Go Light, Do It Right — The Working Guide’s Guide To Ski Touring Gear

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | May 25, 2016      

Cam McLellan

Yours truly making the most of the up. Lofoten Islands, Norway (Photo Credit, Laura Kroesen).

Yours truly making the most of the up. Lofoten Islands, Norway (Photo Credit, Laura Kroesen).

As a working professional (ACMG Ski Guide and CAA Level 3) and an active recreationalist, I’ve seen my fair share of gear over the years. Everything from ski touring boots and bindings that weigh less than my car keys to hard charging, “plug” style AT boots and frame bindings that would slow down an elephant.

During this past season, I spent 110 days skiing uphill. Previously, during periods of work that have been very uphill intensive I’ve opted for light gear to aid in trail breaking efforts and to help conserve energy so I could focus on my guests. Usually the season would end with one or all pieces of my ski touring kit being destroyed due to the lack of durability light gear generally tends to come with. This season, my aim was to not have this happen; to create a ski touring setup that would stand up to a season of abuse, not slow me down on the uphill, and descend well.

As far as light gear goes, from what I’ve seen, people tend to go one way or the other. It’s either light boots, bindings, skins and skis to maximize “the up” as that’s pretty much what we do ALL day, or the opposite and pack on the pounds to get the most out of “the down”. It’s not that often (although it is beginning to become more common) to see folks blending the two: picking a happy middle point between performance on “the up” and performance on “the down”. Skiers do this by using all “mid weight” gear, or mixing and matching some heavier components with some on the lighter side. My approach is the latter.

This past winter I found myself on a global work stint. My timeline consisted of spending late October and all of November at home (Interior of British Columbia) enjoying an excellent start to the season. From here, it was off to Furano, Japan on the Northern Island of Hokkaido for two months of ski touring work in some of the deepest snow on earth. From there it was over to Chamonix for two weeks of “R&R” which included time up on the Aiguille du Midi. After that to round out the season I headed up to Kabelvag, Norway to guide ski touring and ski mountaineering for two and a half months.

Up to my eyeballs in work.

Up to my eyeballs in work.

My kit from this season included the K2 Petitor (189cm), Dynafit Vertical Race Ti’s, K2 Pinnacle 130 Boot and Black Diamond STS Ascension Nylon Skins.

Specific tech specs:

K2 Petitor — 189cm (2330g)
Dynafit Vertical Race Ti — 250g/toe and heel piece
K2 Pinnacle 130 — 26.5 (2382g/boot)
Black Diamond skins — 750g/pair

Now I know that the above doesn’t really scream “ideal” in terms of being light or performance oriented. Yet for someone who actively skis uphill for a living and requires gear to perform equally well on the downhill this is pretty close to meeting all of those needs in one package. By combining the lightweight Dynafit binding with the heavier ski and boot, I was able to maximize durability and performance while having next to no issues with gear malfunctions. All the while keeping my durable setup as light as possible by going light where appropriate. To compare and contrast this setup, a few pros and cons:


  • Downhill performance: The combo of a bigger a ski and lighter binding provided some of the best downhill performance I’ve had. From deep Japow to steep Norwegian lines and high altitude sliding in Chamonix, the Petitor coupled with the Vertical Race Ti and the Pinnacle 130 boot was a winner. The lighter binding reduced the swing weight of the ski and made this already nimble big board into a highly maneuverable rig that couldn’t do anything but please. The Pinnacle boot puts out, such an excellent boot. I even got the opportunity to put them to the test climbing ice in the middle of the famed Presten Couloir in Norway. They held up beautifully.
  • Uphill performance: The tour-ability of this setup was surprisingly functional. The Pinnacle 130 boot isn’t the most walk friendly as some boots on the market. But, due to its ample forward range of motion (which I find to be much more useful than the wild aft range of motion that some boots out there have), it lent itself wonderfully to uphill travel. Having the Vertical Race Ti to compliment uphill travel was a wonderful addition and Dynafit as a rule (in my mind) are second to none. The Petitor ski was one of the more amazing boards I’ve had when trail breaking. The powder rocker that K2 boasts not only does well on the downhill but actually allows the ski to plane quite effortlessly when moving upwards whether breaking trail in deep powder or wet slop.
  • CONS

