them WildSnow.com sent you. (grin)


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21 Responses to “10 Radical Backcountry Skiing Items – Available Right Now”

  1. Douglas September 26th, 2013 10:48 am

    Hi Lou,

    Am I reading this right?: ” If guided you’ll be required to stay roped up during every part of the descent (Park Service regulations the guides have to abide by).”

    Is this in all U.S. National Parks or only Denali Park?

    Is it some new ‘act’ or something? Sorry to butt in on the top-ten list but this info was fairly disturbing.


  2. Lou Dawson September 26th, 2013 11:05 am

    Hi Doug, I verified that with two different guide services as sources, and yes, it’s the rules/regs the guides have to abide by or lose their permit. I don’t want to make the mistake I’m sometimes guilty of in getting too detailed about this unless I get more info, but I verified that when it comes to skiing, the only way you’ll get guided is on a rope with others.

    I thought about it, and if the guide really had their act together this isn’t as heinous a requirement as it sounds. The way I’d do it is on the summit day I’d have two people (guide and client) on a long rope, and do a kind of leapfrog technique where necessary. Down on the flatter glacier you really want to stay roped up anyway, though people do frequently go unroped figuring they’ll just stay in everyone else’s tracks.

    Louie and I stayed roped up for nearly all the descent from 14,000 feet down, doing so was a hassle at times and slowed us down by a huge factor, but was the right thing to do. Roping off the summit was not in our plan. If it had been, we’d have figured out a way to do it (semi) efficiently.

    Where the rope rule really messes with a guided group is it’s going to prevent them from doing any fun-lap skiing in safe zones that have proved to work fine for unroped skiing, such as from the bottom of the headwall fixed lines down to the 14,000 foot camp. Or from the summit and down across the Autobahn (provided conditions are soft snow, not chalk or ice. Autobahn has fixed anchors so it could be “long roped” pretty easily.

    Thinking it through, my concept is that if you’re not up for self sourced Denali ski expedition (I’ve done two, and to do them right is a huge endeavor for anyone not used to organizing high altitude expeditions), the guide service is an option. In terms of cost, doing it on your own isn’t going to be cheap, I’d say the guide service cost is double the cost of a high-end trip you do yourself, or about 3 times more than a vagabond style exped. The combo of expedition food, special gear, glacier airfare and peak fee really eat up the money — guided or not. Especially if you want to be somewhat self sufficient.


  3. James Moss September 26th, 2013 11:07 am

    I think you’ll find the Iridium line of Satellite phones to be better. Globalstar has lost most of its satellites and you can wait hours sometimes for one to come along. Iridium is higher priced, but you can find one in the sky.

  4. Lou Dawson September 26th, 2013 12:13 pm

    James, I have both phones, testing side-by-side in Colorado valley. We actually wait longer for Iridium on average. Is what you’re saying based on testing, or just assumptions? Lou

  5. Douglas September 26th, 2013 6:59 pm

    Lou, Thanks for the info – Bummer for the folks that have skills but just want to hire a guide for whatever reason. As the sport progresses there seems to be more and more of these folks heading into the hills. I wasn’t aware that the government knew how to climb – such is life.

    An historical note: I have also descended from 14,000′ Camp, on a pair of Ramers – roped together 🙂

    I see that the GPS Radio made the list. Regarding GPS and / or smartphone use: I have watched closely through the years as you have taught us all about GPS and phones, mapping, etc.

    Soon, as I am sure you are aware, we will be able to whip out the mini-tablet and check out a guidebook and a map or how about Google Earth or your favourite app with live satellite fix? And also the biggest of all; being able to run windows programs on a tablet. GIS, image manipulation, geo-tagging, etc. Now we’re talking!

    Now that Windows is being incorporated into the tablets, the useability becomes far more exciting. I am making the jump to a tablet for work (trail design and layout) next spring so I will keep you posted on the progress.

    I have read about the issue with the new touch pad GPS’. I have not had the chance to try one yet as I am just holding out for the tablet and I also have not tried a tablet in inclement weather yet. It seems a big deal to folks that they are not too friendly with gloves on. What is it like out in the snow, wind, etc. with the bare fingers? Wondering if tablets are the same. Have you checked out any of the waterproof tablets?

  6. Jailhouse Hopkins September 26th, 2013 9:38 pm

    DPS again! Come on big fella, quit denying it and admit you’re a converted heathen!!

