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First AT setup questions-

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First AT setup questions-

Postby spiritualspatula » Fri Sep 23, 2011 8:19 am

So, despite living in Colorado, I can't ski.
However, I'd like to. As it is now, I slowshoe everywhere and I get there but skis would make my life a lot easier. My setup would have to work in unbroken powder.
I know next to nothing about skis, or pricing, so was just looking to get an idea of cost for a beginner setup. I'm comfortable with buying used, I just have no knowledge of utter garbage vs good deal, for product features or quality or price.
I'd be using the skis to both access and descend winter routes in Colorado in the winter. I'm not aiming to do insane steeps really, and I'm already up on my avy info. I don't currently have plastics, but use my Scarpa Mantas for lots of stuff. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like folks lean towards just using plastics on the skis? How horrible would using Mantas be?
Help a total noob out with some pointers? I've read some of the threads, and have started reading over at WildSnow, but what sort of a basic budget can I expect for this?
ETA: I'm about 6 foot, 165
Thanks in advance.
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Re: First AT setup questions-

Postby ExcitableBoy » Fri Sep 23, 2011 2:10 pm

What you want is a pair of approach skis. Any old short (<170 cm) ski will do and a Silveretta type binding. The 400s and 404s are among the simplest, although they may be hard to find. Skiing in Scarpa Mantas (I owned a pair) would be a silly joke on anything but the lowest angle terrain. You can improve the skiing ability of the set up by attaching a cord through the hole in the tip of the ski or screw a 'D' ring to the top sheet near the tip. The cord then runs to a strap on your leg, just below the knee. By leaning back against the cord you can gain better control. Still, don't think you are going to be shredding the gnar-gnar with this.
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Re: First AT setup questions-

Postby Autoxfil » Fri Sep 23, 2011 2:43 pm

My plastics - Invernos with Intuition liners - are very painful to ski in. The cuff is too low to provide real support, but high enough that when I bend at the ankle I beat up my shin. It's entirely possible that other plastics are better. Mine don't fit me all that well, which may exacerbate things. Oh, and it's actually the uphill that's the worst, since climbing plastics don't have a "walk mode", just a moderate amount of flex all the time. In either case, I'm not planning on using doubles now that I have AT boots. They climb as well at the Invernos and ski 100x better.

In leathers I just have to deal with zero support. It sucked at first, but I learned how to ski moderate stuff in them pretty quickly (and I'm not a very good skier). The worst is variable snow, like breakable crust. When the tips dive and slow down, there's no tongue to lean against so you just go forward and face-plant. But as long as the surface is somewhat consistent, it's not a big deal. On really long tours I do blister my heels, even though they never do that when hiking/climbing in those boots.

If climbing is the main goal, and you just want to get there (and down) more efficiently than slowshoes, Silvretta Bindings are the ticket. You can get 404s for $150 or less. 500s are much lighter, a little easier to use and about $200.

You should shoot for about 165cm skis, with dimensions like 120/80/100. Try not to go any skinnier, but fatter is great, and will let you go shorter. Anything from 150 to 170cm will be fine, and just get the cheapest used or sale skis you can find. Anything under 7lb/pair is great.

Something like this is perfect, although you can certainly spend much less. I got similar (more beat-up) skis for $100 off someone on Mountain Project.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Used-K2-Mt-Bake ... 3951wt_808
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Re: First AT setup questions-

Postby Autoxfil » Fri Sep 23, 2011 2:49 pm

Oh, and skins - Sierra Trading Post sometimes has killer deals. If you can't find any there, ClimbingSkinsDirect.com is great and cheap. Many people like them better than the name-brand skins. You also may find planks with skins for sale as a package.

I'd say without too much bargain-hunting you should expect to spend:

Skins: $100 (new)
Skis: $150 (well-used)
Bindings: $250 (used 500s)
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Re: First AT setup questions-

Postby ExcitableBoy » Fri Sep 23, 2011 5:47 pm

As for snowshoes, I find myself using them as often as skis for approaches. Some approaches are just too brutal for skis but they are the ticket in the wide open like the Alaskan Range.
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Re: First AT setup questions-

Postby Kai » Sat Sep 24, 2011 8:27 am

Silvretta 500 bindings: $350

http://www.neptunemountaineering.com/ne ... HIMBHDMAF&

Fischer Tour Air Carbon HK skis: $99

http://www.neptunemountaineering.com/ne ... 40KRTJ27C2

Scarpa Denali TT boots with Intuition liner: $350

http://www.sierratradingpost.com/scarpa ... rch=-2787P
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Re: First AT setup questions-

Postby coldfoot » Sat Sep 24, 2011 9:34 am

If you can't ski, like really never skied, go to a resort, rent alpine gear, and take a beginner lesson. Then spend a few days riding lifts and skiing, beginner terrain at first obviously. You will get in more vertical and more practice than you can get by hiking.

