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Fast Transitions

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  • Fast Transitions

    This gets discussed frequently in other threads, but I wanted to start a separate thread so folks could go nuts without ruining those other discussions.

    Why does the topic of making fast transitions cause so much angst/backlash?


    My main point is this: Just because you have the ability and gear setup to make fast transitions, you don't HAVE to do it that way all the time. You don't have to do it hardly ever, but man there sure are times when it's handy to be able to do things quickly. For example:

    - You top out on a ridge and the weather is horrible.
    - You want to squeeze one more lap in before work/dark.
    - Someone skiing down after you gets hurt above where you stopped.
    - You drop something important, too far up to herringbone.

    Even if you like to take your time on top (most of us do), drink a beer, enjoy the view, etc, you can do those things for longer if you spend less time messing with your gear. But to read some comments, lots of folks take serious pride in how long it takes them to do the physical act of switching their gear from uphill mode to downhill mode. And they often cast scorn upon those who can do it quickly.

    Help me understand this perspective! Why would someone not want to be able to transition as quickly as possible?

    (Not singling you out tele.skier by any means. I see this from a LOT of folks, here, on other sites, and in real life. Tagging you because you do a good job explaining other perspectives!)

  • #2
    Here's a video of Killian Jornet transitioning. I can't do it quite this fast, but it's good to have goals!


    • #3
      simple, if my equipment doesn't allow me to make fast transitions, i don't have to make excuses about resting during slow transitions. I need to save my excuses for too many other shortcomings.

      a fine distinction, I don't transition often, but when i do, i care more about easy transitions than fast transitions. I live by many contradictory rules, and one of them is dubbed Jason's Razor, "the laziest answer is usually the best answer". fast transitions don't seem lazy, so unlikely to be the best answer for me.


      • #4
        The video is a little bit of an apples to oranges comparison. Skimo vs touring. His boots only require one lever to switch into ski mode. The skins in his shirt? Ok. I used to put mine in my jacket until they got so massive. Now they go in the pack, so you have to remove your pack.

        I am in the camp of preferring a fast transition. BTS, you give some good examples why, but mostly for me it's pride/function when I'm with a group that doesn't like to wait. And the rest of the time I'm practicing for the days I'm with an impatient group.

        For me the process is:
        1. Pack off
        2. Lock the binding
        3. remove the skins (skis on)
        4. put on a shell and start layering
        5. Do up my boots.
        6. final stuff: gloves, layers, food, drink, goggles.
        6. Pack on.

        Transition other direction is sort of similar but skis have to come off. I try to have a system that I repeat so I'm not fumbling. And skin bag always goes in the same pocket. Same with goggle bag. Up gloves have a spot. I've taken to using a helmet with vent plugs removed so I leave my light hat on all the time and under my helmet. Sometimes being quick is just a matter or being prepared and organized and doesn't necessarily mean rushing or racing.


        • #5
          Originally posted by jnicol View Post
          I try to have a system that I repeat so I'm not fumbling... Sometimes being quick is just a matter or being prepared and organized and doesn't necessarily mean rushing or racing.
          Yes!!! Being quick does not have to mean working feverishly. It pays to have a good system. For example, when I top out, I grab my boot's mode lever, swing it down, and then with my follow-through, push my heel wires down to the ski. Then on my way back up, grab the cable's heel lever and flick it into place on the boot. If everything's adjusted right, this takes 5-10 seconds per ski. My first time skinning this year, I was surprised at how the muscle memory came right back, and the motions happened almost automatically.

          Originally posted by jnicol View Post
          ...mostly for me it's pride/function when I'm with a group that doesn't like to wait...
          Yup. It's no fun to be "that guy" holding up the group. Even if your touring partners are super mellow and patient, there are sometimes situations that necessitate moving quickly. Or if you're a guest somewhere, and someone is nice enough to show you "the goods," it's nice to not be a drag on their program.


          • #6
            Originally posted by jasonq View Post
            simple, if my equipment doesn't allow me to make fast transitions, i don't have to make excuses about resting during slow transitions
            Ha! This is the kind of answer I was looking for. Kinda like purposeful, built-in obsolescence. Like the forced rest techniques employed by those of us who seem to always have tight hammies for some reason. "Hang on guys, I just need to stretch for a sec."

            Click image for larger version

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            (Also, Holy Risers! WTF? But don't jack my thread with serious ski talk!)


            • #7
              Essentially, I spent a lifetime doing physically demanding work. I also happen to ski when I can. The toxicity intake level in my trade is high and my cardiovascular fitness is low. A lifetime of work has made me a strong man, not a fit one... A long day at work never made me want to go out for a run, although I tried it for a while in my 40's and my knees blew up like balloons. I rode the stationary bike for a season, and nicknamed it "the torture weapon". It helped my fitness a little, but I hated it.

