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What is the logical progression for an older newbie interested in BC skiing?

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  • What is the logical progression for an older newbie interested in BC skiing?

    Someone recommended reposting this here, so that more people may see it.

    Hey, everyone! I'm hoping you can provide some advice regarding decisions on equipment purchases. I'm thinking long term, and keeping my expenditures to a minimum.

    First, the background. I'm in my mid (late-ish?) 40's. I'm quite new to the mountains. My wife and I moved to the Kootenays in British Columbia last summer. I have been XC skiing on the prairies for about 15 years, and have DH skied about 7 times (once in the mountains). Oh, and I'm a larger person who is working on my improving my physical conditioning (5'11", and about 240 lbs - I'm hoping to get down to 220 within the next year)

    My first ski related purchase here was a set of Alpina Red Birds (using the standard SNS bindings and boots from my old skis), which have proven to quite fun on the XC trails, and off the trail on some very mild slopes. That has me interested in progressing into backcountry skiing. I'm not sure how far I'm going to progress in this, as far as technical skill is concerned. I don't see myself going into black or double black territory, but who knows.

    I know for sure that I'll want to have avi gear. I took a level A course, and I can totally see the sense in having the beacon, probe and shovel.

    As far as skis are concerned, what do you recommend? Go the route of rugged touring skis, using my existing binding style and boot, and then go up the BC skis from that point? Or do I bypass that step, and go right up to BC skis? If so, what kind? What size? What style of binding? What kind of skins? ***NOTE: Control is way more important to me than speed in a pair of skis***

    I know this is kind of a hard question, as you don't have all the factors involved. I know I need to ask the local ski shops and skiers. Still, I'm hoping to pick up some of the collective wisdom here. I don't believe I can get too much information.

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
    Last edited by Jesse; 27 December 2014, 10:06 AM. Reason: grammatical error

  • #2
    If you are interested in down mountain skiing (as opposed to XC), I think the first step might be getting some alpine ski lessons. Once you are very comfortable skiing down mountain at the resort, then you can seek turns off the beaten track. This also allows you to gain skills and demo rental gear at the same time.

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    • #3
      Damn, I'm trying to think of the name of that infamous TTips poster, also weight-challenged…give it time…it'll come….ahh yes, Sole Heeler. Where have thou gone?

      Anyways, there is a full range of progression in skis from skinny classic nordic to wide backcountry powder skis, and a full range of boot binding combos to match. It's mostly a tradeoff between touring lightness and flexibility and turning stiffness and control. You can work your way up, progressing to SNS-BC boot/bindings, then 3-pins, then cables, then burly cables/NTN, likewise moving up in your boots from low-cut slippers to high cuff slippers to stiff leather boots to 2-buckle plastic, 3-buckle plastic and then 4-buckle plastic, or you can jump right to the head of the class and get yourself some big plastic boots and see the huge difference it makes in control.

      However, if your primary interest is backcountry, then note that the heavier stuff/stiffer is primarily for resort.

      A nice medium would be some light 2-buckle plastic boots.

      If you stick with the old duckbill style boot (i.e. not NTN), then you will be able to quickly and cheaply expand your quiver by shopping ski swaps.

      I think most folks would agree that you first want to decide what type of binding you want (duckbill, NTN, alpine, dynafit -- figure on moving away from SNS/NNN and their BC versions, because they do not give you adequate control for steeper slopes) and then decide how stiff/heavy a boot you want, and then find a boot that fits well. It is much easier to swap out skis than boots, and much easier to demo different skis.

      Based on the type of slopes you are skiing, it should be easy for you to simply avoid avalanche terrain (including shallow slopes below avy terrain) and that is cheaper then buying avy equipment.
      Last edited by Baaahb; 23 March 2014, 08:50 AM.