  7. John Gloor September 26th, 2013 10:25 pm

    Lou, I went to the Arctic cat site and checked out the specs on that sled. They don’t post a weight. is it 100lbs heavier than the two stroke competitors, like the Yamaha’s are? Not that it matters, I can’t afford it anyway. Maybe in 2020.

  8. Eric Steig September 27th, 2013 8:29 am

    Lou, if you get to count an Arctic Cat as a backcountry ski gear, then I get to count a Bell L4 Long Ranger. 😉

  9. Charlie September 27th, 2013 10:15 am

    I like Cilogear packs very much, but having worn out one, and being partway through the life of another, I can state with certainty that they don’t last a lifetime.

    If they did, they’d probably weigh too much.

  10. stevenjo September 27th, 2013 11:05 am

    Lou –
    Starting a tepid search for a snowmobile. I’m a total newbie to this and really just looking for something reliable to eat up our god-aweful 5 mi mile flat Oregon approaches – nothing fancy. Have any suggested resources where I can start my homework?

  11. Lou Dawson September 27th, 2013 12:01 pm

    Hi Steven, I’ll leave a comment on one of our dedicated snowmobile posts. Moment…

  12. Martin September 27th, 2013 2:46 pm

    If you just want to send & receive text messages, the DeLorme Inreach SE provides two-way satellite communication at much lower cost than the Spot Global Phone. It uses the Iridium network, not Globalstar. And it’s also a personal locator beacon/GPS tracker.

  13. Hacksaw September 27th, 2013 5:18 pm

    Lou, you forgot about folks getting fieldbooks. Carrying a fieldbook makes you look and search for clues to snow instablities while on a tour, They sort of reenforce the additude that we should all be making field observations. Doug Fesler once wrote, “… if used on a regular basis, it [the field book] will not only provide you with a written record of snow conditions, but will act as an aid in learning how these conditions change with time and space. But more importantly, the act of recording information will cause you to seek information.”

  14. Rob S September 28th, 2013 5:06 pm

    Lou – this looks a bit like a Wild Snow Economic Stimulus Package! I dropped the coin for the DPS 99s, but the Arctic Cat may be a bit over the top for this season. 🙂

  15. Lou Dawson September 28th, 2013 5:45 pm

    My disgustingly capitalistic plan was to find some way to start getting sales commissions on snowmobile sales (grin), but so far I’ve not found the key to the kingdom. Instead, I’m just figuring if they see enough traffic coming from this website, they’ll just give us one sled a year. Yeah, or perhaps two! (grin)

  16. Lou Dawson September 28th, 2013 5:46 pm

    Hacksaw, thanks for posting that about the fieldbook concept. I totally agree, and I should mention it more here.

  17. Chris Simmons September 28th, 2013 7:03 pm

    @Douglas – There are very few commercial operations policies that are nationwide in the NPS. In fact, as I’m writing this, I can’t think of one. The US public land management system is very decentralized: great to allow for unique solutions to local problems, but it also means there is little willingness to create national policies (like requiring a certain level of certification). Insurance requirements differ from park to park, and parks will make rangers and guide services adhere to safety standards that they’re not allowed to apply (and incapable of enforcing) against the public. On Denali, guided parties are required to be roped up whenever moving between camps and the summit, regardless of their mode of travel. On Rainier, guided groups are required – by the park – to be roped up whenever they’re on a glacier, to wear helmets whenever they’re roped up, and are restricted from guiding on about 35% of the mountain. But if you’re an unguided team, none of this can be applied to you. (Full disclosure: I’m an AMGA certified guide and I have a few opinions about this. 😉 )

  18. David B September 29th, 2013 5:02 pm

    DPS hey Lou.

    It’s hard to jump on a standard glass ski after sliding on pure prepreg carbon fibre.

    I’ve just completed the southern hemi season and am now addicted to the Cassiar 85 for on piste and the Wailer 112RPC for everything. RPC @115 underfoot is killer. They’ll be heading north with me this coming season to accompany my Lotus 138 Spoons.

  19. Jamie September 30th, 2013 10:01 am

    Mountain trip is no longer run by original owners, but by people from New Jersey.

  20. Joe Risi December 26th, 2013 10:19 am

    Lou how has the SL1 held up for you? I’m looking at cashing in on some killer sales and am seriously considering this mini samurai sword. Too small to use with gloves or any other reservations?

  21. Lou Dawson December 26th, 2013 10:36 am

    So far so good. Not particularly glove friendly, but not horrible. We bought it mostly for studio and lifestyle photography, not so much for use during normal ski tours when we want to travel super light, though we take it on some trips. Still recommended. Lou

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