Gear Lust – My Kit for Winter 09 Backcountry Skiing

Post by blogger | November 13, 2008      

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.

This years setup. Cant wait to wear it on snow instead of in a basement photo shoot!

This years setup. Can't wait to wear it on snow instead of in a basement photo shoot!

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.

The BD Kilowatt Syncro-ski team prepares for a practice run down Mt. Justice.

The BD Kilowatt Syncro-ski team prepares for a practice run down Mt. Justice.

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.

Zeal Flyers
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.

Dakine Tactic
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.

Testing the '08 Beard last season at Aspen Highlands.

Testing the '08 Beard last season at Aspen Highlands.

The Beard
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.)

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28 Responses to “Gear Lust – My Kit for Winter 09 Backcountry Skiing”

  1. Njord November 13th, 2008 11:50 am

    @ Dave: It’s like you came straight back from an Outside photos shoot…. if you only could make a recommendation on an overpriced Swiss watch (only Rolex, Tag, and Breitling, please) and what type of Ipod/headphone set-up I should carry, my outfit would be complete!


  2. dave downing November 13th, 2008 12:05 pm

    @Njord: I didn’t get into the headphone debate b/c I didn’t know if I should go yuppy or thug. Bose Noise-Cancelling for the yuppies. Skull Candy’s for thugs. You are most definitely a thug! 🙂

    As for watches, I rock a DKNY for work and a Nixon for looking pimp!

  3. Josh November 13th, 2008 12:21 pm

    That is a super flamboyant setup Dave. Are you sure the beard will work with the rest of it?

  4. dave downing November 13th, 2008 12:30 pm

    @josh: I can always down-grade to a soul patch. You should send a pic of your set up, but you might not be able to fit all your skis into one shot 🙂

  5. Njord November 13th, 2008 1:01 pm

    Thanks… I was waivering on either Bose or the Skullcandy set-up. Sometimes I get so confused about myself. It’s always a constant fight between my inner thug and my yuppie exterior.

    I’m mean it’s total ying/yang over here… do I go hang around the high school? or should I be reading up on what are the best Chardonay grapes for this year…. I just don’t know anymore. The dichotomy of living in between Cdale and GWS is tearing me apart!

  6. El Jefe November 13th, 2008 3:12 pm

    I’ve got the Orage pant….not the benjamin though (Phase)….. cant say they were very breathable for me…..but i’m an open faucet

  7. powderjunky November 13th, 2008 5:07 pm

    the 08 beard is good, I think you can do better this year. If you don’t have a constant flow of frozen booger ooze on your mustache it’s not big enough!

  8. chris November 13th, 2008 6:04 pm

    you need one of these with some home brewed coffee at the top of the mountain… then you’re set.

  9. John Gloor November 13th, 2008 11:45 pm

    I have to say Dave, those kilowatts are some of the ugliest skis i’ve ever seen. I can say that since I’m on them too! Any BD skier should be shopping for stickers for their bland but great skiing planks (all models).

  10. dave downing November 14th, 2008 12:06 am

    @el jefe: luckily i’m not much of a leg sweater, a open air vent does the trick for me. but thanks for the heads up no-the-less.

    @powderjunky: I started earlier this year so I CAN go bigger and better. or perhaps a Hulihee!

    @chris: hmmmm. tempting, but probably not. that mug looks sweet for the drive up though.

    @john: to each his own. I dig the city scape graphics with the transparent lightning bolts on the top sheet. and as a graphic designer I can say that 🙂

  11. John Gloor November 14th, 2008 1:00 am

    Touche dave. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One thing that should be agreed upon is that they sure ski well. When I received mine I wasn’t sure about mounting them for backcountry usage due to the heft and flex, but I am glad I did since they plow through variable snow. Your stout ski with a light binding seems like a sweet setup!

  12. dave downing November 14th, 2008 1:39 am

    @John: I couldn’t have said it better. Here’s to light and stout!

  13. Will November 14th, 2008 8:16 am

    Perhaps you covered this in another post, but I’m curious what made you decide to go with the BD Method over the Factor. I’m in the market for some new boots this year, so I’m interested in your take. I plan on checking out the Factor, Method, and the Garmont Radium and Argon. Well I’m hoping to, if I can find a shop that has them out east in NH.

  14. Dave November 14th, 2008 8:58 am

    @Will: I spent the summer going back and forth on the Factors and the Methods. I was fortunate to ski both last winter for multiple days. I really liked both. For me it came down to skinning uphill. I felt there was just enough extra boot movement and flex in the Method to make climbing a “little” more comfortable. Combine that with the fact that while skiing downhill I could tell the difference in stiffness between the Factors and Methods, I never felt unhappy, or underpowered in the Methods. So, decision made. My biggest regret with the Methods so far is that they are NOT Factor Green! 🙂

    Hope that helps.

  15. Justin November 14th, 2008 10:41 am

    Since we’re on the topic of the BD boots, I’m wondering what Dave and Lou think about Rando Steves mod to increase the range of motion in tour mode. I had the same thought but was afraid of significantly weakening the upper cuff, or making them prone to cracking. Any thoughts? (its on his website from a week ago or so if you havent seen it)

  16. Todd Beck November 15th, 2008 1:13 pm

    The paints got to go anything with out full waterprof and full side zips sucks!!
    I happen to like full waterprof zips with extra protection on knee and bottom
    seat. I have a pair of Arec’teryx bibs but they are not cheap. Also they only come in black no stripes.