              My friend, who I taught to tele could never keep up with me at first. After his skills became more advanced and he could keep up with me, he used to bust my balls and say, "You could get into better shape", because he wanted me to take touring to the next level with him, but I was 25 years older than him so it was a much greater challenge for me fitness wise. I probably could be a bit more fit, but I feel like those days are gone now. Skiing with people who are in a hurry ruins my tour, because it sucks to feel my hip throb (broken at age 25, which has 2 screws in it) and it sucks to feel like you're out of gas the whole way up and also when you ski down.

              That's why I ski alone Bobby. I'm going to take my time so I have plenty of gas in the tank to enjoy the downhill leg. I'm not interested, nor capable of going fast uphill anymore, and I hate being bonked before I even start downhill...

              Not every dog is a greyhound who has the gift of speed. Do you ever wonder why there aren't any golden retrievers running at the dog track?? Not every dog is,.... or wants to be, a race dog...
              the fall line is your friend.... resistance is futile


              • #8
                tele.skier You're absolutely right. Having the health to ski fast uphill is a privilege. Having the time and health to train to ski fast uphill is a privilege. Being able to afford gear that helps you ski fast uphill is a privilege.

                But my original post isn't in any way about the speed with which one skis uphill. I've been the slowest guy on tours plenty of times. -- it sucks! This thread was intended to be purely about the transition before/after you ski uphill.

                In this thread, you shared the following comments. These (and comments by other folks elsewhere) are what I genuinely want to gain a better understanding of. My perspective on transitions could be totally whack.

                Originally posted by tele.skier View Post
                Please writers stop telling us how much time we waste in "transitions"... and how that's such a huge issue for BC skiers. I take my skis off to rip my skins... I usually eat something, take a drink of water,... I don't ski with people in a hurry. It's NOT a race to me.


                • #9
                  I think the whole "hurry up" transition ruins my tour... Here's a picture of Ross (died in a climbing fall) and morgan (died in an avalanche) when they were rookies and would go at my pace because I was making the safety calls. They're enjoying topping out with some food, drink, and in their case a doobie.. on a spring day after alpental closed for the year.

                  Click image for larger version  Name:	morg and ross top of chair 2.jpg Views:	1 Size:	947.9 KB ID:	106311

                  Being in hurry in the backcountry can be part of the recipe for disaster. Making quicker transitions just to practice them for racing seems fine to me. that's a whole different thing than recreational touring.

                  I'm not going into either of their stories here, but the "being in a hurry mindset" contributes to accidents. Not being in a hurry can mean safer choices are being made in sports that have dangerous aspects to them...

                  I made these guys promise to spread my ashes off "the tooth" in the alpental valley when I am done on this planet. Skiing is a tremendously joyous thing to have the privilege of doing in your life, and to give that joy to the next person coming up behind you is a gift they will hopefully give to those coming behind them. I don't want the "rat race" to follow me into the mountains. I get up to the top. I take some time to feel blessed at where I am, who I am, how lucky I am. I take a piss, I drink some water. I adjust my gear. I do my safety checking. I adjust my planned descent if necessary. I buckle up, thank god, and drop in.

                  The fact that I didn't kill myself at age 25 racing a motorcycle on the street, allows me to feel lucky to even be on top of some mountain now. I want to savor the moments that I'm there,.... not hurry up to miss the joy of topping out...

                  Last edited by tele.skier; 6 January 2021, 03:00 PM.
                  the fall line is your friend.... resistance is futile


                  • #10
                    I have GI issues. If I drank a beer at the top there would be no bending over after that even to unclip my leashes. I rip my skins without removing my skis because I want to minimize the number of times I have to bend over. I get neuralgia headaches from bending over too. Like jnicol I like to have a routine, a way to organize my gear for transitions. But it's less for speed than just for knowing where everything is and having a procedure that I follow until it becomes second nature.

                    Yesterday I was outside of that routine and I identified mistakes I was making through every transition. I was skiing at a resort that has a lot of hike in and out terrain. I decided to bring skins this time for the long hike up a low angle road to get back into the ski area. I also brought three pairs of goggles because Hokkaido. And I had all this in my small, sidecountry pack. So the skin pocket kept getting blocked by goggles, making it a pain in the ass to get them stuffed in there on every transition. I stuffed my hard shell into the pack before putting my goggles in so the goggle bag was in the bottom and I put the goggles on top of the jacket right up against the pack zipper. Then I looked at my poles and my heavy gloves were on top of my poles. So I stuffed them inside my mid layer even though I never do that with skins. Too stupid and impatient to start over and do everything right. I haven't checked but I might have another pair of scratched goggles now.

