Thursday, October 6, 2016

Backcountry Skiing Gear List, 2016-2017

I do this each season. In planning out my equipment before the season ramps up, I am doing a sort of risk management. Thinking through the equipment now leaves me free to better monitor conditions and choose terrain wisely. To be honest, much of my professional life is built around freeing up mental energy for making wise terrain choices. It is that important. I have similar lists for rock climbing, alpine climbing, and ski mountaineering.

Season opener. Grand Targhee BC, Wyoming. Yours truly. Selfie. 10/2016


Here and now we're talking about your typical day out skiing.  6-8 hours at most, a group of 2-7 people, hunting down good snow and good terrain with minimal "faffing" around.  Don't think too much about it; this is standard skiing.  See the other posts noting what I carry for more "specialized" missions.  

Clothes:
  • Darn Tough ski socks
  • Maybe, just maybe, long underwear
  • Arc Teryx Procline pants 
  • CAMP Magic pants (in the pack).
  • Synthetic boxers
  • Synthetic/wool t-shirt
  • Patagonia R1 Hoody
  • Camp Magic Jacket
  • Camp Neutrino Jacket
  • Feathered Friends Helios Jacket
  • Camp G Comp Warm gloves
  • Camp Hot Mittens
  • Warm stylie wool hat
  • Buff
  • Sun hat
  • Smith Vantage helmet (sometimes…)
  • Sunglasses.  Native Hardtop, Julbo Explorer, or Kaenon Burnet, depending.  Maybe, just maybe, goggles. Of the 60-80 days a year I ski in the backcountry, I probably carry goggles 10 times on average.  And use them for one run before I remember how annoying it is.  
Ski Gear:
  • Dynafit TLT6 boots
  • Any one of a number of OutdoorGearLab tester skis. 
  • And associated skins
  • Dynafit Speed Turn bindings
  • Black Diamond Fixed Carbon poles (mounted with a sweet Pole Clinometer)
Safety Gear, etc.  Some of this is individual and needed by each group member. Other gear can be shared by the group.  Divided well, even this comprehensive list of emergency group gear will go barely noticed in the pack:

Individual:
Some gear failure is repairable.  Some is not.  
Group: 
  • First Aid/Emergency kit.  (follow link for elaboration)
  • Ski repair kit. It should be around a pound. 
    • Candle for skin wax and fire starter
    • Scraper. Those made for nordic skiing seem to hold up better in a pack. And are more compact than your work bench scraper.
    • 4 voile straps. The long ones. 
    • About a meter of baling wire. 
    • 4 mid-size zip ties
    • Rub on ski wax. Like you see at the impulse buy rack near the ski shop cashier. 
    • 10 spare, random binding screws. A ski shop should be able to hook you up. 
    • "Binding buddy" ratcheting bit driver. I don't know who makes it, but its branded all kinds of different ways. This DaKine one would work. Make sure you have a flat bit, a regular phillips bit, a "#3 PoziDrive Bit" (looks like a beefier phillips bit), and, for newer Dynafit bindings, #15 and #20 Torx bits. I add a 1/4" drill bit that fits in the binding buddy. For improvising a sled (see below) and for drilling right through torn out binding holes. (see immediately below)
    • A handful of small bolts, washers, and "t-nuts" that can be used, in a pinch, to bolt bindings (or even just ski boots...) to holes drilled through the ski. In the event of a blown out binding hole, drilling those holes straight through the ski and bolting the binding on is likely one of the best choices.
    • Another good option for blown out binding holes is steel wool shoved in the hole. So carry some steel wool.
    • Carry some glue to mix in with said steel wool. I have a small tube of "Gorilla Glue".
    • I carry an extra boot cuff rivet. These are hard to improvise and, on some boots (ahem... La Sportiva...) they are especially prone to getting lost. 
    • Sometimes, when it really matters (like in a big group on an expedition), I carry an extra Dynafit toe piece. Life sucks if you don't have a toe piece. 
  • Brooks Range Ultralight Guide Tarp 
  • Brooks Range Eskimo Sled. Or my improvised bolt-based kit. Depending on the objective. The bolt-based kit basically replicates the K2 sled. I add a 1/4 inch, 1/4 inch hex drive drill bit that fits in my binding tool for making holes in hole-less skis. 
  • Thin sled dragging rope. The Petzl RAD rope is the best ski rope made. 
  • 2 locking carabiners
  • Navigation kit:  GPS, maps, compass, clinometer, altimeter.  Often the iPhone versions are enough.  Sometimes bringing the dedicated tools is justified.
  • Snow Study:  Saw, crystal card, magnifier, ruler, documentation.  Be equipped and trained to make sound decisions for yourself and large column tests for the avalanche center.
  • Extra clothes:  An extra puffy jacket and pair of over mitts are regularly appreciated.  Especially in a large group. 
  • Set of BCA BC Link radios, for intra-group communication. I was skeptical. But I'm a solid convert now. Even close together, radio communication is clean and simple. Have back-up plan and procedures in place, but use the radios too.
  • Iridium Extreme Sat Phone.

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