Gear for Spring Backcountry Skiing Traverse

Post by blogger | January 23, 2006      

We’re gearing up for another Trooper Traverse this spring, only this time we’re taking more days and doing more ski descents along the way. More, we’re experimenting with ultra-light gear for backcountry ski traversing.

Pack without food or group gear weighs about 16 pounds, would like to get it down to 15 pounds. To do so we’ll have to trim a bit off nearly everything, along with finding lighter weight shell pants and a few other low mass items. So far we’ve realized our greatest weight savings by using the Granite Gear Ozone backpack, as well as a down sleeping bag and a down puff jacket. Down is problematic because it works so poorly when damp, but we’re only doing the trip if the weather report is good, and we’re also carrying adequate synthetic clothing, so we could be uncomfortable but not dangerous. We’ll also be using the lightest ski gear we can come up with, mostly Dynafit, with shorter/lighter skis and skins.

Lightweight gear for backcountry skiing
Trooper Traverse gear organized for the weigh-in.


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5 Responses to “Gear for Spring Backcountry Skiing Traverse”

  1. Anthony Rabinowitz January 24th, 2006 1:22 am

    Lou, a couple of comments on your traverse gear list:

    A plastic shovel? Is that a compromise to save weight or do you really think it is strong enough to reliably dig someone out of avi debri? I have heard many first and second hand reports of plastic shovels either breaking or the blade being too thick and flexy to chop up debri, which is what you are supposed to do before you dig it out. Several different companies make small, light, metal shovels that are only a few ounces heavier than plastic ones.

    Sleeping Pad: Is one Ridgerest warm enough for you? An Exped Downmat 7 (distributed by Outdoor Research) is 11 oz heavier (comparing full length models), 2.1 inches thicker, and warm enough to use by itself. The Ridgerest only makes sense if that is the only sleeping pad you are carrying.

    Booties: I got a coated nylon (with removalbe closed cell foam in the sole) mukluk from Outdoor Research a couple of years ago. I use it with a small primaloft bootie from Montrail. The rubber outer booties that are included with the primaloft bootie are good enough for tromping aroud a hut in, but only come up to your ankle so you want the OR mukluck if your are camping outdoors.

  2. Ginger Goodwin January 24th, 2006 2:55 am

    Rather than using a nalgene bottle we save weight with the bottles from variety store bottled water. On an 8 day hiking trip three of us used Dasani bottles and none of them broke. Not sure how these would be affected by extreme cold but if you are going in the spring probably not an issue.

  3. Mark Worley January 24th, 2006 3:32 am

    Nice! Trooper Traverse re-emerges.


  4. Will S. January 24th, 2006 4:33 am

    I have heard that the composite avy shovels are just about useless when digging in avy debris. Are you using the life-link composite shovel because you will be making the trip in the more stable spring conditions or do you have a different opinion on their usefulness?

  5. Lou March 28th, 2006 7:21 am

    In my experience, the good quality plastic shovels dig fresh avalanche debrie quite well, though most are not as sharp or rigid as an aluminum shovel and thus may not work as well for digging in frozen hard snow. I’ve lost count of how many shovels I own, both plastic and aluminum, and pick my shovel according to the style and goals of the trip. The shovel shown in the photo is actually a modified plastic shovel that’s been cut off shorter to save weight and make it easier to pack. The style of this exact trip is to only go during super stable spring conditions, and focus on moving over terrain rather than skiing avalanche slopes, and what avy slopes we do encounter will be frozen solid during the morning or spring compacted and nearly 100% safe, so the shovel is chosen more for size and weight, and is mostly intended for use as a shelter tool. All lightweight gear is a compromise, so I don’t carry a dedicated probe for this type of trip. Neither do I carry other items I might carry while out skiing prime Colorado avalanche terrain in winter. This is an example of how using your brain is more important than being a fanatic about carrying the exact same gear for every backcountry trip. It’s fun to think it through, and the correct gear can be quite a bit different depending on the goals, season, etc.

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