Transition from Telemark :(

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Robert
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Transition from Telemark :(

Post by Robert » Thu Oct 24, 2019 1:16 pm

I’m looking for advice. In the spring of 2018 I seriously injured my left foot, and last year I had two operations. Gory details here. A year later (spring of 2019) the surgeon told me that I could walk, but no high impact activity (no running, jumping, etc.). Could I hike? Yes. Could I ski? Yes. Could I telemark? NO! When I moved west in the 90s I transitioned from cross country to telemark. I’m 76 years old, and in the past 20 months I’ve lost fitness that I’ll likely never regain. I’m 6’ 1”, and suited up with a backpack, about 215 lb. I never was a good skier. On a good day I was an intermediate telemarker. I have no interest in the groomers, only accessing the high and often steep backcountry — mostly around the Whistler corridor (Squamish to Duffy Lake Road). Speed is never an issue, but trees, steeps, and turning are.

This means if I’m to go skiing, I will need to learn to ski AT. What I’m interested in is going as light as possible, and making the job of skiing as easy as possible. My purpose is to be out there, and it is NOT flying down deep powder at speed. My main ski season is Valentine’s Day to mid June when the snow melts. I’ll be happy to never buy a lift ticket. Once every few years there is a powder day, but here on Canada’s Wet Coast, there may be deep snow, and some people call it damp powder, but it is not. So, I usually see deep-damp, breakable crust, spring corn, and lots of crud.

I’m looking for the last skis I’ll probably ever buy. From my reading, I am considering a huge departure from the usual orthodoxy and advice about ski length and width. I cannot afford to experiment with a series of gear changes, and my reading doesn’t speak directly to me: lack of fitness and technique, no groomers, no interest in speed, but I’ll need fast turns on steeps and in trees, and control downhill on mixed-use trails and logging roads.

So, here is what I am considering: really short skis. There seems to be something of a movement towards this, but what I’m seeing is that this works well on the groomers, and those who head for the backcountry on these are young and fit. I’m in no hurry. It’ll likely be early in the new year when I make the purchase (when I hope prices will drop), so I’m still researching.

At the moment, my gear list includes Hagan Off Limits 130 cm / 130-90-110, skins, tech bindings (probably G3), and Scarpa Freedom boot (for fit and walkability).

I’m here to ask what will be my experience with this kind of gear in the backcountry under the various conditions out there? Thanks!

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Andy M
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Re: Transition from Telemark :(

Post by Andy M » Thu Oct 24, 2019 11:16 pm

Robert, I've been telemarking/free-heel skiing a long time (~40 years) and about 15 years ago, I decided to get an AT set-up -- so maybe I can help you some in that respect.

At first, the transition to AT and a locked heel on the downhill was not as simple as I expected, perhaps compounded in part by the fact that I might be telemarking one day and using the AT gear the next, but eventually it became second nature. [Note that I did once ski frequently on alpine gear, and I also did a lot of parallel turns on my tele gear -- but up until I got the AT set-up, I had not skied with a locked heel in about 15 years.]

The Hagan Off Limits look very interesting, and I think it will serve your purposes. And most simpler tech bindings should work for you. I have a pair of the G3 Ions, and they work fine -- you should do fine with the lighter G3 Zeds.

But the Scarpa Freedom is on the heavier side of AT boots, and it is overkill for a ski like the Hagan. Even the somewhat lighter Scarpa Maestrale is overkill for this ski -- but I recommend the Maestrale over the Freedom. Are you fixed on the Freedom for some specific fit/foot support issue? If not, I would consider a much lighter AT boot, such as the Scarpa F1 or something like the Dynafit TLT7 or TLT8. I use boots like this, and they give enough support and more walkability than the Freedom.

One of the benefits I have found for using a light AT set-up is that I can ski the same challenging terrain as I could with a much heavier tele set-up, with less effort. And it is easier to ski challenging conditions, e.g., breakable crust, with a locked heel.

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Re: Transition from Telemark :(

Post by Danylewich » Fri Oct 25, 2019 7:55 pm

I have Scarpa F1, it's a very good boot. Don't love the design over the the top of the foot at front of ankle, there is a rubber bellow that seems to get pinched every time I take the boot off. I'm worried it will eventually rip. Other than that, excellent for walking, excellent for skiing.

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Andy M
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Re: Transition from Telemark :(

Post by Andy M » Fri Oct 25, 2019 11:36 pm

By the way, if you haven't already seen it, here is a review of the Hagan Off Limits on this site:

viewtopic.php?t=1696

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Robert
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Re: Transition from Telemark :(

Post by Robert » Sat Oct 26, 2019 2:02 pm

Andy M, I appreciate your thoughtful answer and mentioning your long history on the snowy slopes.

Your comments have given me some confidence that my thought of this 215 lb. old guy skiing on 130 cm boards is not an impractical dream to make backcountry access easier.

At this point, I’d not given much attention to bindings and boots — my concern was the radical ski size. I went into Mountain Equipment Coop to ask about touring boots, and the Freedoms were on sale. My skiing buddy’s (now old) AT boots make any real hiking impossible, so he carries them up trails and logging roads. I can walk for many kilometers on my Scarpa T2s, so I was impressed by the ‘walkability’ of those Freedoms. Then you pointed me towards the Dynafit TLT7s and they look awesome! I will try them on. My concern is that I have a size 12 long narrow foot, and those seem to be wide. Since the boots and bindings will be the big expense, that’s where I’ll now continue my research.

