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