  • Downhill performance: Not much to say here. K2 is always a hard one to beat in the industry with a long standing reputation for amazing skis with top end performance. Although robust and with overall good performance, the Dynafit bindings don’t really ski like a downhill binding but hey, that’s not really hard to figure out.
  • Uphill performance: I’d be lying if I said that the K2 Pinnacle 130 coupled with the 189 cm Petitor was the ultimate uphill setup. They’re still quite heavy and do require more muscle. (Thing is, the trend is for all ski gear to become lighter. So I won’t be surprised if my ideal setup in a few years sheds significant grams and still has the durability and downhill performance I want.)
  • All in all, this setup met my needs and then proceeded to exceed them. Being capable of withstanding days over 6,000ft on the up-track both in deep snow and with them strapped to my pack in the middle of a couloir. Although not the lightest setup ever, it was light where it counted. It made having multiple setups during the season a thing of the past. I strongly believe this is the future of ski touring

    WildSnow guest blogger Cam McLellan has an infectious love for backcountry skiing and sharing his passion with others. This has been life for Cam as he knows it since a very early age. Realizing that he could turn this passion into a job, Cam actively pursued a career as an ACMG guide straight out of high school and hasn’t looked back since (or actually “worked” a day in this life since then). Follow him on Instagram, camskiguide.

    Yours truly, enjoying bomber couloir conditions in Lofoten, Norway. (Photo credit Laura Kroesen)

    Yours truly, enjoying bomber couloir conditions in Lofoten, Norway. (Photo credit Laura Kroesen)


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    46 Responses to “Go Light, Do It Right — The Working Guide’s Guide To Ski Touring Gear”

    1. Rod May 25th, 2016 1:05 pm

      Biased, but I think my vwerks katana and bd factor mx 130 ski better and perhaps lighter, even though I’m not counting grams.

    2. Paul May 25th, 2016 1:39 pm

      Great to see someone talking about choosing the middle ground rather than going all big or all featherweight. Cam’s choice of reasonably light skis and boots surprised me, though, and reminded me of the beauty in each of us making informed decisions that work best for us.
      I am in total agreement regarding the benefit of binding weight. I had to do a quick search to verify that the weights he listed were per unit vs. per pair, though. It is really hard to find that info – it is not listed in K2’s material or any reviews, which gives a hint of the answer. Over 2kg each seems wildly heavy to me. Granted, I mostly ski in pretty user-friendly conditions, but I have found a “big” ski set up with 1690 g skis,190 g bindings, and 1200 g boots that allows me to ski confidently in nearly any conditions. That seems pretty common among people I see on skin tracks. I would argue that, while we all suffer to some degree on the uphill, most of us would really take advantage of that burliness only on a groomed Super-G course, not skiing backcountry powder. I think most of us are not hindered at all by the off-piste performance of lighter gear, and dropping that much weight makes a 6k foot tour feasible as a pre-work dawn patrol and could make any tour more fun, for those that are into that kind of thing (fun). I think a lot of people are led by the media into buying over-weight and over-built gear to ski slopes that used to be skied on 210 cm x 50mm skis and leather boots. Do I advocate touring on race gear? No, but I think that referring to over 2k skis and boots as part of a light set up deserves a counter point. For more, check out http://ascentbackcountry.com/go-big-or-go-little/

    3. Daniel May 25th, 2016 2:03 pm

      My light yet capable rig is 1600gr lighter per foot, my heavy rig 300gr heavier. Cam’s setup is cleary a heavy (duty) rig that’s made bearable by binding choice. An interesting perspective of a pretty strong ski tourer.
      These days though, no downhill compromise can be had from say 1700ish grams in skis, and around 1600gr in boots, unless one is a super agressive skier, but then again who skies like that on a human powered day?

    4. Todd May 25th, 2016 2:12 pm

      Paul: Blister Gear Review has the weight for the 2012-2013 Pettitor at 2528g per ski (in 189 cm length), so it’s conceivable that the newer Pettitors are 2330g/ski.

      I use a slightly heavier “big ski” set up (1780g ski/630g binding/1250g boot) than you, and that works pretty well for all the conditions I’ve skied so far. Not sure what an additional 1.3 kg per foot would get me….

