Our Denali Ski Setups

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | May 26, 2010      

It all pours out of the cargo trailer like a Yukon river when the doors open up.

Wildsnow readers have requested information about what skis we’re using up there. First, please know there is no ideal setup for this sort of thing. You don’t know if you’ll be on ice or powder (probably some of both), you spend a lot of time walking (on foot and skis), but you might ski some fairly difficult steep stuff. More, we don’t pretend to be experts on what would work best on Denali (there are dozens if not hundreds of guides and other experts who know it better than us), and while we’ve gotten some help from Black Diamond and K2, it’s not like we can pick any ski in the world. So, with that caveat, following are the setups we’re on.

Jordan: Black Diamond Kilowatt 185, BD mohair skins, Scarpa Skookum boots punched out for custom fit, upsized one shell size to size 31. Intuition Power Wrap liner with custom orthotics by Larry the Bootfitter in Boulder. Dynafit FT 12 bindings.

Caleb: Black Diamond Kilowatt 185, BD mohair skins, Scarpa Spirit 4 boots, stock Intuition liner, red Superfeet Insoles. Boots upsized one size. Dynafit FT12 bindings with brakes and custom safety strap

Joe: Black Diamond Kilowatt 175, BD mohair skins, Dynafit ST bindings. Scarpa Spirit 4 boots, upsized on size. Intuition Liner.

Lou: K2 Wayback 168 with either BD mohair or K2 nylon skins (haven’t decided), Dynafit ST Vertical bindings with brakes, Scarpa Spirit 3 or Dynafit ZZero CF Thermo boots (probably former because I’ve spent literally weeks trying to fit the ZZero large enough in the toe while still having some sort of ski fit in the heel area, and have not been highly successful). Compared to the Spirit, the ZZero is lower volume in the toe area. That can be great when fitting for normal use, but makes it tough to set up for super cold temperatures. So we’ll see, but at this point I’m edging towards the Spirit 3. In either boot, Intuition Pro Tour liner because it’s the best for slogging.

Louie: K2 Wayback 175, G3 Alpinist skins (good glide for Kahiltna Highway and likes the tip attachment). Scarpa Spirit 3 boots upsized one shell size, Toasty Feet aerogel insoles. Dynafit FT12 with brakes as well as custom safety straps.

Colby and Tyler: K2 Backlash 181, Scarpa Spirit 3 boots, G3 Alpinist skins. Upsized boots (which is not saying much, since upsizing to these former ski racers probably means going to the size most people would normally ski in).

Everyone has Forty Below Purple Haze overboots, and I’ve got some Boot Gloves as well. The Purple Haze don’t work 100% with Dynafit bindings, so our strategy with them is to wear them on the up and/or while in crampons, then strip for the down.

That’s about it.


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26 Responses to “Our Denali Ski Setups”

  1. Andrew May 26th, 2010 9:20 am

    That gear trailer looks like it could have some very unstable layers. Open it with caution, ALWAYS have a partner, use a probe the layers and watch out for contents which may have shifted while in flight.

  2. CF May 26th, 2010 10:09 am

    thanks for posting! can I get more info on the ‘custom safety straps’ – love to hear more about the ‘what’ and the ‘why’

    I use brakes on ST’s but if in glacier territory also use the regular dynafit ski straps…so any info on doing things better would be cool!


  3. Mark W May 26th, 2010 10:31 am

    Way to get to AK! Hope the gear works well.

  4. Nick May 26th, 2010 11:10 am

    Interesting – thanks for posting this. I was curious what the final decisions were on this front. Seems sub 100 waist is the ski size of choice. Makes sense given the variable snow.

    Good luck and be safe!

  5. Caleb May 26th, 2010 11:21 am

    Wow, that trailer pic is embarrassing. We are a car camping junk show.

  6. Backpacking Man May 26th, 2010 2:32 pm

    Emarrassing? I’m envious, it makes me feel gear poor. Great info thanks!

  7. Ben C May 26th, 2010 3:10 pm


    BTW, I saw in a previous pic everyone seems to ski with 2x whippets. Is that just a redundancy thing or is there some other additional utility to have 2 of em?

  8. Adam May 26th, 2010 4:31 pm

    Weather is awesome in Talkeetna today…Sunny and warm, give a shout when you show up in town, love to meet you guys.

  9. Caleb May 26th, 2010 5:20 pm

    Weather in AK is fantastic today, finally got to ski the Kenai mountains.

    Ben, I like two whippets on the steep and icy, one wouldn’t stop a slide for life on a steep slope in my opinion. Only slightly more confident in two for that matter. Louie had an incident he blogged about this winter where two probably saved his life. However the reason that we have been using two on this trip is because we have been too lazy to dig out the normal poles. Did you see the trailer pic? Intimidating.

  10. Mike T May 26th, 2010 6:35 pm

    Good one…..

    Good Luck!

  11. pioletski May 26th, 2010 10:47 pm

    So, nobody’s going with leather boots and Kazamas?

    I’m with Nick, I’m finding the ski dimensions interesting. Lou, you clearly need to drink more beer if you’re on 168s, though I liked the Wayback on dry land and am looking forward to hearing about its performance on the mountain. Meanwhile I’ll debate whether my skis are too short or too narrow.