About the bindings. I’ve never skied with a release binding. 16 years ago the top of my G3 tele binding snapped off, and that was the only time I’ve come out of a binding. I suspect that while learning the skills of AT I will fall — so it is possible that with AT I will come out of the bindings. Maybe often. So, as much as I’d like the lightness of the G3 Zeds, I’ll probably choose the Ions for the brake. I consider using a leash in the backcountry a bit dangerous, and have used them only for a few rare trips to lift-served slopes.

Many thanks for your insights.

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Re: Transition from Telemark :(

Post by Tom M » Sat Oct 26, 2019 8:04 pm

First of all, thanks for sharing your story and for your tenacity to backcountry ski after your accident. I've been at this for a long time as well. All of my tele skier friends have switched to AT. In fact, I haven't seen another tele skier in the backcountry for several years now. A few years ago I took a hard twisting fall which resulted in a bad sprain. My AT friends reminded me that I probably would have been OK if I had releasable bindings. The following year I decided to give AT skis a try. My first ski on AT gear was a little comical. They turned so quickly with such little effort that I found myself overturning, and then I'd quickly lose my balance. Keep in mind, that the last time I had my heels locked down was back in the 70's, skiing on silvretta cable bindings with leather boots. After a few skis, I had the "new" style figured out. I think you will adopt to them pretty quickly. In the end, I didn't make the switch to AT, but it did make me update my tele setup to a more modern ski with beefier plastic boots. While I don't have a wealth of experience with AT gear, I must admit that the Atomic Backland boots were the most comfortable plastic boots I have ever worn. The liners in the version I had were breathable and the tongue was removable. Talk about comfort on the uphill! The downside was the extra time it took to insert the tongue, especially when it was very cold and windy. Based on my limited experience, I think you will adapt quickly and overjoyed to be back out on the snow.

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Re: Transition from Telemark :(

Post by Woodserson » Sat Oct 26, 2019 8:08 pm

I would seriously think about a longer ski. I think you’re asking for going ass over teakettle with the short length, the low profile tips, your weight and height, and the thick wet BC snow. If you’re going to be offtrail all the time, consider a Altai Kom in either the 162 or 174 length. They are actually shorter than advertised and have big high tips that have saved me plenty. I have both and prefer the 174 but both work well, though I’m 6’2” and 160ish. Also, they have scales, not sure how you feel about this, but they can make life easy. Regardless, a stable ski that can be used with confidence and is silly easy to smear and turn. Excellent at breaking trail, really really nice.

Regardless of what ski you decide you may want to email Hagan or Altai if the ski will take a locked down heel piece without torquing out.

Just my $.02 I don’t want to piss on your parade but I’m cringing already.

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Andy M
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Re: Transition from Telemark :(

Post by Andy M » Sun Oct 27, 2019 12:24 am

Robert, thanks for the informative reply.

The TLT7 is a bit high volume. I own a pair, and I had to make some changes to make it fit better, because I have a lower volume foot. FYI, I fit well in Scarpas, whether AT or tele, in Mondo 28. I got a 28.5 in the TLT7, and, in hindsight, I thought maybe I should have got a 27.5, but then my toes might have been at the very front.

The TLT8 is supposed to have a lower volume fit, but it is new, and there are not many reviews yet -- and it is not on sale like the TLT7. Get whatever fits your foot best. As Tom M mentioned, the Atomic Backlands are a worthwhile alternative if they fit.

I hear you on the brakes issue. I use both brakes and leashes, but I use brakes mostly for convenience, since I avoid avy terrain in the winter. But I do tend to use brakes on wider skis for winter and no brakes on skinnier skis for spring, since I tend to ski steeper stuff in the spring where brakes won't help anyway. BTW, the G3 Zed will accept optional brakes, but in your case I would probably get whatever is less expensive.

Related to the AT binding release issue: I am a relatively smooth, technical skier, and I rarely release from AT tech bindings -- maybe a handful of times in hundreds of days. So, as long as your release settings aren't too low (which they can be, when mounted by a shop), you should be OK.

Regarding the leash issue: There are some options for using a leash that still allow for a "release" in case of an avalanche or a catastrophic fall where you don't want the skis attached to you. Perhaps the best known is the B&D leash:

https://skimo.co/bnd-ski-leashes

Also, I often use split rings (like on a key chain), especially with a tele set-up. Split rings do vary in "strength", but, IME, they will pull apart in a hard fall.

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Andy M
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Re: Transition from Telemark :(

Post by Andy M » Sun Oct 27, 2019 9:07 pm

Woodserson wrote:
Sat Oct 26, 2019 8:08 pm
Regardless of what ski you decide you may want to email Hagan or Altai if the ski will take a locked down heel piece without torquing out.
Woodserson makes some good points in his post, but, to save you at least one email, Hagan does recommend an AT binding on their website as one of the appropriate bindings for the Off Limits (the Ride 10, which is a rebranded ATK AT binding):

https://www.haganskimountaineering.com/ ... off-limits

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Re: Transition from Telemark :(

Post by MSU Alum » Thu Oct 31, 2019 2:35 pm

I don't understand how a 215 pound person can be supported in untracked snow on relatively narrow skis that are also short. That doesn't mean that it won't work, but it seems physics comes into play. I'd expect you to practically post hole going up, and be dragged down on the descent.

But, you know the conditions you'll face and your goals, so I'd just say, let us know how it works out!

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