    5. Max May 25th, 2016 2:12 pm

      I think that nailing the right rig is pretty darn hard, especially if you´re on a tighter budget. I´ve been on G3 Districts 112 with dynafit radicals (and Px-one boots) for three seasons of dedicated touring down in south America, and really for me, having a heavier board makes the difference in terms of durability and overall ski performance in every single kind of snow conditions. Sure, i got partners on La Sportiva Nanos, but such a ski tends to sacrifice not only performance, but durability (a friend gave me a pair he snapped in half). I think that if you´re going to go for the single quiver, probably a heavier ski and lighter bindings is the only way to go.

    6. Max May 25th, 2016 2:41 pm

      Interesting report. I have a similar approach (using some heavier more burly pieces with lighter pieces in combination) but opted for different light/heavy breakdown:

      Medium weight skis: Currently on the 4frnt raven, but switching to the new 4frnt Hoji which has a bout the same weight in next years model but is much wider and burlier, I think its about 1800g or so.
      Heavy binding: Dynafit beast, switching between 14 and 16 depending on what I need
      Light boots: Salomon Mtn lab boot (consider this light, obviously there are “real” touring boots which are much lighter but they don’t fit my type of skiing. So for a boot with alpine capabilities this is as light as it gets.
      I found this combination to be optimal so far. The burly binding gives me confidence where I need it, and combined with the relatively light ski it still gives me enough weight to drive the ski while it’s not to heavy for the way up. And the Salomon MTN lab boot is far superior in terms of walkability than anythign I have tried before. It’s too light for inbounds though.

    7. Tom May 25th, 2016 3:01 pm

      Not that there’s anything wrong here, but what skis and boots would you use or would like to try, or might consider, if you you weren’t sponsored by K2?

    8. Team Weasel May 25th, 2016 3:23 pm

      This is a great prompt to a good discussion point: where to ‘spend’ the weight that you tour with. The article itself is self-promoting (not uncommon with guides!) and there’s a definite K2 deal going on somewhere, but the discussion I think is more than worthwhile.

      You are right to say that more modern gear would lighten your load – something like the Salomon Mtn Lab that Max mentions, and a ski like Blizzard Zero G 108 with your bindings would drop a couple of kilos at least, and both those bits of kit are the subject of favorable reviews from the Blister/TGR crews. Your setup sounds ok for taking less fit and capable clients up and smashing it on the way down, but for multi-day touring or descent-focused ski mountaineering, your almost 10kg setup is a fair way above my goal of about a 6-7kg setup.

      One thing I’m not understanding at the moment is the predilection for wide skis for touring. 120 underfoot might be great in Japanese winter, but in Europe? Besides the weight, what of the increased friction from wider skins? And that wider skis generally mean beefier boots? Even down here in Australia and NZ, people are seemingly embracing ‘all-mountain’ skis at 110 underfoot, and going wider than the conditions seem to necessitate, given that our snow is generally corn at best and icy more often than not. Maybe it’s because we have a heavier population now!

      For me, I think I’m happy to ‘spend’ about 3kg on my boots, about the same on my skis (more or less dependent on width) and about 500-700g on bindings. I can always go lighter for those skimo-focused days, but I couldn’t imagine going much heavier.

    9. Guillaume May 25th, 2016 3:46 pm

      Good to see you on WS, Cam !! Great post ! Glad to hear about your gear choice and that the light binding stood up the abuse.

    10. Lisa Dawson May 25th, 2016 5:02 pm

      I agree, Cam. Adding a little weight can really make a difference.

      I had a bunch of different skis and boots to test this winter. Most of the bindings were similar but the weights of the skis and boots varied. I experimented with different combos to see which gave me the best performance in a similar weight range (i.e. heavy ski, light boot versus light ski, beefier boot).

      Testing is ongoing but overall my favorite is a lighter ski with a beefier boot. The difference in performance compared to my super light weight set up justifies the heft most days.

    11. DavidB May 25th, 2016 7:30 pm

      Biased but it is what it is. You’ve got to plug your sponsors.

      It’s the eternal debate. Weight, weight, weight v performance.