If you live someplace where you can easily get to something like rolling cross-country terrain when you have time for short outings as well, that would help. (AT may not be the optimum setup for such terrain, but I'm not going to advise you get more than one set of gear yet.)
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Re: First AT setup questions-

Postby bdynkin » Sat Sep 24, 2011 7:45 pm

Autoxfil wrote:My plastics - Invernos with Intuition liners - are very painful to ski in. The cuff is too low to provide real support, but high enough that when I bend at the ankle I beat up my shin. It's entirely possible that other plastics are better. Mine don't fit me all that well, which may exacerbate things. Oh, and it's actually the uphill that's the worst, since climbing plastics don't have a "walk mode", just a moderate amount of flex all the time


Just to give you another person's perspective: I've never had any pain/discomfort going uphill or downhill in my plastic climbing boots. Agree that climbing boots are no good for any serious skiing but I've had a lot of fun on moderate/easy slopes even though I'm not a real skier. My AT set-up is real old alpine skis (30 years?), Silvretta 505, BD climbing skins and plastic climbing boots.
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Re: First AT setup questions-

Postby spiritualspatula » Wed Sep 28, 2011 7:02 am

Thanks for the info so far-
So, in some of the other threads, a lot of folks were suggesting Dynafits. What's better about Silvrettas compared to Dynafits?

I figured as much would be true about the boots, just hoping haha.
After doing some reading over at Wild Snow... I'm a bit confused. He says you can use pretty much any boot, but then it sounds like I need to modify the boot or something? Am I misunderstanding things here? Like, if I use a plastic climbing boot, do I need to mod it to work as a ski and climbing boot? Are the gains significant enough to just bite the bullet and lug climbing boots separate? What kind of terrain are the Silvrettas and Dynafits appropriate for?
I saw some comments about using Fritschi Diamir Freeride bindings, as well.
Really, my problem is that I'm a total noob and this is all a foreign language so I don't even know who's full of shit or how to judge the products.

ETA: Going to a resort isn't hard, but I'll be spending lots of time just outside Steamboat anyway, so I've got tons of time to learn on rolling hills and junk, as well. Wasn't figuring I'd do the resort thing at Steamboat much though, as their prices are pretty steep compared to everywhere else. I've boarded at Winterpark and that's pretty reasonable, so I'd probably do that.

ETA2:
ExcitableBoy wrote:As for snowshoes, I find myself using them as often as skis for approaches. Some approaches are just too brutal for skis but they are the ticket in the wide open like the Alaskan Range.


Whereabouts is the cutoff from skis to slowshoes?
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Re: First AT setup questions-

Postby Autoxfil » Wed Sep 28, 2011 3:54 pm

Dynafit is king of AT setups. Their patent has expired so the term "Tech Binding" is now used to refer to any Dynafit-style binding, which are now made by Plum, G3, and others. These are systems where there is no plate under the boot to hold a heel-catch in place. Instead of the entire binding pivoting when you tour, the heelpiece remains on the ski and the boot is the only moving part, pivoting about the toe clamp. It eliminates the heavy base-plate part of the binding and results in a much lighter setup than traditional AT gear, like Fritchi Damirs.

Silvretta bindings are the only releasable bindings currently produced that will work with un-modified climbing boots. Any boot that takes full-auto crampons (that is to say, has both heel and toe rands), will work in the Silvretta 500. Silvretta also makes regular AT bindings such as the Pure, so make sure you get 500s or 404s if you want climbing-boot compatibility.

Skiing - both uphill and down - is much better in plastic AT boots than it is in climbing boots. They offer more comfortable and efficient touring, and hugely more power and control on the downhill. With a Dynafit setup you can ski essentially anything you can ski with DH gear. With climbing boots you're taking a step back to 70's ski technology, and it will hold you back big-time.

Climbing in modern ski boots can be pretty good, way better than skiing in climbing boots. The Dynafit TLT-5 ($750-1000) and the Scarpa Mestrale ($600) have brought genuine ice-climbing ability to the AT boot world. They wouldn't be anyone's first choice for a day of waterfall cragging, but they get the job done as well as any plastic boot. For moderate stuff they are awesome, the only downside is you can't french-step easy terrain. Even without jumping into high-end new boots like that, you CAN climb in AT boots. I've climbed easy ice in old (cheap!) Scarpa Laser 3s. A little clunky, but not awful on easy terrain.

You can also just haul your climbing boots. For a while I skied my skinny XC skis and light boots into climbs, then put on boots at the climb. In cold weather this is unpleasant (the boots are ice-cold when they come out of the pack), but do-able, and gets you the best climbing and skiing performance.

It all depends on what your goals are - I have an approach setup with 500s, and a Dynafit setup. I ask myself - is this a skiing trip, or a climbing trip? If I'm climbing an easy face and skiing down a steep slope, it's probably really a ski-mountaineering trip, and I bring the AT gear and put up with the clunky boots on the way up. If I'm skiing trails to get to a steep ice gully or smear, I'll bring the 500s and put up with less skiing control and comfort in order to maximize climbing performance.

If you're a climber to wants to get to/from climbs faster, 500s on crappy skis will get you more climbing time and make the trip back to the car way more fun. If you want to really start ski-mountaineering, then getting an AT setup (maybe an old, cheap, non-Dynafit setup) and carrying ice boots when needed would be the better move. Learning to ski easy slopes on 500s and climbing boots is a good skill, but doesn't teach you all that much about how to ski in modern AT gear. Sort of like how french-technique in 10-pt crampons with a single axe wouldn't teach you much about climbing vertical ice with Nomics and Rambos.

