Tuesday, November 22, 2011

First Turns of the Season

It was hard to image a better ski day, especially considering it was my first day on skis since May. Lookout Pass, Lost Trail Pass, and Lolo Pass had all picked up 16-24" in the past week. Lookout Pass opened for the season on November 18th. I was super jealous of all of stories of great early season ski days. It was time to make some turns of my own.

Work and family obligations prevented me from skiing until Sunday. I was worried I had missed out on all the fun. I was wrong.

We left Missoula at 8am and headed up Lolo Pass. We were excited to ski, but expectations were pretty low. At the very least we knew we would get some exercise and fresh air.

Portions of the road were snow covered and the snow level was much lower than we thought it would be. We became a little more optimistic. There were no cars in the pullout and the previous tracks were almost completely filled in.

The clouds slowly gave way to blue skies as we started skinning. It had turned into a picture perfect day.

We took three laps. The snow was light and deep. Temps stayed in the 20s all day long. Despite all of the obvious logs, stumps, and rocks littering Lolo Pass, we didn't hit anything.

My dog, Pika, was chest deep every step of the way. She loves the snow and loves chasing me down the mountain. She would have much preferred our day ended after our second lap though. It was her first day of the season too and I have not been able to run her as much I usually do. We both need to get in better shape.

It ended up being very memorable day. Not just a good early season day, just a good ski day. Here's to many more this season.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A seat at the round table.


The Marker Duke, Baron, Tour F12 and the new Jester Pro look like one big happy family.  

The Jester Pro has several added features that make it the ultimate binding for the competitive freeskier. With an 18 DIN range, The Jester Pro is burly enough to take the biggest hits you can stomp. The toe features a horizontal torsion bar reinforcement, enhancing the power transmission and lateral precision. The Jester Pro's AFD is fixed, which increases both retention and power transmission. 

If you shred harder than your bros, you need to be on the Jester Pro.

 “The Jester Pro is exactly what the professional freeskiing community has been waiting for. This binding has the weight and specifications that meet the needs of skiers on supremely challenging and diverse mountain terrain.This binding can handle it all,” said freeskier Dash Longe. “The last thing I ever want to worry about is losing a ski. With the Jester Pro, I don’t.”

The Jester Pro has quickly proven itself on the competition circuit, with some impressive results:

Russ Henshaw, Silver Medal – X Games Slopestyle, January 29, 2011
JF Houle, Gold Medal – Euro X Games, March 17, 2011
Nick Goepper, Winner – Dumont Cup, March 26, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gear Review: MFD All Time touring plate

This is the first in our series of gear reviews to be rolled out all winter long.

MFD is changing the way we can use our alpine ski bindings, and for the better. The Salt Lake City based company has designed a system that allows skiers to use their existing downhill bindings (Tyrolia, 4FRNT, Rossignol, Look, Atomic, Salomon, and Liberty) as alpine touring bindings to ski backcountry stashes and resort sidecountry. We’ve been waiting for this.

MFD has combined what we love about alpine bindings and touring bindings. We love the performance and security of our alpine bindings. We also love the ability to free the heel on AT bindings. But we are continually faced with tough decisions. Do you shoulder your skis, use snowshoes, or alpine trekkers to tour the backcountry? That is not a fun day. Can you trust your AT bindings to ski super hard and take a beating? Not 100% of the time. So we are forced to sacrifice performance or function. Those days are over now, thanks to the All Time touring plate. The MFD All Time is the first touring binding that you can trust to ski any mountain, anywhere, ALL-THE-TIME (hence the name).

The All Time is a plate that you mount to your ski, and your alpine bindings mount to the plate. Each plate is pre-drilled for specific bindings. You now have the performance and durability of an alpine binding with the ability to tour the backcountry. It’s the best of both worlds.

I had a chance to ski the All Time last winter and was immediately convinced. You can't even notice the plate when you are skiing. The ski flexes as it should and everything feels full locked in. The conditions were less than ideal. We skied hardpack at high speeds. Not something I ever like to do in my touring bindings. While I did not get a chance to tour on the All Time, I did unlock the heel on the way to the chairlift. The stride felt natural and the climbing was super easy to engage.