      I started out heavy on alpine, went to Fritschi as my first foray into AT and was stoked with the lighter rig. Then came the AT boots and down the weight went again yipee!. Then came the Trab carbon fibre skis, yeaha but they were brutes in tight spaces however in the open went unreal. I’m on to something here. just need modern shaping at that when I hit Nirvana DPS.

      The came the Dynafit bindings and chopped off some more weight but have reservations on release. Then came the DPS Tour1 and the weight went down again Yipee! without much loss in performance on the downhill. BUT……………….

      then the Marker Kingpin came into being and I’m heading that way. yes it’s a bit heavier but I feel better with the heel hold and the release. So weight versus form and function. So where does this leave me

      Well, DPS pures with a frame binding for resort and side-country and the DPS Tour 1’s for dedicated touring.

      IMHO there is still no one rig does it all, well there is but then you might be compromising. If I was going one rig for all it would be DPS Pures with Kingpins. Light enough, super durable capable on the uphill and bomber on the down. Throw some Contour skins on and happy days.

    12. Cam McLellan May 25th, 2016 8:55 pm

      Hey All!

      Firstly I’d like to thank everyone for the excellent comments and great conversations! Exactly what I was hoping for with this article. It’s always an interesting one to hear people’s takes on what gear works best. It’s been said a lot in this conversation many times but at the end of the day, your ski setup needs to work for what you want to do! Now to answer some questions and provide a bit more clarity;

      – Firstly, yes I am sponsored by K2 and the article does tend to reflect my guide like nature but hey! It would be weird if I wasn’t speaking about myself 😉 I honestly can say that as of late I definitely favour durability when it comes to my gear.

      – In terms of other skis, weights and all the techy specs that come with the nature of our beloved sport. It’s always a difficult one to really comment directly on. Overall yes, my setup is definitely a heavier one but due to the nature of the context it’s used in (guiding ski touring is generally done a much slower pace then recreational ski touring) so here, the weight doesn’t really pose an issue to me and is managed by the light bindings. In term’s of the ski setup in other areas, this ski was KILLER in Japan and my original itinerary for the winter did not include Chamonix and Norway. Due to this I had no choice but to tough it out there however, I was pleasantly surprised by how this setup performed. If I had the chance I would have definitely scaled back a bit waist width wise but hey, sometime’s life doesn’t throw you EXACTLY what you want.

      Anyway, in closing, I hope this helps and if other comments or questions come up! You know where to find me 😉

    13. Lou 2 May 25th, 2016 9:21 pm

      First, let me apologize for my poor editing in that we didn’t include Cam’s sponsors in his bio. But let’s be fair with throwing the word “bias” around. It could just be that guys like Cam choose a company because they make good gear, and go for a sponsorship. It’s not like a guide is sitting there waiting for the first company that will give them gear, then they sing to heavens about how life changing that free pair of skis is — heck — in a way, the company actually gets a sponsorship from the guide, because their gear works. K2 is an example. For an alpine race boot, Pinnacle is a fine choice (grin). Because Cam uses it and blogs about it doesn’t mean his take is inherently biased.

      And, wait, I thought my way was the only way! I guess I’ll have to talk to Lisa about accepting Cam’s blasphemous guest blogs (grin)!

      In all seriousness, I do see the trend all of the world of using lightweight bindings on bigger skis, but I also see quite a few guys who use lighter boots with those setups, such as Dynafit TLT6 with the stiff tongue. I totally agree that if you want alpine performance that mimics alpine gear, a boot with more progressive flex and higher cuff is probably better, and sometimes isn’t all that heavier.

      One other thing. In my somewhat extensive travels round the world, I see some of these choices in gear driven by how much the individual skis under mechanical power, and especially if they are spending much time on piste. So, what I see is when I’m in pure touring areas the gear seems to be lighter and skis often narrower, then I go to a place where folks are using their touring gear on resorts or deproaching tours by heading down a resort (such as when you exit many of the Chamonix tours, and the gear is bigger, especially the boots.

      Back to bias. If this was a specific gear review, we would have worked with Cam to mention both pros and cons about the specific gear items. But it’s more of an overall philosophical post about gear choice and style. No need to tease out the details of how the boot buckles work — though I know that disappoints many of you (grin).


