Ski Touring News Roundup September 2017

Post by blogger | September 29, 2017      

Backcountry ski touring news.

Backcountry ski touring news.

What’s this winter’s theme in terms of ski touring gear? While the vast majority of the sport is done on fairly minimal gear — including “classic” tech bindings — the industry is fascinated by the “free touring” or “freeride” part of the market. While anyone with their feet on the ground can see that’s probably an overblown obsession, there are pluses. For example, ski binding technology akin to Mars rover engineering is popping up in the form of machines such as the Fritschi Tecton binding. The promise is a binding that’s similar or better in weight compared to other freeride hybrid tech bindings, only with amazing elastic travel and other features — making a binding that tours and skis in equal measure.

Shop for Tecton

Dalbello patent image.

Dalbello patent image.

What’s more, industry buzz is that various companies will be introducing new freeride boots this winter that perhaps do the best job ever of integrating uphill performance with downhill strength. It’s known that Dynafit has something new and innovative in the works, and the La Sportiva Synchro is a good example that’s been public knowledge since last winter, retailed this coming season. Interestingly, a quick look at Google Patents reveals Dalbello has a patent filed for the Lupo boot’s easily removable tongue — I thought that concept was basically public domain, perhaps they’re patenting the exact mechanism. In any case, cool to see.

Funny thing, I had a vivid dream the other night about what one of the new boots — WildSnow version. The “dream boot” resembled a snowboard boot, with nothing but an external BOA for closure and the lean-lock latch over on the side, just above the ankle bump on the outside. Probably whacked out fantasy triggered by sleeping potions and herbal tea interacting as a chemical soup, but you never know. We’ll see if I’m psychic.

GPS chips in smartphones are perhaps as important to ski touring as boots and bindings. As any regular user knows, sometimes the little icon showing where you are on the map isn’t exactly where you are on the land. That will change, and soon. Apparently a new super-accurate chip will allow GPS location within centimeters — with reduced power consumption. That’s having your cake and eating it too. Although I’d imagine getting the new chip will involve getting a new phone. More here.

Do any of you guys struggle with your health during the winter, fighting off a series of respiratory infections or worse that mess up your ski plans? We’ve found basic prevention measures can have big rewards. For example, frequent use of hand sanitizer and paying reasonable attention to exposure situations (perhaps stay out of movie theaters during flu season?). Next level, check out this alarming study on how much sicker people are who work in open offices. They’re saying people in open offices have 50% more sick days than those who work in “cellular” offices. One has to wonder, rather than really being sick, are people just getting tired of staring across an improvised desk at their startup! co-worker, day after day, hour after hour… I can’t imagine doing that — I’d last five minutes.

Most of us have known or know someone with a substance abuse problem. Our ski touring community is certainly not immune. It amazes me how addictive some of our favorite things are. Powder snow, wine, etcetera. A few years ago I did some work for our local private rehab center, Jaywalker Lodge (helped start their outdoors program, built their first website). They’re legit, in case any of you have a loved one or friend who needs that sort of thing (and has the insurance or cash to pay for it). Backcountry skiing is part of their program.

What got me going about rehab is I was web browsing this morning and landed on a Bloomberg article about Google doing a purge of bogus rehab advertising. It sounds like the recovery advertising ecosystem morphed into a ridiculous nightmare that was entirely useless to the consumer. Google of course made massive amounts of cash off that. Now they’ll move on to reaping Benjamins off the next hodge of totally useless advertising. What a mess. Note we are fortunate here at WildSnow; thanks to industry support all our advertising is either direct buys from legit companies, or affiliate sales that are equally as legit. I’ve experimented with Google’s programmatic “network” advertising. Incredibly lame. That’s what produces those toenail fungus ads you see pop up now and then in our sidebar, when I’m testing to see if they’re doing any better (never seems to happen).

