Backcountry Skiing Gear I Took to Europe — Louie’s Take

Post by blogger | April 8, 2008      

After a winter of testing, including about fifteen days of European backcountry, here is my current gear take. We tried to give the best links we could, if any of you guys are shopping or just looking…

European backcountry skiing.
LDIII tests the gear about a week ago in Austria.

Black Diamond Raven Pro ice axe. Nice and light but with a strong steel head.

Crampons. Hybrid cramps my dad put together using some Kong aluminum with Grivel steel, steel front half, aluminum back half.

Ski crampons.

Black Diamond Whippet ski poles. The old stand by, getting a little beat up from falls and hot snowmobile exhaust pipes melting the baskets.

BCA Tour shovel and probe. Light and compact because probe stores in shovel handle.

BCA tracker beacon.

Scarpa Spirit 3 boots. I wore the pivots and toe rubber out on my old pair of backcountry skiing boots, and got a new pair for this trip. They fit me great and ski well, what more do I need?

Dynafit FT 10.0 skis mounted with Dynafit Vertical bindings, used with brakes but I carried safety straps in case we needed them for glacier travel. I used the Dynafit skins with the tip attachment, but ended up removing the plastic tip reinforcement on the skis because I could feel it messing with my turns when my ski tips went into the snow. I like bigger skis in the soft, but the FT is a good compromise when you don’t know what conditions you’ll be hitting. The pair I used were new for 08/09. They skied well and were said to be beefed up for freeride use — fine by me.

K2 scepter helmet. 4 years old and still fits. Don’t know if these are still available, but main criteria is that it’s light and has a vent system you can close. The CAMP Pulse is similar.

Camp Coral harness. Sadly the weather kept us off the glaciers so I didn’t use this, but I’m planning on climbs and glacier travel this spring so I’ll keep it in my travel kit.

BCA Stash Valhalla backpack. Versatile, carries my helmet well.

Zeal optics goggles. Photochromatic lenses change with the light

Native eyewear sunglasses.

Ex Officio underwear, indeed terrific for traveling. Wash when you take a shower, dry overnight, on again the next day.

Ski socks, Thorlo.

OR Sequence wool t-shirt. Awesome.

Wool hat.

Balaclava I always carry this, super thick and warm. Might be overkill, but 80% percent of heat escapes through the head, as everyone knows.

Buff neckgaiter. Good spare in case someone forgets their neck gaiter. Surprisingly warm for its size.

Nalgene polycarbonate water bottle. I spray painted this black, so you can melt snow in it on a sunny day.

Lightweight and heavy versions of homemade survival/repair/first aid kit. Heavy version includes Mylar bivvy sack. All Europeans carry is a shovel and a cell phone, so even with my lighter weight kit I was ahead of the game.

Slope meter. Cut down to save weight.

Garmin Etrex GPS. Since much of the good skiing is above timberline, this is an essential item if you’re self guided. Remember to put in your waypoints BEFORE you leave.

Compass. Ditto above.

Sunscreen/chap stick

Full brim sun hat, generic from the surplus store.

Old Marmot Randonee glove. Good backup pair.

North Face gloves with liner. Got them for 10 bucks at a silent auction, have served me faithfully ever since.

Sports Authority thin glove liners.

OR Motto jacket. Review coming soon.

Marmot softshell pants for warmer days. We didn’t have any warmer days, so I only used these for city pants during a cold rainy day in Kufstein.

Mountain Hard Wear Extend long underwear bottoms (sorry, the word “tights” is not in my vocabulary.


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8 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing Gear I Took to Europe — Louie’s Take”

  1. David April 8th, 2008 12:47 pm

    Those hybrid crampons sound pretty clever.

    I know that 80% (or even 90%) head heat loss is stated constantly by outdoor folks, but I don’t think it’s supported by research. There’s some crazy Canadian professor who researches cold stuff (I think he goes by Professor Popsicle) and I think he estimated the head heat loss at closer to 10%. This is roughly the skin surface area of the head and neck.

    I love my balaclava too though. Nice list.

  2. Lou April 8th, 2008 1:31 pm

    Does Professor Popsicle have a website by any chance?

  3. Tom April 8th, 2008 3:49 pm

    Grivel will produce hybrid cramps (steel front half + aluminum back half) next season.

  4. Jason April 8th, 2008 4:06 pm

    Thanks for the gear update, it’s obviously solid gear if that’s what you’re using.

  5. Michael April 8th, 2008 9:34 pm

    Louie, how did you remove the plastic tips on your ft 10’s without causing the materials underneath to delaminate? I have the same skis and would love to remove the plastic tips so my skins fit better, but I’m reluctant because I tried to do the same thing with a pair of Volkls and the entire top sheet peeled off the next time I skied.

  6. Eric Steig April 9th, 2008 12:02 am

    Since 80% of the heat escapes through the head, then if it warms up by 20%, you can ski buck naked if you keep your hat on.

    Seriously though: Louie, why did you say “I brought safety-straps in case we were doing glacier travel”? I don’t get it. Are you worried about losing a ski down a crevasse?

  7. Lou April 9th, 2008 6:19 am

    Big Lou here (Louie is traveling). Last time I skied naked I didn’t need a hat, at least not on my head (grin), Seriously, I think that 80% heat loss from the head that gets talked about is based on the assumption that a person is well clothed, with a bare head. Even so it’s probably exaggerated as others mentioned… though good for jokes.

    As for safety straps, yep, sometimes they’re nice to have on a glacier so you don’t loose a ski in a crevasse, and we’d heard that guides sometimes require them. We were planning on some glacier skiing and there was a possibility we were going to end up in Chamonix on a Dynafit trip with a guide (the weather nixed all that).

    Michael, we remove the plastic tips by just backing out the screws and pulling them off. Doing so definitely voids the warranty and could cause durability issues. When we do it, we spread epoxy on the exposed portion of the tip. We’re not recommending this mod because of durability questions, but we’d be remiss not to mention that we feel the blunt thick plastic wad can sometimes interfere with the tip smoothly slicing the snow, and by removing them we were testing if this was so. You’d only notice this effect in deep, denser powder while skiing aggressively and burying your tips on occasion. Another solution to this is to simply grind away some plastic off the outside edges of the tip protector, rather than removing it.

    Another issue with the Dynafit tip protectors is that they make it tough to use conventional skin tip loops. Removing them fixes that.

    I see the need for the tip protectors and like the Dynafit skin attach system, but would like to see the protectors be more minimalist rather than so big and bulky.

  8. David P April 9th, 2008 10:28 am

    Dr. Popsickle is Prof. Gordon Giesbrecht (U. of Manitoba). He gave a great talk on hypothermia at last year’s Wilderness Medical Society meeting. I can’t locate my syllabus notes right now, but I think the 80% heat loss from the head is exaggerated. It comes from this, however: Your extremities will vasoconstrict in response to cold to conserve core warmth, but the vessels in the scalp cannot do that effectively. Your brain is also an amazing generator of heat due to its high metabolic output (in those of us who use it anyway!). Here’s a link to Prof. Giesbrecht’s website:

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