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      • #4
        Transported from my earlier post in another subforum:


        Well you need to learn how to ski before making the leap into Telemark skiing as it has a steeper learning curve to get into the game. Reason why it is steeper is that it is harder to find quality instruction and harder to find rental gear to actually see if it is right for you. So, if it were me, I would see what kind of deals your local resort is offering for end of season lessons and rentals. You will find both at the resort. The deals both lesson and rental would be Alpine fixed heel. Then do the best you can finishing the plan and then decide if you want to be a Telemark skier or a AT fixed heel skier. Then find the gear that will fit your size and budget. Lastly, if you don't want to spend the time learning how to ski at a resort then just stick with what you have or upgrade to some bigger fishscale tele gear and flail for years figuring it out for yourself.
        "Just say no to groomed snow"

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        • #5
          Quadzilla,
          He doesn't really say he wants to become a "Telemark Skier".
          Frankly as a tele skier who has been dabling on the Dark Side, AKA Alpine Touring gear, I would suggest, as a new skier, he goes straight to a used Alpine ski mounted with a passport binding. That will give him a safe binding for the ski lessons at the Resort, with good shock absorption. His skiing skills will improve and it is easier to take lessons with a fixed heel.
          Yet he could still do short tours on this setup and could upgrade to a lighter AT ski/binding setup later.
          get a used Alpine Touring boot, ideally one with Tech inserts, so he has the option of Dynafit bindings later.
          my 2c worth
          Last edited by chamonix; 23 March 2014, 10:27 AM.

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          • #6
            I think the best info we can give you is to hang out with some locals. Especially on a tour, so you can see the gear in action and get a feel for what you want to do and what you want to use. Obviously, you can't jump into a mountain tour with your current setup, but you could rent something a little beefier and get into some gentle hills with a local group to see how things go. Good luck!

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            • #7
              I also got into this whole thing relatively late and from an Xc background. I would reiterate the idea that you really should get some downhill experience and lessons would be great. If you are interested in getting turns in your bc skiing, then you will very often find yourself skiing trees. This can seem pretty daunting if your Xc experience is mostly in the tracks so some experience at a resort can help. Finding cheap gear can be a challenge too - if you head through Canmore Switching Gear has lots of used gear at reasonable prices so you could look there. The tele vs AT decision depends on lots of things. I got into tele because I thought it would be fun to learn when my kids were small and learning to ski. That seemed to work out pretty well. I found the 3 buckle plastic boots are a pretty good level for bc skiing with a modern cable binding for tele (I have the 01 that has tour and downhill modes that really helps on long tours). Lighter gear will be tougher to learn on and, in my opinion, heavier gear maybe overkill if you really just want to ski mellow terrain. From my experience, tele rigs seem to tour better than AT probably because of the flex in the tele boot. But AT is more secure on the downhill, and gives you release capability if you want to ski avalanche terrain.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by chamonix View Post
                Quadzilla,
                He doesn't really say he wants to become a "Telemark Skier".
                Frankly as a tele skier who has been dabling on the Dark Side, AKA Alpine Touring gear, I would suggest, as a new skier, he goes straight to a used Alpine ski mounted with a passport binding. That will give him a safe binding for the ski lessons at the Resort, with good shock absorption. His skiing skills will improve and it is easier to take lessons with a fixed heel.
                Yet he could still do short tours on this setup and could upgrade to a lighter AT ski/binding setup later.
                get a used Alpine Touring boot, ideally one with Tech inserts, so he has the option of Dynafit bindings later.
                my 2c worth
                The only thing I recommend is to take Alpine lessons and it is easy to get good lessons at a resort. This would be the fastest learning curve to get the skills to be able to ski tour in the BC regardless of wither he chooses AT or Telemark. If he chooses to forgo the lessons and just wants to hack around on low angle slopes, then just pickup some used bigger fishscales rigged tele. IMO, a steady diet of low angle touring on AT gear is way over kill. WTBS, at this guys size he needs bigger gear regardless even with Fishscales. So not easy to find, not cheap even used.
                "Just say no to groomed snow"

                Comment


                • #9
                  Great responses - thank you all.

                  It looks pretty much unanimous - I need to take lessons at a resort, and get as much practice as I can there. I was trying to avoid that, because the best local resort (Whitewater) is insanely crowded, and I'm not a people person. Also, a season pass is close to 900.00 per year. I'm not sure how that stacks up to other places, but it seems like a lot of money to me. I'm quickly learning that skiing is not a cheap sport.

                  There is another resort a little bit further away, that operates at night and weekends only, and only has 4 or 5 runs. Waaaaayyy cheaper, and not too crowded. They have lessons, and equipment rental, though. I'll go check them out.

                  chamonix, I like the sound of your idea - gear that I can use at the ski hill for lessons and getting lots of practice in, and then use for BC skiing. Upgrade later as required.