Lindsey is back with her effort to race with the men. Apparently she wants to “beat some boys” and then retire. Sounds sexist to me, but I’ll of course tune in. Battle of the sexes!

I’ve been in a few tenuous huts and hostels. More than a few actually. Escape from a fire is the usual concern. Bella Vista hut on the Otztal traverse was the scariest. At least 40 people in an upstairs lager, with rickety stairs and a tiny window to escape, everything made from old dried out wood, kitchen one floor below. But at least the building seemed to be stuck to one spot on the mountain. As opposed to the Murchison Hut on Mount Cook (NZ), closed now because it’s hanging there on the side of the peak, having moved about 9 meters downhill and now primed to tumble down the mountain and “kill anyone inside.” Fascinating article here. Lesson: as well as fire escapes, check all hut foundations before entering.

Last thing. For those of you who’ve donned your thinking caps, and realized your helmet might be more psychological than real in terms of how much protection it offers, 2nd Skull is attempting to remedy that. Very interesting, though in a way tragic that an aftermarket add-on comes along to ostensibly remedy something caused by the stagnation of legal standards. Article here —– and 2nd Skull website here.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


32 Responses to “Ski Touring News Roundup September 2017”

  1. justin September 29th, 2017 12:23 pm

    What Dynafit boot are you referring to? Something available this winter, or for next winter?

  2. Lou Dawson 2 September 29th, 2017 12:27 pm

    Justin, introduced this winter with some demos floating around, retail available next winter. Sworn to secrecy for more than that, though I’d imagine as per the usual, information will be eventually leaked all over the place… Lou

  3. See September 30th, 2017 10:14 am

    Interesting helmet tech. Looks like a way to put a “hard shell” on the inside of the helmet while accommodating different head shapes. This might spread heavy impacts over a greater area because the liner would more closely match the wearer’s head shape than an exterior hard shell- hence the name. I would still rather see football fade away in favor of Ultimate or skimo or curling or whatever, but I’m all for improved helmets.

  4. Jim Milstein September 30th, 2017 10:40 am

    2nd Skull. Yeah, interesting, but I fail to see how putting an instantaneously hard layer under the points of impact will help decelerate one’s skull. Isn’t deceleration pretty important to avoid concussion? At best, 2nd Skull might help to mitigate skull fracture.

  5. Lou Dawson 2 September 30th, 2017 12:28 pm

    Jim, I agree, I think the reactive nature of the 2nd Skull is probably only part of how it works. My theory is it does simply add more distance between your skull and the impact surface. Helmets are so thin, just about anything is a significant percentage improvement. I’m willing to bet that just adding crumpled newspaper between your head and the helmet liner would make a significant difference. Perhaps even a thick knit cap would make a difference.

    If 2nd Skull is not reducing deceleration then it’s a joke that might mislead people.

    In the case of the football concussions issue, if it’s not reducing deceleration I don’t understand what use it is other than a placebo.

  6. Jim Milstein September 30th, 2017 12:32 pm

    I am corrected. Reduction of brain deceleration is the important thing.

  7. Lou Dawson 2 September 30th, 2017 1:05 pm

    BTW, in engineering, isn’t it called “acceleration” whether it is an increase or a decrease in speed? Just curious, I seem to recall that… Lou

  8. Jim Milstein September 30th, 2017 1:24 pm

    Right. Deceleration is negative acceleration. Better, I should have referred to moderating g-forces on the important thing (brain!) inside the helmet.

    Anyhow, it’s still mysterious how 2nd Skull can help. My phone has a case with a similar material around its periphery. The phone hasn’t broken yet, but I haven’t dropped it on a hard surface yet. However, a phone is different from a brain, I think.

  9. Bruno September 30th, 2017 2:08 pm

    This little blurb at the bottom of the 2nd skull site sums it up for me:

    WARNING: Scientists have not reached agreement on how the results of impact absorption tests relate to neck, head, or brain injuries, including concussions. No conclusions about a reduction of risk or severity of neck, head, or brain injuries, including concussions, should be drawn from impact absorption tests.