    14. Lindahl May 25th, 2016 9:48 pm

      Too bad you’re hamstrung by K2. There are boots and skis on the market that both weigh significantly less and ski significantly better. A heavy setup should aim more towards 2000g skis and 1800g boots. You can get full downhill alpine performance in that package (nearly 2lbs less per foot than K2s offerings). Stepping down to 1600g boots and 1800g skis gets you around 85% full downhill performance and going down to 1200g boots and 1400-1600g skis is closer to 65-75%. Yes, heavier can be better, but you definitely need to step away from K2 to be able to really experience the good stuff thats out there.

    15. See May 25th, 2016 11:14 pm

      I don’t have much experience with all the different binding currently available, but I wonder if the unstated compromise regarding bindings these days is: go light and lock the toes for high consequence descents, or go heavier and hope the claims of alpine like tech binding performance are true.

      Also, another advantage of having one setup for all applications is not having to adjust technique for a multitude of different skis/boots/bindings. I currently have a ridiculous quiver, but my goal is to get down to two pairs of touring skis, one pair for powder and one pair for spring.

    16. See May 25th, 2016 11:34 pm

      And, according to Lou, there is a trend toward using lightweight bindings on bigger skis. Are the toes being locked? If so, is that because the people using these setups are so skilled they don’t need release function, or…?

    17. Rod May 26th, 2016 12:25 am

      See, I thought the same thing, one ski for powder add one for spring, but the carbon katana changed my mind.

      It’s good in powder add goid on ice.

      And I’m not saying good on ice for it’s size, but good period.

      And for me, in spring conditions, I encounter perfect corn rarely, but slush often.

      And wider skis make that a pleasure, while a narrow skis sinks so much that skiing becomes a chore.

      I ski in Europe now, add the setup is a pleasure.

      Yes,I lock my toes on my g3 ions on a firm, steep, high consequence descent, but not if I’m on soft snow.

      And I don’t fall at all in the bc, add maybe a few high speed falls inbounds.

    18. See May 26th, 2016 12:46 am

      The Ions without brakes weigh about twice as much as the Vertical Ti’s, I think. I suspect they perform very differently.

    19. Matus May 26th, 2016 12:56 am

      Nice to know that my current “heavy” setup is actually light.

      FYI, guides in Cham usualy wear Maestrale RS or similar boots, Dynafit bindings and 97-105mm waisted skis.

      They need to keep things reasonably light considering all the stuff they carry (ropes, glacier safety devices, ice axes, crampons, first aid kits for their clients etc). The combo mentioned in the article would be too heavy and overkill for overall use. Even for a guide.

    20. See May 26th, 2016 1:14 am

      So Rod, what has your experience been with the Ions? Any pre releases leading you to lock toe?

    21. Trent May 26th, 2016 7:04 am

      Lindahl, where are you getting those numbers? And are your ski weights single or for the pair? Thanks.

    22. Rod May 26th, 2016 8:09 am

      See, I had dynafits, ft 12, the radical 12,-for a number of years.

      I had pre releases with them, including a high speed carved turn on ice, which left me with a huge hematoma on my thigh.

      Not so far with the ions, but I still lock them if it’s steep and firm.

    23. Rod May 26th, 2016 8:10 am

      See, in what way do the ions perform differently than lighter bindings?

    24. See May 26th, 2016 8:43 am

      I have limited experience with the Ions, but I’m hoping that the toe geometry and stiff springs of the 12’s make them less prone to the sort of prerelease it sounds like you experienced with your previous tech bindings.



      That’s the main thing, although the sliding heel also should help with release/retention compared to more minimal designs.

    25. Rudi May 26th, 2016 8:59 am

      I like a lightweight boot with good touring mechanics such as TLT6P but then beef it up with Intuition PowerWraps and Booster Straps. With these add ons and the stiff tonque in for the decent I think it can handle just about any skiing where skis are staying on the snow. I wouldn’t take them to Big Sky but it is plenty of boot to link turns in unforgiving terrain and snow which is what i think 90% of people are interested in. Bindings obviously as light as possible as even the skimpiest of them hold on fine. For skis I’m torn, a heavier ski will ski better I’m sure in most cases, but for me a super light ski makes the uphill enjoyable. And with a supportive, well fitting boot and competent pilot really just about any ski will get the job done so why not go light?

