If pursuing speed records or running uphill in lycra is what gets you out of the bed in the morning, then you can disregard the words that I’m about to spray onto this page. But if you walk up mountains to enjoy the turns on the way down, listen up.
The backcountry community is far too obsessed with weight. Lightweight gear is great, until it impacts downhill performance. Cutting weight in some areas of your backcountry kit is perfectly acceptable. Lightweight axe? Great. Lightweight backpack? Awesome. Ultralight 85mm underfoot skis? You’re blowing it. Leaving the bag of Oreos in the car to save weight? Let’s never go touring together again.
I don’t care if you start climbing straight from the car, or if you have to approach for miles. The purpose of a tour isn’t just to go for a nice hike. We walk up to ski down. Therefore, it is in a skier’s best interest to select gear that performs for the best part of the day - the down.
Janelle Smiley, endurance racer, mountain guide and all-around crusher posted this to Instagram after a 10,000-foot tour: “I took out the fat powder skis. Why did I spend so many years on skinny skis?? Yes, they are heavier on the up, but so worth it on the down.” If Janelle can bang out a 10k day on Bentchetlers, you’ll survive your morning dawn patrol without a set of carbon toothpicks.
Light boots are either too stiff or too soft, and lack any semblance of torsional rigidity. Light touring skis lack the dampness, responsiveness and playfulness of their full-bodied, alpine counterparts. Touring gear is about compromise. What boot walks better? A rando-race boot or an alpine boot? The rando boot. Which skis better? The alpine boot. Since you want something that skis and tours well, you compromise. Wouldn’t you rather err on the side that makes the downhill more fun? The next time you’re out shopping, instead of grabbing that wimpy rando slipper, grab a crossover boot. Scratch that “touring ski” and grab a lighter-weight alpine ski instead. Today’s heavy gear is lighter than the ultra-light gear from 15 years ago. The Tecnica Cochise 130, an alpine boot with tech fittings and a walk mode, is of comparable weight to the ultralight touring boots circa 2005. The point being, if you’ve put your ski boots on a scale, you’re doing it wrong. Is your heavy gear slowing you down? Yeah, but probably not as much as those nachos you plowed at après. Here’s a list of things to do before “upgrading” to a lighter ski or boot:
1. try kale
2. do a single squat before starting the winter
3. stop complaining
Does touring on heavy gear induce more suffering on the up? Sure. Suck it up. You’ll thank me later as you giggle your way down the mountain.