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Old 03-02-2004   #1
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 6
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An other backcountry/telemark question

Everyone who replied to my last post seamed to think telemarking is the right way to go. Personally I've spent too long developing my skiing to make the switch. I'm coming from a race background and I like big drops. It would take years and years of practice to get my telemarking to where my skiing is now.

Are snow shoes the only other way? If so i can't imagine packing avalanch gear and and skiboots into a pack. Esspecially with my monster feet.

P.S. I am planning on taking an avalanch awarness course before i get started.

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Old 03-02-2004   #2
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,909
Like several of us replied to your post, Alpine Touring is a possibiltiy. Though learning telemark skiing is easy if you're a strong skiier already, AT is a great way to go if you don't have the luxury of spenging a season learning how to ski a different style. Check out the thread about AT gear for some ideas about it. The bindings allow freeheel movement and then lock down. The boots have a vibriam tread and a "walk-mode" for the ascent and then a locked, bomber system on the descent. I've ice climbed in my boots and also summited a big climb in them. Some models of boots have performance comparable to downhill boots. All you need to start are bindings and climbing skins.

Tele skiing is a blast and you should try it sometime. It looks a lot easier since they came out with the plastic boots and really sturdy bindings. But... call me a sissy but if I'm dropping something big or setting up for the first turn in an icy couloir, AT is what I'll choose. Its also much better if you're carrying a backpack (imagine a freeheel faceplant with a 70 lb pack and LOTS of angular momentum).

If you're interested in really serious skiing, you'll want to make sure that your bindings are built for it - most of the AT equipment out there isn't made for slapping the bumps. There's a varying range of equipment for different types of skiing - mainly lightweight vs. performance, etc. The Naxo or Fritsche bindings that Chris Webster (I don't know how he got that photo of ME teleing....) mentioned are AT gear. While I don't know about Naxo bindings, if you're going to ski really tough terrain avoid the Silverettas - though I've dropped 20' of air in mine successfully, I've also had a one break from skiing hard in the area.

As for packing your boots and snowshoeing in, I don't think I'd want to do an overnight that way. Most AT boots also have removable lace-up liners that can be used in camp by themselves and that you can even sleep in.If you're in Breck, go to Mountain Outfitters (they demo AT gear) or just swing by your local backcountry shop. The gear's come a long way in the last 10 years so don't let anyone sell you short on AT over teleing though I doubt it will ever match downhill gear for durability. All this said, if you absolutely must live like a Mt. Dew commercial you may want to haul your downhills up for the high-testosterone skiing.



Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 03-02-2004   #3
ski/kayak bum
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 460
Snowshoe is the way to go IMHO. nothing like having a performance boat that you have dialed out and a binder that cranks high. it does take longer and it is harder work to get to where you want to go, but the added weight is worth it and you won't even notice the weight of the snowshoes on decent. I find an AT or trekker system cumbersome because of the rigidity of alpine boats and AT specific gear compromises on den settings and performance but friends of mine wouldn't trade their AT setups. They are hard to find but some shops have AT gear that can be demoed.
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Old 03-02-2004   #4
ski/kayak bum
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 460
"boot" not "boat" sorry, i have kayaking on the brain....
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Old 03-03-2004   #5
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 480
Are snow shoes the only other way? If so i can't imagine packing avalanch gear and and skiboots into a pack. Esspecially with my monster feet.
Get a bigger pack?
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Old 03-03-2004   #6
Steamboat, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 458
First, define backcountry for yourself. Everybody has a different definition of what backcountry means to them. After you define what backcountry means to you, or what it is you're trying to access, then your gear choices will become more clear. And the further away from people you go, the easier the choices become.

If you're trying to access the remote backcountry on skis, then I think you'll find that snowshoes are definetely NOT the way to go. For this your very best options are Telemarking and Alpine Touring (also refered as AT or Randonnee).

As a strong skier who doesn't want to relearn how to ski, go AT. And based on what you've said so far in this and your other thread then i think the Fritschi Freerides may be your best option. I haven't been sold on the Naxos yet, this is a brand new binding and I understand it still has a few bugs to be ironed out. And as you're already heard, neither of these bindings are 100% bomber but they're as burley as they make em for AT. For what it's worth, I own the Freerides and the Dynafit TLT bindings. I love both sets of bindings and have never had any trouble with either, but then again I'm super careful with my gear and I'm not a maniac when skiing in remote areas.

For some of the best articles on backcountry skiing, and reviews of all the current AT bindings, check out Lou Dawson's articles here: http://www.wildsnow.com/articles/menu_articles.html . Reading those articles will provide the answers you're looking for, and some inspiration.

Good luck in your search and enjoy those turns
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Old 03-04-2004   #7
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Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 567
I am telemarker not an AT guy but from skiing with AT people over the years I have not heard of binding problems. When I lived in truckee there was a guy who was dropping 60 footers in Donner Pass backcountry on Dynafit bindings which I would imagine to be the least bomber AT binding that there is. I also know that snowshoes are not the ticket if you are covering any ground. Though Alpine trekkers are cumbersome and not a good option I have taken quite a few(30ish) skiers into the backcountry and snow shoes have always been the slowest and the most effort and the most hassle(falling off). Alpine trekkers seem faster but people tend to eject themselves at times, which can be a pain. Finally, AT gear is fast and pretty bomber. Finally, I went to Fairy Meadows in BC with 20 people on telemark gear and only 10 of us actually made tele turns. Though it in no way does it give you the support of a good AT binding, people do it and do it well.

friend of the fork, knife, and spoon
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Old 03-08-2004   #8
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 112
definately get set up with AT gear if you don't want to relearn. I was a strong alpine skiier with a race background and it took me 2-3 years to get totally comfortable making tele-turns in the wide variety of terrain and conditions that exist in the b/c. and unless you're looking for a lot of extra physical conditioning, snow shoeing is definately not the way to go.

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ark, backcountry

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