    26. Hacksaw May 26th, 2016 9:48 am

      As the old saying goes “You may want to have Cheap, light weight and Durable equipment. But, in reality you can only have two of the three.”

    27. See May 26th, 2016 10:09 am

      Not to belabor the point, but I think it would be helpful if people report whether or not they’re locking the toes when they recommend a specific binding or a type of bindings. Yeah, I do it too, but ideally the technology will advance to point where we rarely need to resort to such measures. Reports re. how people are actually using their gear could be a useful way to track progress toward that goal.

    28. Ben W May 26th, 2016 10:12 am

      It’s hard to argue against the fact that longer, wider, heavier makes skiing (especially bad snow) more fun for good skiers. But I think there is point for all skiers when more beef stops making much of a difference. Having a kit that is right around this upper beef line makes a lot of sense.

      On the other hand there is also a minimum amount of beef with which an individual skier still has “fun.” I think this line is much more subjective, and tends to get lower as one acclimates to lighter gear. Having a setup just above your lower beef line also makes sense.

      At my upper beef line I prefer Kingpins and 1800-2000g skis. For long days or a day with some more technical climbing? 1200g skis with Plums or Speed Radicals. But I ski with people for whom my 1200g Fischers would be HUDGE powder skis and I ski with others for whom my 1900g Nordicas would be dainty expedition skis.

    29. Lou Dawson 2 May 26th, 2016 10:36 am

      Well said Ben. Also, is anyone out there really buying skis based on them weighing more? All skis have become much lighter over the years, does that mean they don’t ski as well as antiques? In my opinion, some of this is way too simplistic, and there are some skis coming out that are clearly quite light and ski quite well.

      It’s also quite true that a skier can master different types of gear and have fun. Telemarkers from the 1970s proved that over and over again. Of course, they didn’t have to look pretty for Facebook, but that’s a whole other discussion. (grin)


    30. Lou Dawson 2 May 26th, 2016 10:50 am

      It would be worth pointing out here that just because a ski binding weighs more doesn’t make it more durable. Many of the seemingly endless problems the industry has had with binding durability have happened with heavier bindings. Even the Marker Duke had problems, remember? Not to mention the first Diamir frame binding flying apart in dangerous shrapnel, and recently the Marker Kingpin that had the defective toe pins. Oh, and not to leave out Dynafit, look at the heavier Radical having a long list of durability problems. And boots? TLT6 to the best of my knowledge doesn’t break any more often than heavier boots, such as the beef boots I see with popped cuff rivets and broken buckles. Skis? Sure, I’ll give you that, some of the lighter skis have indeed had durability problems compared to heavier. On the other hand, remember that run of K2 Coombacks that bindings were pulling out of? Those were not lightweight skis. Lou

    31. JC May 26th, 2016 11:07 am

      We heard on 5/16 from another guide, about his setup. Blizzard Zero G 95 with Speed Radicals and TLT6. Total weight being 2857gms per foot. Cam’s setup weighs in at 4,962 gms per foot. Total difference is 2105 gms, or 4.64lbs… Per foot.

    32. Lou Dawson 2 May 26th, 2016 11:48 am

      Rob clearly needs lighter bindings!

    33. Niko May 26th, 2016 1:18 pm

      Some of us Telemarkers can even come up with a solid Facebook picture now and again too Lou 😉 when we’re not executing a perfectly inopportunely timed tele-fall.

    34. Niko May 26th, 2016 1:20 pm
    35. Thom Mackris May 26th, 2016 1:21 pm

      This post made me smile, coming hot on the heels of the Technica Zero-G post (https://www.wildsnow.com/19953/tecnica-zero-g-guide-pro/) and the ensuing enthusiastic discussion. Lou’s comment about equipment weight bias and regional differences being influenced by primary use (pure touring vs. lift accessed side/backcountry) make perfect sense.

      With respect to Paul’s comments that burliness is useful only on a groomed super-g course and not backcountry powder, I would comment that the backcountry covers more choices than light, Colorado mid-Winter freshies. I suspect that most of us are looking for more beef in order to enjoy (and not merely survive) manky, sun-baked or other choppy conditions, heavy Spring snow, etc. (me too – I always seem to miss out on the best corn), etc.

