When I first started skiing in the backcountry on Alpine Touring (AT) gear in the mid ‘90s, like many Americans, I used a step in binding, the Fritschi Titanal. Dynafit was out but everyone I talked to seemed to think it was sketchy and fragile. It certainly looked like it so I did the Frankenstein plod up the skin track for nearly a decade on heavy step ins. When I moved Jackson full time in 2005, I was immediately swayed by the locals and fellow Exum guides to switch over to Dynafit tech bindings. Hell, if they worked for Doug Coombs, they’d work for me.
I'm fighting it with every fiber of my being but the ski season is slipping away as the long days of the Alaskan summer arrive. I was back in Seward last weekend for a solo rematch on Mt. Ascension with a mountain bike and race gear. I rode from Lowell Point this time and was able to do nearly the whole trail approach on wheels. But fog and an isothermic snowpack shut me down. The whiteout was vertigenous and I was fearing some sort of epic if I continued. Of course, it cleared later but....
During a spot of high pressure and exceptional weather, Karol, Jen, Kyle and I went down to Seward on the Kenai Penninsula for a long weekend vacation. Karol still owns a house there so base camp is sweet. The mountains tower over Resurrection Bay and I've always wanted to get in them on skis. Typically, I'm training for mountain running so all I do is look and dream. But this year, I've decided to forego racing and mix up the activities a bit this summer. This fact opened the door for some ski exploration.
Skiing in the Front Range of South Central Alaska's Chugach mountains is an acquired taste. In the middle of summer when the mountains are mostly snow free they look like hills and inspire little hope for skiing adventure. But throw some snow on them and suddenly their intricate features and deceptively large scale start to show.
When I first got my new Scarpa Aliens early last season and skied them for the first time, it became quickly apparent that the stock liners were not going to work for me. Scarpa tends to run a fairly high volume last on all their boots and the Alien is no exception. For my skinny-ass feet and a svelte race liner, this combo sucked. It was painful when I cranked the cuff tight enough to ski effectively and also ensured that I would not survive the 10,000 meters of climbing and descending promised at the Pierra Menta.