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.
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:
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.