I realize the All Time may not be for everyone, but it definitely has its place. Anyone who has a compatible binding can get an easy touring upgrade and use all of their existing gear. That’s a nice convenience. And for those interested in exploring resort backcountry gates, the All Time gives them the freedom to do so.

All Time with 4FRNT Deadbolt 13


For those of you who like to geek out on techy stuff, here are some important specs.

-Three climbing bar positions: O, 6 and 14 degree. No other AT binding on the market has a 14 degree climbing bar.
-Weight per side: 600g or 1.6 lbs.
-Construction: 6061 T6 aluminum, Dupont Zytel
-Free Floating Chop Block (All Time heel piece) allows the ski to flex more naturally
-Pole activated climbing bar is truly easy to use, unlike the similar claims from other companies that turn out to be false.
-Lowest stand height of all DIN AT bindings.

The MFD All Time is compatible with the following alpine bindings:

Tyrolia Peak T.H. 15, X T. H. 18
4FRNT Deadbolt 13, 15, 18
Liberty 515 Freeride
Head Mojo 11, 12, 15, 18
Salomon STH Driver 12/14/16, STH 12/14
Atomic FFG Team
Rossignol FKS 140/180
Look Pivot 14/18

I’m sure you are all asking, “How much does the system weigh compared to other AT bindings?”

Binding Weight Comparison Per Side (not per pair):
Marker Duke Large with 110mm brake - 3.0 lbs.
Marker Baron Large with 110mm brake - 2.8 lbs.
Marker Tour F12 with 110mm brake – 2.2 lbs.
Naxo NX 22 Large with 100mm brake - 2.8 lbs.
MFD All Time plate Large - 1.6 lbs.
MFD All Time plate Large + Tyrolia 15 DIN binding with 115mm brake - 4.0 lbs.

Concerns about the durability of such a new product? Fear not. The All Time has been tested by pro skiers Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, Chris Benchetler and Daron Rahlves, along with many industry insiders for the past year. They all say its good enough for them. I know I will be mounting the All Time touring plate on a pair of my skis very shortly.

Backcountry Racks & Skis will have a pair of Liberty Double Helix 182cm skis mounted with 4FRNT Deadbolt 13 bindings and the MFD touring plate for customers to test out all winter long.

Best of all, MFD manufacturers the All Time in the USA. For more info check out the MFD website.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fall...our 2nd favorite season.

There's nothing quite like fall. You can't taste it or smell, but you can definitely feel it. Temps drop below freezing at night, days get shorter and darker, and the leaves start to fall. We slowly start to put away our bikes and kayaks as the peaks start looking whiter and whiter. We finally get to wear pants again, along with our favorite cozy clothing. Sometimes we even look forward to spending a lazy weekend at home with hot coca and warm soup. Fall is the perfect transition to winter, our favorite season.

Nothing matches the collective anticipation we all share for winter, and more importantly, skiing. And, believe it or not, it all starts as early as August. That's when the ski magazine gear guide issues hit your mailbox. Its also when all of the ski movie trailers hit your inbox or facebook wall. If you weren't thinking about skiing in August, you are now. If only there were something to tide us over until the chairlifts spin. There is.

An endless parade of ski movie premieres come to town from September to November. From big mountain skiing, to urban jibbing, to snowboarding, to tele turning. There is a movie for everyone, and you always leave the theater more excited to ski. Ski movies provide the stoke we have all be lacking since last season, and just in time.

As early as Labor Day ski shops hold preseason sales and people stop in just to ogle the latest and greatest gear for the upcoming season. We throw down hard earned cash for a seasons pass. Plans are made for numerous trips. It's all starting to come together. The anticipation is at an all time high.

All there is left to do is to pray for snow. Parties take place all over the world sacrificing old ski equipment to the snow gods. Regardless of the amount of snow that has yet to fall, a pray for snow party is really about swapping stories and remembering seasons past with friends and family.

Many folks look to winter as the start, or end, to their current employment cycle. Some work tirelessly to save up and be unemployed during the winter in order to ski everyday. Others look forward to working at a ski resort or ski shop.

Now is the time to grab and beer and retreat to the garage or basement. There's important work to be done. Your boards must be finely tuned and freshly waxed. You never know when the first turns will be coming. Be ready.

So, let's all raise our glasses to Ullr. May this winter be our favorite of all time. Cheers.

Here is a little more ski porn for your enjoyment.