      I agree with Lindahl’s approximate weight/performance comments. All that’s really left is for you to understand where you lie along this continuum.

      @Trent: Lindahl’s numbers are per foot/ski/binding, which is the current convention (non-intuitive as this might be). The numbers are out there if you care to read past posts or look at the product catalogs. Using this year’s Scarpa Maestrales as a quick example, you’ll note that a size 27 comes in at 3 Lbs, 2 oz per boot (per backcountry.com). That’s 1420 grams. Skis like the Blizzard Zero-G, Volkl BMT, Down YW8-102 have changed the game in terms of expectations as far as the weight to performance equation is concerned with skis.

      Lastly (and with respect to weight vs. durability), I think all we can look to is the reputation of the manufacturer, internet noise (taken with a grain of salt), and other anecdotal information about field use in order to infer whether gear is “stupid-light” (light at all costs), or light, but with attention to withstanding abuse. I used to be all over the stupid light stuff, but one day, I took a look at my bicycle helmet and asked myself why something designed to protect my noggin required a protective case.


    36. ptor May 26th, 2016 11:17 pm

      I like my skis fun, boots comfy all day long, skins sticky and bindings safe (coming soon!).

    37. Kevin May 27th, 2016 12:51 pm

      Wow, lot of chatter for a late season post. I got sucked in by the title “go light, do it right”. I really thinks the title is inappropriate. Maybe, “go heavy, and ski like you are in a resort”. The Pinnacle is what, like the heaviest available boot with dynafit fittings? And it’s tour mode allows what range of motion? Personally I upped from TLT6 to Salomon MTN boots and couldn’t be happier. I ski the resort and tour in this boot. With alpine bindings for lift assisted and dropping cliffs and dynafits for slightly mellower touring descents. I am not sure exactly what changes dynafit has made over the years, but I do think the retention at the toepiece has improved. I can remember hitting ice and my toe blowing right off on older bindings, but have skied in resort with toe unlocked and feel very secure with the radical. Yes in a no fall zone in the backcountry, I would probably have my toes locked. However with the new radical toe that may be more for mental health than reality. Don’t know if Lou has ever compared the release of older dynafits to current model?? Anyhow, still have not quite gotten to the point of the perfect One ski setup. Still prefer something like salomon guardian binding for inbounds(no tour capability) and pin tech binding for touring. The salomon MTN lab boot has become my one boot and for that I am very excited. Looking forward to the continued evolution of tech bindings, and hoping something like the marker kingpin comes down in pricing and that evolution keeps continuing. Awesome to have so many choices!

    38. Lou Dawson 2 May 27th, 2016 2:31 pm

      Kevin, key to not blowing out of the tech binding toe is the strength of the springs, and the Dynafit Power Towers can help if they’re close enough to the boot toe. I tested spring strength a while ago, was interesting:


      Another interesting thing: Some engineers are claiming that a mechanism of tech binding pre-release occurs when the boot partially releases in lateral mode without a rotating toe unit. This causes the binding toe pins to ride partially out of the boot toe sockets and thus be more prone to shock pre-release. Rotating toe of Radical 2 is said to mitigate this. I’ve never seen any scientific testing that proved this out, but it’s a good theory. Problem is, lots of people are skiing tech binding toes without pre-release, rotation or not. My theory is that nice stiff springs in the toe are key, as is locking the toe in no-fall terrain.


    39. Thom Mackris May 27th, 2016 11:10 pm

      @Kevin – I’m sure that post title was Lou’s doing – his little way of having a laugh about the enthusiastic dialog in the Technica Zero G post.

      Late season? Did i miss something 🙂

      @Cam – thanks for posting. I’m always interested in working guys’ takes – now that I’m a ski dilettante.


    40. Laurent May 30th, 2016 3:49 am

      I agree with Matus that most mountains guides around Chamonix area have typically a lighter set up and that Came set up above is definitely not light for European standards.
      Most of the top skiers in Europe ski indeed on Dynafit / Plum pin binding+ 90-105 skis weighting 2500-3500g / pair…That’s a fairly good compromise..Some very strong guys (experts in steep skiing go even lighter to ski very exposed and steep lines such as Vivian Bruchez / Killain Jornet with its 2kg skis and comp binding) .