                    A lot of it boils down to the pack. The little BCA Stash Rider pack is so small it doesn't help much in that regard. My Mammut Nirvana Pro 35 l pack carries well and is sturdy. I like the fact that I don't need to unclip the shoulder straps to access the contents from the back panel. But it's heavy AF and somehow not easy to fill its 35 liters completely because of the design. I am looking at a slightly larger, lighter Montbell pack that doesn't quite check all the convenience boxes as well but is lighter, loads significantly more for its volume, and carries weight well because it has a light aluminum internal frame. At less than $200 the Montbell Landner 40 is on my wish list for next season. I don't need more orange gear necessarily but black packs are hard to find things in when light is low. The black one does look more badass though. ;-)

                    Landner Pack
                    Last edited by cesare; 7 January 2021, 04:09 AM.


                    • #11
                      Uh oh... I might go off topic? (sorry BTS) Doesn't sounds like you are talking Avy bags Cesare, but I splurged and got this one last year because of the low weight.
                      It is an absolute dream. Super comfortable. Never feels heavy. Would carry it anytime. Access and features are pretty good too.


                      • #12
                        I too, "practice" transitions when skinning up at the resort. At this time, back East, we have only enough snow to skin up and ski down on resort runs. Fortunately, here we can skin up at Jay Peak anytime one wants.
                        To start with, I have a cardboard checklist , on my day pack for stuff to take. If I am skinning up from the car, I put skins on at home, on cold skis.
                        Then make sure I have drink, buff, skins, cellphone, extra mitts, goretex shell (I don't wear it skinning) helmet strapped on pack, goggles, and wool toque with, ball cap. GPS if going into woods. I skin up with a Nano Puff pullover over a HH bottom layers. BD dawn patrol pants.
                        At the top of my climb, put my pack down, lock my heels down, then lift the tail of one ski at a time, and rip skin. Stash skins in pack; a side zip on pack really helps here . For short laps, I stuff skins in my hood, and leave pack at top of lap.
                        Next, release toe pieces into ski mode, tighten boots, lock boot cuffs into ski mode. Shell on , helmet on, mitts (if necessary). I don't fiddle with adjusting poles up and down anymore.
                        Time to ski.
                        The simple act of ripping skins, with skis on saves a lot of time and effort, especially in deep snow. No sinking up to your
                        knees in snow. Then I have a moment, to drink a bit, watch my friends get ready, and tighten pack straps. Don't forget to close side zips on pants after climbing too.
                        I'm trying these skis out now, for trips to Europe.
                        Click image for larger version  Name:	Orbs on deck.jpg Views:	0 Size:	512.4 KB ID:	106338 Click image for larger version  Name:	Crest heel.jpg Views:	0 Size:	1.07 MB ID:	106339 These bindings have a climbing lifter you can flip over the U springs to climb. So no need to spin the heels to transition to ski mode, just flip the lifters to rear.

                        My 2c worth
                        Last edited by chamonix; 6 January 2021, 06:59 PM.


                        • #13
                          jnicol, Nice Avy pack. Can you get the cartridges re-charged in Fernie? In Europe they have the much lighter Carbon cartridges, but not re-fillable .
                          Just wonder if you can fly with a charged cartridge. Air Canada may let you, but not in the US.


                          • #14
                            Pack has the standard North American cartridges that you can fill fairly easily, and transport. But they are heavier. The light Euro ones haven't been approved here yet. At least that was the case when I purchased that pack and did all the research last winter.


                            • #15
                              I also have an Ortovox avy pack (got it dirt cheap during a COVID sale). I tried to get the carbon cartridge, but wasn't able to get it shipped to the US, so I have the heavy aluminum one. To bring the thread back on track, the avy pack is a big reason why I like simple (not necessarily fast) transitions. Bending over once, I unlock the tech toes, then flip up the TTS heel levers, then flip down the boot ski mode lever. If I don't want to bend over, I do all of these with a pole, but it takes a little longer. If I'm expecting frequent transitions, I'll ski in walk mode, and if I'm expecting low angle climbing, I'll sometimes leave the toes unlocked. I avoid skins whenever I can, which is often possible because of the wet/sticky Sierra cement I ski in.

                              To those saying fast transitions are hard work, I respond that complicated transitions are hard work. Every bend and twist with a pack on adds to the fatigue. Heck, even taking the pack off and on is kind of an ordeal, which is why I store the skins in my jacket when I use them. Yes, it makes transitions faster, but more importantly, it makes them simpler and preserves energy for the downhill.

                              So, I think the thread should be titled "simple transitions", and I've put a lot of work into making mine as simple as possible. This is a big reason why I switched from Meidjo to TTS for BC. I'll post some video next time I tour.