  17. Pat November 15th, 2008 1:21 pm

    Voile Insanes (’08) w/ TLT Comfort bindings & G3 skins. Dynafit Zzero 4 PX-TF boots, BD Carbon Fiber Flick-lock poles, Camp Pulse Helmet/XLC 390 Crampons/Corsca Axe. Cilogear Worksack. Etc. etc. etc.
    This works well for me. Light. Plenty of float. Gradstudent cheap if you know where to look.

  18. dave downing November 15th, 2008 1:49 pm

    @Todd: That’s 1 area we’ll have to disagree on. For me, inner thigh vents are far superior than full outer zips. I’ve always been happier with them.

    Also, I can’t do bibs. I carry enough extra insulation up front without them!

    @Pat: I based on your setup, I have no desire to race you uphill 🙂

  19. dave downing November 15th, 2008 1:57 pm

    @Justin: I haven’t seen the post/mod yet. I’ll have to look into that. cheers.

  20. Lou November 15th, 2008 7:48 pm

    RE shell mods for rearward cuff mobility, you end up with the liner being the limit as much as anything… also, rear cuff mobility is only a concern if you make really big strides or do a lot of flat touring, which they apparently do in the Tetons (just kidding). In any case, something tells me Dave won’t want me hacking on his boots… but then, if I tell him they’ll ski better, he’d probably let me do anything I want, so Dave?

  21. Lynn November 17th, 2008 11:50 pm

    Nice Senior picture Dave. Is it true that you have moved into the Dawson’s house, I have not seen you around the neighborhood lately?

  22. dave downing November 18th, 2008 12:44 am

    @Lynn — do you want me to print one out for you and sign the back?

    Didn’t you hear that Lou kicked all the seniors out of his house. Thinking about moving in with Louie if he’d return my Facebook messages! 🙂

    Lynn, when are you going to upgrade your ski/boot/binding setup. I mean, it was funny the first time you showed up on tele, but the jokes getting kinda old now don’t you think?

  23. Simon Isbister November 18th, 2008 4:21 pm

    Dave, do you (or anyone else reading) have an opinion about how the Kilowatts compare to the Volkl Mantras? I demo-ed a pair last year, and have been leaning towards buying a pair, but from the sounds of it, I might want to check out the BDs as well.

    I have a pair of skis for longer tours (G3 Aces), but I am looking for something for resort skiing, and more descent-oriented days in the backcountry. My impression is that the Mantra’s strike a pretty good balance there, with a bit of a leaning towards resort skiing. Is it fair to say that the Kilowatts strike a similar balance? Perhaps a bit of a shift towards b/c? Or am I completely off-base in thinking they are similar at all?


  24. Lou November 18th, 2008 6:32 pm

    The Mantra was incredibly popular last year, but the Killowatt has done quite will too. I’d say get the ski you can get the best deal on, they’re both great. Dave?

  25. Lynn November 19th, 2008 11:53 am

    Dave, you can leave a pic on my porch if you ever come back to the neighborhood from your room at the World Headquarters.

    While I am young I will still tele, buster…..

  26. dave downing November 22nd, 2008 11:59 pm

    @Simon : This was a hard comparison to make. I would be happy to ski either the Mantra or Kilowatt all the time if I could only use one. I’ve skied on one ski my entire life that I truly didn’t enjoy. It comes down to personal preference and price in the end. See if you can’t find a BD demo to make the final decision.

    I have the Mantras as my resort, powder day ski. I love my Mantras and my Kilowatts. The Mantras seem to have a bit smoother flex. I like how I can really load the ski and get a lot of power out of each turn. The Kilo is a bit less playful, but still skis very nice on hard pack. In powder, their 94mm and 95mm waists make them nearly indistinguishable. I have not compared their weights. If I had to pick just one pair, I think I would go with the Mantras based on downhill performance alone. But, again, it’s a hard call.

    If you have any more specific questions about the skis, I’d love to answer them.

  27. GeorgeT November 27th, 2008 8:41 am

    Very nice setup and gear descriptions. No way to lose you in the Highlands bootpack crowd with red stacked on prison stripes.

    How about an updated list and photo shoot with you and Lou on your lightest weight setup including packing list (beacon, shovel, light, etc.)?
    The Wildsnow gear lists are great just prior to Christmas.

    Thanks, George

  28. Dave M December 4th, 2008 11:56 am

    Dave from Zeal Optics here. Thanks for your coverage of the Zeal Optics Flyer!
    However, I think you may have missed some of our best products for winter. The Zeal Optics SPP/PPX (Polarized + Photo-chromatic/transitioning) Line of Goggles. Skiing Magazine, Ski Magazine, Wired Magazine, Outside Magazine, National Geographic – Best Product / Gear of the Year.

    I would like to offer all Lou’s readers 25% off the entire Zeal Optics line of products and a Free Zeal Hat and Stickers with purchase. Come check out the prosite:


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