                  I would like to learn telemark turns, for the sake of maximizing the use of my current gear. It's not necessarily how I want to BC ski, though. I'll have to do some more research into it.

                  Baaahb - the avi gear is kind of important, as it is a requirement for some of the group events I would like to go on. I will be avoiding avalanche territory as much as possible, for certain, especially if I am skiing (or snowshoeing) solo. Also, it gives my wife extra peace of mind, so it is well worth it just for that. Not that having avy gear is some sort of avalanche protection forcefield.

                  Thanks again, everyone.
                  Last edited by Jesse; 23 March 2014, 11:23 AM.

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                  • #10
                    WH2O season pass is $699 if you buy it at Early Bird pricing. You're right about Salmo though... great place to learn how to ski and only about 40 minutes from Nelson and very reasonable. Plus, as you mentioned, they have night skiing so you can get out there more often if you work a day job.

                    My recommendation is much like everyone else.... buy some used gear, Alpine or A/T, sign up for some lessons and get somewhat comfortable on your skis before heading out into the backcountry. They have some great deals on used gear at the WH2O ski shop right now... you might want to drive up and check it out. You could also try a lesson package that includes rentals and lift ticket just to see if it's really what you want to do.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Jesse View Post
                      I would like to learn telemark turns, for the sake of maximizing the use of my current gear.
                      That will NOT be easy.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by 3PinGrin View Post
                        That will NOT be easy.
                        But if it was, would it be any fun?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Jesse View Post
                          But if it was, would it be any fun?
                          My post was a bit cryptic so I will elucidate. Telemark turning on SNS bindings, floppy boots, and 50mm waisted skis can be very frustrating, even to those of us that have been free heel skiing for decades. You will have more fun with wider skis and a bit more burly boot/binding combo IF you want to do any kind of turning.

                          I love my light nordic setup, but it is more about getting from point A to point B than turning and is a blast on rolling terrain or old logging roads of mellow grades. Sure, if conditions are perfect I can turn that gear, but it takes lots and lots of practice, very good balance, etc. Beginners often try to push light gear beyond it's intended use, then get frustrated, then quit. You pointed out in the original post that you are more interested in control than speed. Your current setup is meant for speed, not control. Something a bit beefier would be more fun for you IMO.

                          That being said, a lot of fun can be had falling, digging out of a hole, and repeating if you have a good attitude about it. Regardless, enjoy getting out there on whatever you end up choosing! It's as much about being outside getting fresh air and exercise as anything.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by 3PinGrin View Post
                            ... Telemark turning on SNS bindings, floppy boots, and 50mm waisted skis can be very frustrating, even to those of us that have been free heel skiing for decades. You will have more fun with wider skis and a bit more burly boot/binding combo IF you want to do any kind of turning.

                            I love my light nordic setup, but it is more about getting from point A to point B than turning and is a blast on rolling terrain or old logging roads of mellow grades. Sure, if conditions are perfect I can turn that gear, but it takes lots and lots of practice, very good balance, etc. Beginners often try to push light gear beyond it's intended use, then get frustrated, then quit. You pointed out in the original post that you are more interested in control than speed. Your current setup is meant for speed, not control. Something a bit beefier would be more fun for you IMO.

                            That being said, a lot of fun can be had falling, digging out of a hole, and repeating if you have a good attitude about it. Regardless, enjoy getting out there on whatever you end up choosing! It's as much about being outside getting fresh air and exercise as anything.
                            Indeed!

                            Outside of gear my recommendation would be to start out spring touring, not powder hunting. Learn the topography of some areas and how to manage terrain. As you tour in the spring, you'll still have occasional storms that will allow you to see and feel first hand the metamorphosis that snow undergoes, only at an accelerated rate. This is invaluable for building snow sense so that, given some experiences and some lucky close calls in more benign conditions, you can start hunting powder with an appropriate level of humility.

                            ain't no turn like tele!

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                            • #15
                              Jesse,
                              Best of all, you live next to great ski area, Whitewater . I am sure you will find locals to help you out, and recommend what gear they ski/learn on.
                              Have fun!

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