I have to admit it: I love to backcountry ski but I don’t care all that much about ski gear. I generally buy what I need only when the old stuff either wears out or becomes embarrassingly outdated.
I might try on a few different boots in an attempt at finding the elusive “perfect” ski touring model — I’m blessed with a boringly normal foot and a lack of sensitivity to all but the most egregious variations of fit and flex.
When it comes to skis I rely mainly on vaguely informed “research” into weight, width, and performance, the recommendations of friends, some hefting and flexing of a couple that sound good, and guesswork.
Perhaps I’ve just been lucky. I’ve worn the same boots (first generation Scarpa Maestrale) for five years and didn’t test drive any of the half-dozen skis I’ve been on in the last decade. Just bought ‘em, mounted ‘em up, and hoped for the best.
So what, you might ask, was I doing at the top of 1200 feet of mostly great powder, with a few tracks, some chunks from an old avalanche, and the odd bit of windcrust to spice things up, outfitted in a ridiculously comfy pair of lightweight boots (next year’s updated Scarpa F1), a binding I’d never skied on (the G3 Ion), and what appeared to be a wider version of the classic all-around mountaineering ski (next year’s G3 FINDr 102)?
It all sounded good a few weeks ago when Mrs. WildSnow invited my better half to join a Scarpa/G3 demo day in the Uinta Mountains, Utah, with the folks at Park City Powder Cats & Heli-ski showing them the goods. I was reluctant to sign up at first. Who would care what an over-60 skier of middling ability would have to say about the “latest and greatest” ski gear? But I eventually succumbed to the wiles of the ladies.
I’d just watched said better half and several other really good skiers rip the slope in fine style. Now it was my turn, and the decision to become a WildSnow gear tester suddenly seemed ill-considered. The F1s looked puny compared to my trusty Maestrales. Surely these lightweights wouldn’t perform adequately. And the FINDrs just felt unfamiliar. At least the bindings held everything together with a reassuring solidity.
Survival became the goal. I figured a series of slow, wide turns through the chunder would allow me to preserve a shred of dignity while I sorted out the new gear.
But the snow was too good for such restraint.
I dropped in, traversed a bit to gain speed, rolled my ankles and aimed for an untracked patch, arced a few quick turns, plowed through another track, opened it up a bit to see what happened, spied more untracked and punched it. I just skied, varying the radius and speed of my turns to take advantage of the terrain and snow. I hardly thought about the boots, and the skis felt nimble and lively, even playful. The longing for my familiar setup was soon forgotten.
I had enough fun on the next couple of runs that I was ready to plunk down cash, but alas the F1 and FINDr won’t be available until fall 2016.
I didn’t have the chance to test on the uphill, on hardpack, or in the more varied snow we typically find in western Colorado. Time will tell on all that, but by the end of the day I was scheming about how I could sneak off with the new setup.