Quiver of One: the set up to rule them all
It is that time of year to upgrade the gear, or commit to that first touring set up. For snow boarders the decision really hinges on the board and binding since you can use your boots till you come to the realization you need a lug sole for those alpine missions. This article is for the first AT set up that needs to be a Quiver of One. Unlike the Highlander, there is plenty of information about how to build the ideal quiver which essentially breaks down to 3 ski setups: Lightweight alpine touring for Volcanoes and Haute Routes; All mountain, mid fat, lift accessible kit and the Pow boards for the over the head, blower days. The One exists in a state of compromise, wide enough for deep, rigid enough for firm and steep. This requires boots and bindings that can handle a full season of abuse in and out of bounds then tour efficiently up 3,000-6,000’ in a day, maybe for 2 or 3 days in a row. I will outline my metrics for this mythical kit and hopefully help you as you shop. Shameless plug for Ascent Outdoors, sign up for a course or trip and get 15% of any ski and avy gear this season and Jim Mates Custom Boot Service to get your boots set for the season..
The metrics are my educated opinion of what works best when travelling 20 or 5,000 miles to tour and ride any conditions without regret.
Skis 105-108mm waist, rockered tip with a flat tail with or without carbon really fit this role. To me 95-104 carbon skis now serve as a great lightweight setup that avoids compromising the ability to ride through crust and deep mank but lose the joy in deeper pow. 105-108mm with the current models (quite a few G3, Black Crowe, Blizzard, Atomic)can roll edge to edge, drive through crust, float deep pow and skin for miles without regret. The models listed in these two reviews in Powder and Outside are all skis I agree serve this role. Women’s models exist in this range. One thing I am unsure about are women in the petit range (under 5’4”/110 lbs) with whether or not they can downsize their skis to 98-102mm and achieve the same thing. The idea focuses on surface area to body size may work making this adjustment, the women I know have done this but I will need to defer to my female colleagues on this one.
Skins need to climb well and have glide. The weight does not matter if the skin won’t stay on the ski and climb. Period. Black Diamond Ascension Nylon and G3 High Traction are to ones I actually use as I have used all the other models and had them systematically fail in the Cascades, Coast Range and Wasatch, the Outdoor Lab review almost agrees with me.
Bindings I recommend include brakes and include dynamic range in the heelpiece to make it suitable for inbounds riding: G3 Ion 12/ Marker Kingpins-when they come back on the market. Tech toes make this setup work on long tours, absolutely no frame binding works well for long tours, their weight and efficiency simply do not meet my metrics. Again, these bindings fit the quiver of one; while there are lighter setups they do not do well on hard pack lift served terrain. I warn everyone against the Vipec due to the toe piece is too stiff to get in and out of in soft snow. The Radical 2.0 also suffers from a toe piece that creates an unnecessary struggle to transition for downhill to uphill.
Boots I suggest work for different foot shapes; Scarpa Maestrale RS/Women’s-Gea RS or Solomon Mtn Lab(best for all types of riding-inbounds and touring). My metrics are simple; best walk mode to ski-ability. I use Dynafit Vulcans and will switch the Solomon Mtn Lab, the Scarpas do not fit my feet but are excellent ski boots for those fit them. These two boots can rip the chairs @Whistler then go do the Spearhead in a day. Softer boots are best for skiers that are lighter or possess intermediate level ski skills. No nuance here, no other boots offer the combination other than the Dynafit Vulcan which may or may not still be in production.
My avalanche rescue kit includes the following:
RS Ext Avalanche Shovel (best shovel I ever used. Ever.)
I will stop here; soft goods require a different approach and no one will use the same clothes and pack for an inbounds ski day and a full day tour or an overnight trip. Again the metrics I use are my own and based on feedback from people who have used my recommendation in the past as well as my own experience.
Jim Mates – Custom Boot Service