It's the same every year. Early season, there's snow on the high peaks, JLD has already jumped the gun and gone "skiing" at Marble, everyone is anxious for the season at hand. Patience my young Padawan, the time is near. Wax the skis. Cross train. Write down your "hit list". We wait. Often, the most tangible thing you can do, skiing related, is play with your old gear or buy new gear. However, the true dirt bag skier doesn’t always get new gear. So we simply lust after it – which has been my story many times.
This pre-season I've been fortunate to actually acquire new gear! So to get everyone psyched on gear and skiing, I'll share my Winter 2009 backcountry setup with you. I'll tell you what's new, what's old, and why it's making the cut.
Black Diamond Kilowatts
Carried over from last year, my only BC ski. I have no reason to replace these as the rocks were nice and covered last year, and 95mm underfoot on a 185cm length gives me all the float I've desired. A fairly stiff set of boards that can power through funky snow and is stable at high speeds. And did I mention the graphic is pretty sweet too. My biggest complaint? Syncro-skiing with my friends, all to many of which seem to show up with the same planks.
Dynafit FT12 bindings
My newest addition (and lightest?) addition. First off, I have always preferred a lower stack height with my bindings. And that was my biggest complaint with the Freerides I replaced, they are just too tall for my taste. The Dynafit's sit lower on the skis. Second, I will be saving about a pound per ski! That more than makes up for the extra 2 oz per foot I gained with a beefier boot. Nuf said.
Black Diamond Methods
I have expressed my love of these boots plenty already (read the review here). But to restate: Dynafit-compatible, optional Alpine DIN sole blocks, stiff enough to ski the resort in, still skin and bootpack friendly, BOA liners … plus they fit me like a hula hoop on a fat man!
Orage Benjamin Pant
My old pants were sponges, these pants are not. Waterproof with an inner-thigh vent (my favorite location). But really, I bought these pants for the stripes, they look pretty rad. Because, as Lou likes to say, “if you look good you’re skiing good.”
Cloudveil RPK Jacket
After getting this shell last year I stopped wearing my ginormous puffy on even the coldest days at Highlands. A large, detachable hood that can hold a helmet, pit zips for when you need a breeze, powder skirt, etc, etc. Plus it's photogenic. Not a packable jacket, but I make it fit in the BC pack because I like it that much.
Outdoor Research Transcendent Down Puffy
It's the little pillow by my left foot. Finally a packable and warm puffy. It's great for winter bike rides over to WildSnow HQ for ski tuning, and fits small into my pack "just in case". I like that it stuffs more flat than Nalgene-shaped. Much easier to fit in a smaller pack.
Big is back, and Zeal Flyer sunglasses are big. Great for sunny climbs, spring descents, and cruising town. Acquired last spring, they kept me happy climbing Castle Peak, rarely fog on early morning skins in Marble, and always impress the ladies!
Smith Prodigy Goggles
Two years old and going strong. The Sensor Mirror lens is my favorite of all time. Light Rose tint for Pea Soup, a mirrored coating for the sun. I've never wanted another lens with these on.
Beanie: Outdoor Retailer swag from a couple years ago, and one of my favorite beanies to date. Fleece lined and a brim to reduce gaper gap with goggles. Love it.
Kombi Madhatter Gloves (defunct link removed 2015)
Warmest, most comfortable glove I've ever had. The duct tape tells the story though. I'm in desperate need of a new pair after running 1/2 mile of race fence through them my first week working NASTAR last season! Let me know if you see them in-stock anywhere in Aspen!
My skinning gloves slash around town gloves slash driving gloves slash biking gloves. New for the year, these are warmer than my last soft shell gloves. The Wind Pro fabric has proven it’s worth on cold morning bikes into town. And they should be the perfect weight for skins that are too cold for bare hands.
I finally have adjustable poles for skinning! No more short "park" poles for me in the BC. This was a long overdue purchase. I went with the Black Diamond Traverse Pole because I've had more experience fixing bent aluminum than broken carbon fiber.
Reviewed last year, this pack is still my go-to, go-light pack (1,500 cu. in.). With a low profile for low swing weight, shovel pocket, probe sleeve, insulated hydration sleeve and diagonal ski carry – this pack has everything I want, and nothing extra for most shorter BC trips.
Mystery Ranch Sweet Pea
My 1st test pack for the season, this is my "slightly bigger" pack at 2,000 cu. in. So far it has proven to carry a load well, and skied 800 vert down Montezuma snow field nicely. Burly with a ingenious Y-zipper design allowing both top-loading and front-loading access. Look for full review this winter.
Mystery Ranch Broomstick
The second Mystery Ranch test pack, this super minimal sack has room for avy gear and an energy bar, period. This will be the first thing to get thrown into the bottom of a larger pack for hut trip yo-yoing. Look for it in test-action on Highlands Bowl once the snow stacks up.
BCA probe: Small probe for light weight days when I'm feeling lucky. Longer probe for training weight and when I'm planning on finding out exactly how deep that snowpack is.
Black Diamond Ascension Shovel
I've had it since 1999 and still love it. Been modified for length and weight. Well, actually just for length. Love the D-handle and large blade.
A good beard is a necessity for any male skier (sorry ladies)! I used the 2008 model last season with great results. My face stayed warm through the nastiest of days. I only have the 2009-beta model right now, but look for a full review on the final 2009 Beard later this winter. The question is, what’s the WildSnow shop have for beard mods? Last time I looked, there were some crazy looking snippers in that roll-around toolbox. Lou told me a story about all the guys at Dynafit sporting a Hulihee Beard-mod to save on weight! Is that true?
That's my setup. Think I missed something big (besides obvious safety items, beacons, etc.)? Have a setup you’re particularly proud of? Let us know what you’re planning on riding with this winter.
(Guest blogger profile: Dave Downing and his wife Jessica live in Carbondale, Colorado, where Dave is a freelance designer and owner of Ovid Nine Graphics Lab. Dave’s ski career began due to a lack of quality skiing video games for NES.)