Gear – A Question of Balance, Part II

| February 27, 2009

In regards to balanced gear diets, here are my current favorites:

Superlight  (15% of the time)

   Skis – 160cm K2 Sahale (68mm waist)
   Bindings – Dynafit TLT’s without brakes
   Boots – Scarpa F1

Comments:  In the right conditions, I love this set-up as it tours effortlessly.  Because it is so light, you don’t have to be going very fast to feel like you’re haulin’ ass, so the thrill is the same as mach-schnelling downhill with a much heavier set-up.  The disadvantage is that it gets knocked around in anything less than ideal (corn/powder) conditions.

Medium Light (45% of the time)

   Skis – 167cm K2 Backouts (Euro skis similar to Chugoris/Summits – 72mm waist)
   Bindings – Dynafit ST Verticals with brakes
   Boots – Scarpa F3

Comments: I prefer this set-up whenever possible as I can ski powder, chutes, meadow skipping, etc. and it has it covered.  It tours very well but is a challenge when the snow gets tricky.  For expeditions, I take this set-up with the Scarpa Spirit 3 boots as the F3’s can get overpowered with a heavy pack or wind-jacked snow.

Medium Heavy (35% of the time)

   Skis – 167cm K2 Mt Baker Superlights (88mm waist)
   Bindings – Dynafit Comforts (no brakes)
   Boots – Scarpa Spirit 3

Comments: I use this set-up for powder, shorter tours or when I’m going out with a semi heavy-metal crowd.   I love the way it skis (especially powder), but there’s a weight penalty for longer tours. 

Heavy Metal Thunder (5% of the time)

   Skis – 167cm K2 Kung Fujas (twin tip alpine skis – 94mm waist)
   Bindings – Marker Dukes
   Boots – Scarpa Typhoons

Comments:  I use this set-up for kiting as I get yanked around and land backwards (twin-tips help), as well as resort skiing.  I like the Marker Dukes for this as they have excellent return-to-center abilities, a clean, predictable release and are brainless to step into.  Weight isn’t an issue as I’m probably not carrying them more than 100′.  Tourability is almost more of an insurance policy – it would be better than post holing.

An embarrasment of riches?  Yes, but it is a job and somebody has to do it.  :)

Help support and cover some ground with a pair of Scarpa F3 Alpine Touring Boots on sale now at Click on the photo below…


Category: 02 Gear

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (18)

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  1. Patricio says:

    What are the waist widths of those skis?
    You make an excellent point on gear as a system rather than just a collection of items.

  2. Andrew says:

    Hi Patricio – I’ve edited the original post and put in the waist widths. They range from 68mm to 94mm.

  3. Chris says:

    How tall are you, and how much do you weigh? How much faith do you put in manufacturer ski length recommendations based on height/weight? How would you characterize your “style” of skiing? Yes, I know I should demo every ski/boot/binding before I buy it, but that’s not always possible…

  4. Andrew says:

    Hi Chris. Ooops – I suppose my height and weight could be important info, eh? I’m 5’10” and 143 pounds, so pretty light. In blind ski tests I hate to say it, but I usually like women’s skis. My skiing style is probably considered “conservative” as I don’t like to fall, especially on steep slopes or in remote areas where evacuation would be difficult.

    All that said, the posting was more about the importance of balancing your gear together rather than endorsing any single ski,boot or binding.

    When it comes to mfg’rs length recommendations, I tend to think of them as small, medium or large as many mfg’rs only make skis in a few sizes (if that) nowadays. The “large” (usually 181+) tend to be out for me as I’m not heavy enough to bend them and don’t need the stability as I’m not straightlining shots. At times I might use some “mediums” (174’ish) but I’m so enamored with the tourability of shorter skis that usually go with them. 167-170 is my favorite length in the current crop of skis. 160’s are pretty damn fun, but they have almost no tail to them, which is a big problem with a heavy pack and/or in crusty conditions where you are leaning back to keep your tips from diving.

  5. dug says:

    how’s this:
    BD Megawatts (188s, what are they, like 125 waist?)
    Fritchi Freeride Bindings (sure, brakes, why not)
    Garmont Adrenaline boots. The boots feel a little light.

    one setup for everything, from a quick couple shots in upper days to summitting box elder. i don’t like having a quiver, i just like a shotgun.

    course, i’m more the turtle in the turtle/hare scenario. except the ending. i don’t ever cross the finish line first.

  6. d3voiceworks says:

    >>>I hate to say it, but I usually like women’s skis.

    Ding ding ding we have a winner!

    BTW, I love my Miras, with the Voile Switchback and T2s.

    But then, that ain’t AT, is it?

  7. Mark D. says:

    Andrew, it’s one thing to have several skis for different conditions, normal behavior. It’s another to have so many pairs of boots, non-typical behavior. I’ve been on three pairs of skis this year, but all in the same pair of boots.

    The 40K effort was very impressive a few weeks ago, hats off to you!


  8. Charlie says:

    Why Verticals/Comforts on your bigger skis? Do you feel you get something for the extra 2mm of heel pin? I’ve not noticed a difference in performance between my TLTs and my Comforts, nor friends’ Verticals, except weight. In fact, I find the TLTs more user friendly.

    I’m surprised to see you use brakes too – do you use leashes when you’re not lifting brakes up the hill?


  9. OMR says:

    How do Scarpa Spirit 4’s compare to Dynafit Zzero’s? Zzero’s are lighter but how do they compare in skiing performance? Hiking performance? I bc ski about 30-40 times per year, currently in Scarpa Denalis (6 years old), but time to move on. So, Zzero’s or Spirit 4’s?

  10. Andrew says:

    Hi Charlie – I think the Comforts/Verticals are a bit more user friendly than the TLTs (longer pins, more adjustment, brakes, etc), although they have the same “guts.”

  11. Andrew says:

    Hi OMR – I’m not really sure as I’ve never skied in the Zzero’s. Loug Dawson at would be the guy to ask. I know they are great boots, and green, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge. I like Scarpas as they fit my foot, or perhaps as I’ve been skiing in them so long, my foot fits them, like a glove.

  12. csadams99 says:

    With all this talk of weight, can you let us know the weight for each set up, including skis/bindings, boots and skins. Curious to see how much of a range we are looking at from super light to HMT.

  13. Andrew says:

    Hi CS – That’s a great idea as I’ve been wondering that myself. It may take a few days before I get around to it, but I will. Thanks.

  14. KatieC says:

    I think you should take up sport climbing, slim. You loom larger in person – must be the afro.

  15. Andrew says:

    I have taken up Sport Climbing.. as long as it is less than vertical. :)

  16. jerimy says:

    Do you use heel shims when using the F1’s with TLTs? I guess it would only make a difference when on low angled terrain, but I am curious none the less.

  17. Andrew says:

    Hi Jerimy – I do use heel pucks as without them, I can feel the boot reverse flexing with each step.

  18. Larry says:

    Three to four setups seems to be a good spread. Being a telemarker (ducking and running from the ATapostle ;-)), I stick with one boot as flex and fit is really the king for tele. Also I have a more resort bias because of where I live… I have three setups that pretty much span the waist size range of your “quiver”. Other than you skinniest setup they match up pretty well.

    Mind you hop turns on steeps don’t turn my crank much. Seems like survival skiing to me :-P.

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