One trip will teach you a ton. Instead of buying used gear and thrashing around, you could also spend a couple days on rental gear at the resort getting your feet under you, then rent a real AT setup (or approach setup) and take it climbing. That first-hand experience will really help you decide what's right for you, without the hassle of buying and sorting out a setup, only to perhaps find it's not what you want.

As far as skis/snowshoes - if the terrain is open (not wooded), skis rock. If there are well-defined trails, skis rock. If you're in tight woods, especially a steep, wooded talus slope or boulder field - skis are frustrating to worthless. You can't maneuver them well enough to get around in that kind of terrain.
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Re: First AT setup questions-

Postby bdynkin » Wed Sep 28, 2011 4:22 pm

I just want to add a little about Dynafit: Dynafit bindings use special hardened steel inserts imbedded in the toe and heel parts of the boots. So, you have to have those special Dynafit-compatible boots with these inserts. BTW, I'm not sure if this is important for you but Dynafit ski gear is very expensive. And to re-iterate what Autoxfill stated in his very informative post: only Silvretta 404 and 500 series bindings can be used with climbing boots.
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Re: First AT setup questions-

Postby ExcitableBoy » Wed Sep 28, 2011 5:39 pm

bdynkin wrote:And to re-iterate what Autoxfill stated in his very informative post: only Silvretta 404 and 500 series bindings can be used with climbing boots.

That is not entirely correct. Older Silveretta binders (I have 400), Ramers, and a few other binders made specifically for approaching can be used with climbing boots.
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Re: First AT setup questions-

Postby Dane1 » Wed Sep 28, 2011 8:41 pm

I didn't read every detail of this thread. But here is a thought and what I suggest. If you don't ski now, rent the gear. Most importantly take the time to ski the gear at a ski area and learn to how to ski there.

I am gear freak that sees no bounds. But the gear is expensive. And it is changing for the better right now. You would have to be an idiot to buy anything but tech (dynfit or other) bindings. But not all boots are up to the task of climbing....yet. But they are close..another season or two I suspect, may be less, via what I hear on the grapevine.

Skiing is a great skill. But don't let anyone fool you, NO ONE, learns to ski in the back country. Well at least not in the time frames you can learn while skiing inside an area anyway. Even the best skiers first learn to just survive in the back country. Once you learn how to ski at a ski area you can take those skills to the back country. And once you have tried different styles of gear you can make better and more economical choices on the gear you do need.

I've spent time on every type of ski set up you can imagine and snow shoes. Forget skiing in climbing boots (cuz it will really suck for you, plastic or leather) and BS binding set ups. Get into real ski boots and bindings that won't break things on you while you are learning and decent skis. Short approach skis aren't "decent skis" any more than a pair of 138 at the waist power skis are. A pair of beginner down hill boards in 160s *might* be. Or they might not be. The learning curve is harsh and steep. It just takes time and some help.

Gear means a lot skiing....but learning how to ski mean even more. I hate saying this but if you are really serious...take some lessons or better yet an adult ski school for a few weeks or months. It will be money well spent and you'll be much better off in both your skiing and climbing because of it. As will your climbing partners if they already knwo how to ski.

Skiing is a huge part of true alpinism. Telling you to go get started in funky gear is like suggesting you to learn how to rock climb in a pair of logging boots. It is a waste of your time.
Last edited by Dane1 on Wed Sep 28, 2011 8:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: First AT setup questions-

Postby Autoxfil » Wed Sep 28, 2011 8:47 pm

ExcitableBoy wrote:
bdynkin wrote:And to re-iterate what Autoxfill stated in his very informative post: only Silvretta 404 and 500 series bindings can be used with climbing boots.

That is not entirely correct. Older Silveretta binders (I have 400), Ramers, and a few other binders made specifically for approaching can be used with climbing boots.


Yes, note that I said "only releasable bindings currently produced". There have been quite a few others over the years, and Wild Snow covers them pretty well. You can also use snow-blade bindings with climbing boots. They don't release at all, and are pretty dangerous. When used with short snow-blades and beefy DH boots the leverage that can be put on your leg is fairly low (but you can still break it). When you go to climbing boots that don't lock your ankle down, they are a real hazard. That doesn't mean people don't do it, but it's certainly not for beginners or people who value being able to walk.
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Re: First AT setup questions-

Postby ExcitableBoy » Wed Sep 28, 2011 9:38 pm

Autoxfil wrote:
ExcitableBoy wrote:
bdynkin wrote:And to re-iterate what Autoxfill stated in his very informative post: only Silvretta 404 and 500 series bindings can be used with climbing boots.

That is not entirely correct. Older Silveretta binders (I have 400), Ramers, and a few other binders made specifically for approaching can be used with climbing boots.


Yes, note that I said "only releasable bindings currently produced".

Apologies, that is an important distinction to make. I just read the exerpt.
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