      For the average ski tourer I believe another good advantage of going light is :
      – avoiding the crowds by going faster (on week end in Europe classics almost everything is tracked very quickly and I am not talking about Cham classic, but the range nearby such as Aravis, Chablais…Ski touring is very popular now

      – When snow is good you can go longer & in deeper places with this light set up (I want to do more turns and go more uphill & downhill when snow is good) and thus avoid the crowds !

      -Lighter gear is also more beneficial for your health in the long term (less risk of tendonitis, less to carry on backpack when ascending couloirs)

    41. Michael May 30th, 2016 10:07 pm

      “guiding ski touring is generally done a much slower pace then recreational ski touring” -Cam

      Hmmmm. Well, if I’m looking for a setup so I can go slower then everyone else I tour with I’ll consider your recommendations.

    42. Lou Dawson 2 May 31st, 2016 9:07 am

      I ski tour quite a bit in Europe in areas where there are no ski lifts used, and no helicopters, and probably 95% of the gear I see consists of light tech bindings with no brakes mounted on mid-width or narrower skis, with lighter type boots. The people using that gear for the most part do an excellent job and smile a lot. Heaviest boot I usually see is the Maestrale which is the definition of a “1500 gram” ski touring boot as it has wonderful range of motion and can be modded in numerous ways, but clearly boots such as TLT 5/6 and Scarpa F1 do dominate.

      When ski touring in some areas, there is clearly even a skimo race influence and we see hundreds of people ski touring on even lighter boots/bindings on surprisingly skinny skis.

      I do see beefy gear setups now and then, but almost never unless I’m in an area with more of a mechanized access influence.

      I don’t mean to appear too dogmatic in my blog opinion writing about gear choices (even though it’s a blog, and I’m supposed to have a take). IMHO personal goals in mountain sports are very individual. Gear choices often reflect those goals. I’d simply urge folks to give different types of gear a chance that’s more than just a demo run or two, and be realistic about what’s appropriate for what you’re really doing out there — especially if you choose to tour on heavy gear.

    43. Rod May 31st, 2016 1:46 pm

      Lou that’s fair, but I’m touring in the French Pyrenees now, and almost everyone is on light gear, narrow skis, and almost everyone is making it look pretty hard on the way down.

      People roll their eyes at my 112 katana s, but it seems I spend a lot less energy on the way down, and having more fun too.

    44. Lou Dawson 2 May 31st, 2016 2:51 pm

      Hmmm, if it was easy then everyone would be doing it (grin)?

      Like I always say, tech bindings take more athletic skill and intelligence than other types of bindings. Perhaps lightweight ski gear is subject to that verity as well?

      Joking aside, I have noticed that one of the coolest things about European ski touring culture is the variety of skill levels. Perhaps you’re noticing that? And sure, gear can make skiing downhill easier and look better. I’ll not deny that.


    45. atfred May 31st, 2016 7:26 pm

      How true Lou. I used to think that all Europeans, by definition, were expert skiers – not so! But everyone is out for fun.

      What I don’t understand is how they can drink at the on slope bars at the end of the day (e.g., St Anton), and then fly down the piste without killing themselves. If that were here in Colorado (e.g., Keystone), it would be a bloodbath!

    46. Tobias January 23rd, 2018 9:37 am

      Very interesting – I’m just a snowboarder who hasn’t really skied for the past 25 years but couldn’t resist coming along my friends when they decided to to the Cham-Zermatt Haute Route in March.

      I figured i needed light stuff to be able to survive the climbs but stil wanted decent downhill performance. I went with 180cm Völkl VTA LITE, Dynaft Radical ST 2-0 Bindings (almost like the kingpins – safe, supposedly with feel like an alpine binding, but a bit lighter) and Scarpa Alien RS boots.

      I’m really stoked to try them out – I’m heading for Val Thorens for a week to try to learn to ski again and get used to the equipment.

      Really different from you setup: Lighter skis, lighter boots, heavier bindings…

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  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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