  12. Ben C May 26th, 2010 11:11 pm

    Thanks for the intel Caleb. Yeah that trailer is ridiculous! And I complain about low crawling to find my boots under my tonneau cover…

  13. Caleb May 26th, 2010 11:42 pm


    In my opinion, shorter skis are the way to go for ski mountaineering. Even at 6’3″ I would be on 175’s, but there was peer pressure and a little mix up that put me on 185’s. The shorts don’t ride as well, but they are lighter and way more maneuverable on the sketch terrain. And I know you like the sketch terrain as of late.

  14. Jordan May 27th, 2010 2:06 am

    Don’t listen to Caleb.

  15. Mark W May 27th, 2010 6:17 am

    Any thoughts on why Kilowatts were among the chosen skis?

  16. Kelly May 27th, 2010 1:16 pm

    Caleb and Joe – I see you are on Spirit 4’s. Just wondering if you are using the stiffer black tongues and whether or not you find them useful for any particular part of your trip so far or coming up?

    Also – with all the hoopla over the recent AT overlap style boots (Zzeus, Titan, Radium, BD Factor) almost all of you are on Scarpa’s. (Some reviewers are now calling the Scarpa hinged tongue technology ‘old school’……..).

    Is the ability to get a hinged tongue boot on and off more easily in cold weather the main driver for using the Scarpas, or is it something else? Would be great to hear your insight in this.

    (FWIW, I also own a pair of Spirit 4’s 🙂


  17. Caleb May 27th, 2010 5:00 pm


    I am not bringing the black tongues, just the green. The reason being that there will be exponentially more time spent going up than down. The boots are also sized up one size so it’s not really a performance package anyway. If I skied like Davenport then maybe I would consider hauling the black tongues up since I would only need 2 maybe 3 turns at 70mph to get down. I have skied the green tongues quite a bit over the past winter and though certainly not super-stiff, they have worked pretty well for me.

    As for the overlap debate, I have a pair of Radiums that I use as an everyday boot. Definitely more difficult to get on and off, and I don’t like the fit and flex as much as my 3 pairs of Scarpas. But they do have great control. Again though, I am a good but not great skier so my tolerance for imperfection in a ski boot is probably greater than someone like Jordan White. Generally I chose comfort on the up over superior control on the down.

  18. Jordan May 27th, 2010 5:02 pm

    Hey Mark,
    I think the Kilowatts got chosen for a couple reasons. First off, all three of us were already familiar with them. They are reasonably light for their downhill performance. They are stiff enough to hold a good edge on icy terrain, fat enought to float in the soft stuff, and well…the graphics are pretty cool i guess 😉 . They have been my ski of choice for the last 2.5 years or so, so that made the decision for me.

  19. Kelly May 27th, 2010 6:14 pm

    Thanks Caleb – great response and information. Really appreciate it!

  20. Dalton May 28th, 2010 11:55 am

    Make sure you have your gearvalanche beacon on when opening those doors!

    Just posting to wish you guys all the best on your trip. Looking forward to the updates. Stay safe and God bless!


  21. Mark W May 29th, 2010 7:38 am

    Thanks for the insights on ski choice. We rent Kilowatts and they sell well also. Good to know they really get used in the backcountry on the summits and long slogs.

  22. Travis November 16th, 2010 10:47 pm

    Got a quick question on which brake size to get for dynafit vertical st’s. I have kilowatt’s and was wondering if the 92mm brakes could be shaved or should I just go with the 100mm ones?

  23. Doru November 29th, 2010 9:04 am


    I think it would have been useful to post (for each setup), also the physical characteristics of the riders (height/weight).

    As a matter of fact, I find myself in the position where I need to update my touring setup, and need some advices.
    Myself: 6’3″, 195-200lbs. Former setup: Dynastar Legend 8000 (116/79/100) 184cm, Naxo 01 bindings, Lowa Struktura GTX boots.

    New setup wanted: light :), to be used for multi-day touring, oriented more towards the uphill/skinning comfort, with low-speed difficult terrain downhill.

    So I have a dilema related to some gear options:

    Bindings: Dynafit TLT Speed or Dynafit Vertical ?
    Is it safe to consider the Speed, at my height@weight ?

    Skis: Movement Iki (117/80/105) 185cm (1.4kg/ski) or Movement Logic (127/88/115) 184cm (1.43kg/ski) ?
    Ikis are marketed as being stiffer, with excellent edge control, while the Logics give better flotation in difficult snow, with softer flex.

    Boots: I’m considering mainly Scarpa (Skookum or Spirit4), due to their wider fit.

    So, what would you advise ?

  24. Lou November 29th, 2010 9:19 am

    Hi Doru, “safe” is probably the wrong word as to which binding is better, but yeah, at your height and weight I’d just go with Dynafit Vertical. Pick the ski that’s best for the most common conditions you will encounter. Save weight with bindings. Scarpa boots are great, eith Skookum or Spirit 4…

  25. Doru November 30th, 2010 4:44 am

    Thanks Lou.

    One more: Dynafit ST or FTs ? considering that I’m skiing usually with the bindings tighten at 8 – 8.5 max.

  26. Lou November 30th, 2010 7:04 am


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