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Buying advice for new skier?

Discussion about winter adventure sports in the Sierra Nevada mountains including but not limited to; winter backpacking and camping, mountaineering, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, etc.
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Buying advice for new skier?

Postby Guy Cooper » Wed Sep 19, 2012 2:47 pm

Hi all,

I would like to start backcountry skiing, but, I have no ski experience. I have been snowboarding for about 15 years and have a lot of experience with winter snow/ice travel in general, plus a decade or so of backpacking in the High Sierra. I can't stop dreaming about getting into the backcountry in the winter and getting some fresh lines!

One thing I've learned after years of outdoor recreation is that, in my opinion, it's worth it to spend more money on the top quality gear and not end up having (or really wanting) to purchase newer/lighter/better gear later down the road. I wish I had someone truly knowledgeable about ultralight backpacking to coach me on my purchases before I bought all my backpacking gear. I would really like to avoid that same mistake with my skiing gear.

Nonetheless, my intuition tells me I should buy a cheap pair of skis to start, partly because there is a big difference between ski and backpacking/climbing gear, which is that your skill level has a big impact on what type of skis are appropriate for you. So even though I can get a pair of BD Aspect ski's for 60% off right now, and even though I feel that this is exactly the type of ski I will want down the road when I am capable of ski mountaineering, I'm thinking it would be really silly for a newbie like myself to buy these. Any thoughts on this?

But now my real question, should I also hesitate to buy the top quality bindings and boots at this stage? In the past I've gotten advice that I should consider shelling it out for top quality boots before I consider top quality skis. I can also get BD's Prime boots right now for about 40% off (through theclymb) and I am tempted to get them. Any advice on the wisdom of these purchases for a newbie (but a newbie that is 100% certain backcountry skiing will be a big part of his future) would be greatly appreciated. Thanks folks!



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Re: Buying advice for new skier?

Postby paul » Sun Sep 23, 2012 1:53 pm

Guy - When you say "backcountry skiing", you are covering a wide range of skiing. so what kind of gear you want depends on what you want to be able to do. One end of the spectrum is serious steep stuff, skiing peaks and chutes and other hair-raising adventures. The other end is backcountry touring, wandering around the mountains on fairly mellow terrain. in between, lots of possibilities. And wherever you want to be on that spectrum, good quality gear is available. So I totally agree, you want the best gear, but there are a whole bunch of "bests", as the best skis for dropping a steep chute are far from the best for a nice rolling tour through the meadows, or for a multi-day backcountry tour that has some steeper stuff but is mostly mellow. Same goes for boots and bindings. So if you know where you want to be on that spectrum, then you should get the best gear that you can that is suited to that kind of skiing. But if you are not sure where you want to be on that spectrum, you'll probably be better off renting some gear to start with, until you figure out the kind of skiing you really want to do. Used is also great, if you can find it.

As for me, my thing is touring - week-long trips in the backcountry that are more about getting around and seeing the sights than about the skiing. So my gear is light and aimed at making miles, but wouldn't be well suited to dropping a chute.
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Re: Buying advice for new skier?

Postby Guy Cooper » Sun Sep 23, 2012 10:35 pm

Right right,I see what you're saying. I think I was getting ahead of myself in the first place. As I said I'm just learning so I probably need a pair of 'all mountain' or perhaps touring ski's to learn. Then, in the log run, it will probably be a lot smarter to buy a nice pair for the steep stuff if and when that day comes. But really it's the boots and/or binding question that I'm curious about. It sounds like the boots can be as specialized as the ski's. I need to do a lot more research.

I'll be learning in the Pacific Northwest of the US, in the Cascades, mostly in the Bend/Mt. Bachelor general area. Hopefully I'll be spending a decent amount of time at the resort to get some basics down, then doing single day trips along mellow terrain, working my way up to backcountry ascents. I would like a pair of skis that will be suitable for learning on the mountain and for breaking trail along relatively mellow terrain in the backcountry. Based on what I've looked up so far, it sounds like a rocker/camber or rocker/camber/rocker ski would be best for me.
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Re: Buying advice for new skier?

Postby paul » Mon Sep 24, 2012 5:31 pm

So if I were you I'd see what you can rent at Mt. Bachelor or nearby. And start looking for used boots if you can find them. Something like a Scarpa T2 or the like, towards the lighter end of the spectrum but not the lightest, will probably be a good choice to start since it's versatile, but whatever you can find cheap will work. And then rent skis at first.

Here's a site where you can get a lot of info - but be prepared for a tidal wave of opinion:

http://telemarktips.com/
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Re: Buying advice for new skier?

Postby DAVELA » Mon Oct 29, 2012 7:40 pm

paul wrote:

As for me, my thing is touring - week-long trips in the backcountry that are more about getting around and seeing the sights than about the skiing. So my gear is light and aimed at making miles, but wouldn't be well suited to dropping a chute.


Paul,this is what i want to do.Not interested in thrill rides just checking out the scenery in snow.
Do you use telemark skis?
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Re: Buying advice for new skier?

Postby paul » Tue Oct 30, 2012 4:23 pm

The skis I use are not generally classed as "Telemark" skis. They are full metal edge, but still pretty light. Sometimes referred to as backcountry touring skis or just backcountry skis - at REI they have a section they call "metal-edge touring". Basically skis that still have at least some vestige of the classic double camber flex of a cross-country ski. They tour better that way but generally don't turn quite as well as a ski with an alpine flex.
Mine are Atomic Rainier. I think they still make the same ski. Very similar is the Salomon XADV 89 Grip. Also in the same class would be Madshus Eon or Epoch.
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Re: Buying advice for new skier?

Postby DAVELA » Sun Nov 04, 2012 11:35 pm

Thanks you Paul for the info.And you advise most folk to do Sierra ski touring in April/May because of warmer conditions and longer daylight,correct?
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Re: Buying advice for new skier?

Postby paul » Tue Nov 06, 2012 9:19 pm

Yeah, late April/early May is usually the best. Three reasons;
1) perfect corn snow
2) perfect corn snow
3) perfect corn snow

Seriously, the three reasons are that is the usual corn "window" - although it varies somewhat every year - and the days are long, and it is usually good weather. But the snow conditions are the biggest reason. Earlier and you're likely to get sizable snowfall and be ploughing through deep fresh stuff - no good for touring. When the corn is good, the touring is great.

Oh, and one more thing - the snowpack is usually well settled by then and avalanche danger is usually lower.
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