  10. Lou Dawson 2 September 30th, 2017 3:59 pm

    I really wonder what exactly is “impact absorption.”

  11. Jim Milstein September 30th, 2017 5:21 pm

    Maybe that XRD urethane stuff would be better deployed on the outside of a helmet design–– if at all. Whether or not it protects the noggin as a skull cap, it would certainly be a vapor barrier. No, thanks.

  12. Jim Milstein September 30th, 2017 5:25 pm

    Corn starch mixed with water also hardens under pressure. Put some in a plastic bag; seal it; place on your head; put on helmet. Good to go!

  13. See September 30th, 2017 5:46 pm

    I never heard of 2nd skull before this morning, and I don’t have an opinion one way or the other about how effective their beanies are. But, like I said, it’s interesting (at least to me). I have, however, used similar materials with knee and elbow pads, and I think there is something to it. As I suggested above, the material probably conforms better to the wearer’s head inside the helmet. When it hardens on impact, maybe a larger volume of foam is compressed, which could dissipate more energy and prevent “bottoming out” the foam as quickly (especially combined with some sort of shell on the outside of the helmet). Or maybe not. I don’t know. But I think it’s a good thing that we are finally seeing some attempts at innovation in helmet design. Not only this, but multi-density foams, Koroyd, MIPS, light weight combination climbing/skiing helmets… for a long time, it seemed that helmet design was basically stagnant.

  14. See September 30th, 2017 5:56 pm

    I do agree that just adding thickness has got to help, and the thing looks intolerably unventilated.

  15. See September 30th, 2017 6:24 pm

    Now that I think about it, I suspect that the ability of the padding to conform to the inside of the helmet as well as the wearer’s head enables an effective increase in padding thickness without increasing helmet size by filling up what otherwise would be airspace.

  16. Jim Milstein September 30th, 2017 6:29 pm

    Just checked out Koroyd, mentioned by See. At first glance it looks much more plausible.

    Now that we have boots and liners that conform to our feet, why not helmets that conform to our heads? I am a conformist.

  17. Jim Milstein September 30th, 2017 6:42 pm

    The latest iPhone with its magic gizmos can produce 3D models of faces, and so heads can’t be any harder. A 3D model of the relevant portion of the user’s skull could be transmitted to the the helmet manufacturer for fabrication on demand.

    What touring skiers need is a really well-ventilated helmet that can be worn both up and down, in warm and cold weather. Exterior hoods can be added and subtracted for protection from cold and wind. Skiers also need a parking spot for goggles on the helmet and a flexible visor. Okay, that’s what I want, and you should too.

  18. See September 30th, 2017 6:54 pm

    Helmet that can be worn on the up in warm weather? Like the song says, “you can’t always get what you want.”

  19. See September 30th, 2017 7:01 pm

    Of course I wear it if I’m worried about rockfall regardless.

  20. Jim Milstein September 30th, 2017 7:14 pm

    I wear a CAMP Speed 2.0 uphill in the warm or cold, See. It’s cooler than a ball cap. I modified it with a foam visor. Having to put on and take off a helmet is too fiddly.

    Same with goggles. Except for late spring or summer skiing, goggles stay on my face. Julbo makes a couple of models whose lenses can be pulled a little way from the frame. No fogging.

  21. See September 30th, 2017 7:24 pm

    I’m thinking MIPS is mandatory for helmet with this type of helmet.

  22. SteveR October 1st, 2017 12:37 am

    Is the industry’s ‘fascination with freeride bindings’ not just based on the idea that they can sell them to skiers who ski lifts 99% – 100% of the time? That’s a much bigger market than ski tourers.

  23. Jim Milstein October 1st, 2017 7:33 am

    SteveR, when I started skiing cable bindings had two sets of cable guides, downhill near the heel and touring at the ball of the foot on the off chance that the skier would tour. And so it is now.

