Gear – A Question of Balance

| February 26, 2009

Individually, skis, boots and bindings are important, but a far more significant concept is how they all work together.  I was reminded of this the other day when a friend mentioned that he didn’t think his new boots were stiff enough, which may have been the case, but then again, the 125mm waisted skis he was on may have just been too much for them as well.

Light is right... for long and/or fast outings.

Even if you buy all top-of-the-line gear, it can still seem “off” if it isn’t matched carefully.  A quiver of skis is nice, but a quiver of skis/boots/bindings is even better.  For backcountry skiing, I alternate between three set-up; superlight racing, lightweight all-purpose and the heavy-metal monsters.  I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite as they all serve such differnt purposes, and in their respective catagories, I think they all ski really well.  On rare occassions I’ll use a heavier boot on a lighter ski, which can be fun as you can drive the ski like a nail and make it come around REALLY fast.

Mid weight, all around. Hard to go wrong, except if you are going really far, or really fast.

When I look at a new skis, boots or bindings, the catagory they are in (light, medium, heavy) is more important than the individual product.  For example, Dynafit TLT bindings (light), Scarpa Spirit 3 boots (medium), and K2 Coomba skis (heavy) are all great products, but would be a horrendous combination.  Conversely, when properly matched, the sum of an assembly of mediocre gear can be magical.

Heavy metal thunder (although not really a touring set-up).

 That said, if it skis good, it is good.  Your mileage may vary.

Help support and go big with a pair of Scarpa Typhoon 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. Mark Donohoe says:

    Andrew, the start of a great article, tell us more! For example, the example you gave you don’t explain why that set up would be poor. A few examples of well matched light, medium and heavy and the types of trips you might use them on. OR tell us what you used on past trips and why that was a good match or not.

    In general, good stuff, keep it up. Good turns to you and your family.

  2. Andrew says:

    Hi Mark – sounds good. Coming soon to a ski mountaineering blog near you soon. :) (most likely tomorrow)

  3. Grant says:

    Andrew – Nice post. Except now you’ve got me shakin’ in my boots; I was planning to mount up a pair of anti piste 174’s with my TLT verticals and skiing them with my mega rides….

    How have you/are you going to setup your new coombas? Cheers-

  4. mark says:


    FWIW, I ski a 181 Anti Piste (for those who don’t know, the same ski as the Coomba save for the mini rocker in the tips) with Dynafit FT12 and Spirit 3’s, and I absolutely love the combination. The FT12’s, though lighter, are stiffer than my old Fritschi Freeride+ (Lou Dawson will back me up on this one), which makes the Spirit 3’s feel as if they’re stiffer than they did with the Fritschis.

    I kind of cringed when you suggested it wasn’t a good match, but I’ve had no trouble driving my skis and like the combination well enough that I’ve considered ditching my alpine gear altogether and using this setup even when I’m riding the wire.

  5. d3 says:

    oh, i see now, at first i thought the puffs of green and red in the first photo were wrapped flower bouquets. which in and of themselves aren’t very heavy, really.

  6. Tyler Falk says:

    So does anyone have any thoughts on how wide underfoot is too wide for a dynafit TLT binding? I set up a pair of BD Zellot’s(110 underfoot) with the TLT’s and have had no problems other than having too ski it more moderatily on hard resort type snow due to the larger amount of edge pressure and not wanting to “roll” out of the binding.

  7. Adam says:

    I have the 188 Coombas mounted with TLT’s and use Dynafit Zzero boots, its my every day touring setup, and my resort setup, best combo of boots, bindings and skis i’ve found in the last 10 years…

    Probably the best rig/setup for Alaska if there ever was one!

  8. Andrew says:

    The bindings, especially Dynafits, are the least important part of the combo as far as a balanced system goes. Where they would be detrimental is with something like a Marker Duke on a pair of racing skis with F1’s, and even then the main penalty would be the weight.

    But, in that regard, it doesn’t make much sense to use FT12’s with superlight skis and boots as there are lighter bindings which perform the same function (TLT’s).

  9. Andrew says:

    Hi Grant – I haven’t mounted up my Coombas yet (they are actually the new Coombacks, which I’m not sure if they are the same as the old Coomba or not). If I had my ultimate preference, I’d put some FT12’s on them and use some Spirit 4 boots, which I unfortunately don’t have either of.

    The Zzero or Factor seems like it would be a good boot for a Coomb-esque type of ski. I can see using a Spirit 3 or older Matrix, but those seem like they’d be right on the edge of forward and lateral stiffness for that beefy a ski.

    On a trip to Alaska last spring, Lorne Glick had some Coombas with TLT’s and BD Factor boots for kiting and touring which he seemed to like.

  10. Andrew says:

    Hi Adam – Yeah, that sounds like a perfect combo for the intended usage.

  11. Bob says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Since you’re commenting on individual set-ups, I have this friend who has tele’ed exclusively for years, but is considering getting an AT setup as he isn’t getting any younger. The set-up he’s considering is Scarpa Spirit 4s and Dynafit TLT verticals on a 99mm waisted ski (PM Gear Bro models, fwiw). So does that sound like a balanced set-up to you? :)

  12. Derek says:

    When in doubt, choose fat, then at the end of the day you’ll still have fun skiing when your legs are tired.

  13. new school says:

    “K2 Coomba skis (heavy)” come on, get with the times Andrew.

  14. Andrew says:

    I know what you mean, but compared to Trabb’s, they are. It’s all relative.

  15. Justin says:

    This is why I lust after a pair of DPS skis. Fat and crazy light….Bob, I’m on Bros, Dynafits, and MegaRides or Factors (depends which day you ask me) and its a great setup.

  16. Andrew says:

    Hi Bob – I don’t know that much about the PM skis, so perhaps someone else here can offer up an opinion. ?

  17. Derek says:

    I have the DPS Lotus 140 tip, 120 waist, rockered tip. They weigh next to nothing, skin up anything no problem, handle steep icy stuff great. Best touring ski I’ve ever been on. No compromise at all. They weigh under, or right at 8lbs per pair. Easy to pull off 8-10k per day touring with them…..and still have fresh legs for the “it’s all about the down” part of the day.

  18. Bob says:


    Thanks, “my friend” will be glad to hear that.

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