There’s quite a few crafty folks living here in the Tetons, and artist/tinkerer/skier Cy Whitling is definitely one of them. Ever looked at a snowy couloir, and dreaded booting up it? Skiers and snowboarders have been turning to using ascent plates in recent years to make those vertical wallows a bit easier. Essentially tiny snowshoes you attach to your ski or snowboard boots, ascent plates give some extra float when you need it most. The only thing is, they’ve typically been expensive and hard to find. Cy decided to take matters into his own hands and come up with a cheap and simple solution for what should be a really simple device. He calls them slope stompers, and he makes them for both ski and snowboard boots. Oh, and they’re covered in some pretty cool art he makes.
What sets these apart from other options like the Auftriib Cramplifiers, Billy Goat Tech Ascent Plates, or Verts is that they only weigh 200 grams and very easily slide into your pack. The Slope Stompers are cut out of JBond - a super lightweight 3mm-thick material that’s essentially aluminum plate bonded around polyethylene foam board. It’s what’s typically used in sign printing, but works really well in this application. They are completely flat, with no edges or 3D shape to get caught on stuff inside your pack. The Slope Stompers come in two versions: a strap-on version (designed for snowboard boots or to attach to your ski boots without crampons) and a crampon-specific version that sits between your boot and crampon.
While there’s actually not that many big lines that require a steep and deep bootpack here in the Tetons (not to mention that booting directly up a couloir in deep snow isn’t really a great idea to begin with), we got to test both the strap-on and crampon version on a few missions both locally and in Alaska this spring. They both work remarkably well when it comes to maximizing efficiency when bootpacking in really deep snow. I’m not going to put numbers to it, but I’d say it feels half as hard to go uphill with these on than without.
Attaching the strap-on version requires three ski straps per foot (so you have to factor in carrying six extra straps), but they are secure and seemed to work well with several different snowboard boots and ski boots we tried. The crampon version feels much more secure, and attaches really easily. Do test the fit at home - as you might have to adjust bails or the length of your crampons for them to fit properly, especially with touring boots that have a rockered sole. So far, we’ve only put a few days on both pairs, but they have held up nicely to rocks, ice, and the inside of very-full backpacks.
Cy Whitling’s Slope Stompers are a really cool option for anyone looking for a way to boost efficiency in a ski mountaineering setting in deep snow. They’re $30 for a pair, and he only makes them in batches, so hit him up on instagram (@cywhitling) for a pair.