  24. Lou Dawson 2 October 1st, 2017 9:18 am

    SteveR, yes indeed. It’s no secret, I was at a Dynafit press event some years ago when they first began talking about the alpine skier market. They had all sorts of pie charts and such showing the potential market. Opening the new market didn’t happen as fast as I think they expected, but it’s definitely happened. Thing is, the binding that wins isn’t a glorified classic tech binding, but rather something that’s a big departure from the norm. It may require a different boot fittings design (Tech 2.0), though Tecton is doing an amazing job of utilizing those tiny toe fittings. Lou

  25. Frame October 2nd, 2017 6:38 am

    A couple of thoughts:

    Each to their own, but I avoid the hand sanitizers. the skin is a balance of microbes, good and bad, killing them all off, with skin drying alcohol may mean the bad ones come back in a more dominant ratio. Also not recommended for kids, or (I imagine) people who pick there teeth with there finger – i.e. you don’t want it in your mouth (skin can absorb stuff too). I don’t go for flu vaccines either, just making more strains of flu that don’t react to what meds we have when things get serious. A mild soap and water before you eat etc is my preference.

    I’m in an open plan office, kids back into school after holiday periods, is when the coughing and spluttering ratchet up, that and packed commuter trains.

    Do any men/boys want to race Lindsey? I wouldn’t. I’d get whipped (though have never raced or worn that much lycra), but if you were a pro, you may look a bit silly if she beats you, you look a bit like a bully if you do beat her. Great for grabbing headlines though.

    On the freeride binding / alpine skier segment. I fit right in there. I live in London, to ski involves a long train ride / with changes (maybe taxi’s), a car/ferry trip, or a flight, with only one airline (I know of) that don’t charge for ski carriage (and their tickets are probably more expensive). So, taking one pair of ski’s and boots is a bonus for me. I have little kids, so I ski in the ski area with them, and if I get a chance, whip out for a tour, that is low risk and probably short (if I was in Colorado, Lou’s new book would be a winner). So I would think the binding makers are very much interested in me, as a quiver is not really practical (though desired). The do it all set up, is what catches my eye. I do everything in Titan boots for example. A long way of saying I agree with you, there is a market, and makes sense for a manufacturer to go after it. Tecton’s are very interesting to me.

  26. Bret Brunner October 2nd, 2017 10:20 am

    I am looking for some Dynafit boot advice. I have a pair of green ZZeros which I’ve used and loved. I can buy a brand new pair of them but wonder if the newer boots are a better choice. Perhaps the TLT6?

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  27. Bret Brunner October 2nd, 2017 10:24 am

    Is the fit the same between the ZZero and TLT6?

  28. Lou 2 October 2nd, 2017 11:16 am

    length would be similar, otherwise quite different in my opinion. I’ve used both boots extensively, have them both here at HQ.

  29. Lou 2 October 2nd, 2017 11:19 am

    I wouldn’t buy ZZeros, the plastic is getting old and they have a known problem with some of the toes breaking just behind the toe tech fittings, older plastic could exacerbate that. More of the Dynafit bias I keep getting accused of (smile). TLT6 is a wonderful boot. Lou

  30. Bret Brunner October 2nd, 2017 12:07 pm

    Thanks. I appreciate the advice.

  31. Martin October 10th, 2017 6:32 am

    Interesting take on fire hazards in Bella Vista hut, never occurred to me. Isn’t any proper old hut in the Alps built like that?
    The biggest threat to your health is probably the murky water of the hot tub in front of the hut, crowded with 20 naked people…

    Stop worrying, go skiing!

  32. Manuel G Bermudez October 21st, 2017 4:42 pm

    I CAME across a photo of a US experimental skis, circa 1987, intended to be taken down for compact transport and posibly, use by airborne, para troops. IPL Skis Any body can shed light on this :

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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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