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What is the logical equipment progression for an older newbie?

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  • What is the logical equipment progression for an older newbie?

    edit: I've reposted this in the Backside Bar and Grill.

    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 all the factors involved. I'm just hoping to pick up some of the collective wisdom here. I know I need to ask the local ski shops and skiers. The difficulty I seem to have with that is that they don't see it from a newbie's perspective. That, and that I haven't seen one skier here who looks to be over 170 lbs. Lord, these people are fit. Hope to be that way myself one day.

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
    Last edited by Jesse; 23 March 2014, 12:31 PM.

  • #2
    There isn't enough time in an entire day to cover all the aspects of your question, but here's a few ideas...

    First, buy a season pass somewhere nearby and ride the lifts often...... The more you practice your technique, the faster you will learn. If all you do is tour, you will probably never develop a strong tele turn, having started this late in life. (everyone who rips on a pair of skis does so because they rode the lifts and maximized their daily vert and worked on their technique extensively in the process)

    Second, get some instruction. It's not always necessary to have a PSIA teacher or a 1 on 1 lesson, but you have 2 strikes against you by not being an experienced downhill skier AND being over 40 while attempting to learn telemark. (I am 55 btw, so I am not calling you old... )

    There's a relationship between choice of skis and ease of learning. If you chose high performance skis, they don't respond predicably to lower amounts of skier input so it's harder to learn technique on them when you will not be driving them hard. If you chose low performance gear, it's easier to learn on, but at your weight a soft ski can feel squirrelly once you start driving them with greater force. There's a lot of skis that will work for you. Make sure you chose a modern design. Also a little shorter ski will cross the fall line faster so 180cm length will work fine. There's no need to buy a 185cm ski and make learning technique even more difficult.

    SNS will not cut it for tele turns. You need a 75mm binding with a free pivot mode. (so you can tour efficiently) or you need NTN gear (but that gear is a newer developement so it's not as available second hand) You should buy 3 buckle 75mm telemark boots with thermofit liners, and have them fitted by someone experienced.

    ...there's a start for ya...
    the fall line is your friend.... resistance is futile


    • #3
      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"


      • #4
        I started BC skiing late (62) with a lot of off track XC experience in heavy leather boots and limited alpine experience. The first year I used Boundless, 3-pins and leathers to poke around the edges of the back country, see what was going on and get in shape. Now I have a beefier Outabounds with cable bindings. And S-Bound 112's with Dynafits. And Manaslus with Dynafits. And Shuksans with Dynafits. And 2 buckle tele boots. And......


        • #5
          I think it's a good question whether to go telemark or alpine touring in the backcountry. I personally would try to borrow/rent for a few times to get a sense of different types of gear and that would allow you to try both.

          My own preferences:

          For skis, check out Voile Vector BCs or Rossignol BC 125s. They both give you a fair amount of versatility since they are a modern shaped ski with scales, so you'll be able to enjoy them on meadow skipping but can push yourself a bit harder with them. At your weight, 180 cm in the Vector BCs and 185 cm in the Rossi's. I'm 185 lb and use the 180 cm Vector BCs.

          If you go telemark, I'm a fan of the Voile Switchback or Switchback X2 bindings -- simple, free pivot, and on the lighter side of 75mm telemark bindings. If you go AT, my advice would be Dynafit bindings because they're very light and tour very well. All of the above can be used at a resort too (hard chargers may scorn at using either at a resort, but it's fine, esp. if your point is to practice for the backcountry).

          Boots -- I'd look for a light plastic 3-buckle boot. Overkill for meadow skipping, so if that's your main objective, consider a 2-buckle boot. As for brand, fit varies, so try them on and see. I use a Scarpa T2 Eco and find it adequate for everything short of 110mm+ / 9lb skis -- generally, the fatter and heavier the ski, the more powerful/stiffer the boot you need, and some put the threshold at 100mm for the 3-buckle vs. 4-buckle upgrade. It's a bit arbitrary since all skis are not the same, but it's not a bad benchmark. On occasion, I would like a lighter, 2-buckle boot but those occasions do not occur with frequency to justify another purchase. I have the 4-buck T1 but am finding that I am using them less and less.

          Now's a good time to buy since there are a lot of sales to be had. And lots of used gear around too.


          • #6
            you can do anything on tele gear, that's why i went to tele, which at the time was gear a little heavier than xc but it didn't take long to get new gear. anything you get you will probably want to replace in a year. it's easier to go plastic boots, get some you can use for touring as well as area skiing. when you trade up the boots will still be handy. good idea to ski lifts to speed up the learning curve. i would suggest used alpine skis with a less active bindings for now. if you go to mostly area skiing, just get heavier boots later, more active bindings and by then you will know what skis you want and will end up with two sets of gear for any purpose. get three thousands turns in at the area, each side and you should be set to go. j


            • #7
              I think the question you need to ask yourself is what do you like the feel of better? Alpine skiing with the fixed heel, or cross country with a free heed?

              Telemark with light gear is infinitely harder to do than making fixed heel turns. I've never skied on heavy tele gear at a ski center, so I can't really comment on how much better it is but it has to be, or else everyone would still be skiing in leathers and skinny skis.

              Personally I love the feeling of the free heel, but level of confidence I have turning even skinny skis with leather boots on low angle terrain is pretty low. The same sort of stuff would be easily skiable with a fixed heel (for me). Moving up to some more dedicated heavy tele gear might help, but I'm still thinking you are going to spend a lot of time at a resort trying to learn... this is why I've finally convinced myself that AT is the only way to go if you really, really just want to focus on the DH aspect.

              A 50/50 setup is what I'm looking into, might be a good idea for you too. You can practice with lifts and one you get comfy on your gear start looking for some mellow descents. That's what I'd do.

              As far as XCD, which is really what I like. I don't go looking for turns. I turn as needed. I'm not afraid to bust out the snowplow. I'm skiing on the skinniest skis I can to get the most glide. Personally I like rolling tours - ones where you can keep your momentum up and not get bored. That's what I like about free heeling - the ability to keep blasting up, then down with no changes. Obviously when you get into real mountains that isn't feasible. That's where I'd rather just have the confidence that I can make turns and control my speed on the way down. You already have a little experience with that... so you might just want to continue in that direction.

              So I guess unless you're really stuck on that tele stance, it doesn't make a ton of sense in your position... on the other end beef up your xc gear to some pins and better boots and start pushing yourself. You won't ski what you can with AT gear but you'll have a lot of fun with that.


              • #8
                I have to agree with MikeK overall, but I would only add that you do not have to have any dedication to telemark at all to be an expert freeheel skier. Countless freeheelers seldom , if ever, bother to drop a knee, and many others only tele when the conditions SCREAM for it. I think that trying to equate telemark skiing with freeheel skiing only makes for really really bad religion. And beside that, I think a very strong argument can be made that your tele turns will only, in the end, be strong in proportion to the strength of your parallels ; and that means a skier new to telemark should be focusing primarily on a strong freeheel parallel in order to eventually be a strong telemark skier. Don't lose the play; don't lose the fun. It's really not about proving anything.


                • #9

                  That's some really good info to hear and not something I see promoted very much. It seems everyone want to associate free heels with the tele turn. I know I've seen and heard of instances where people skied free heel but never dropped a knee.

                  I'm not sure where the cutoff is between being able to parallel and being forced to telemark is? Again not being experienced with this gear and technique I had always assumed that deep or heavy snow was going to require telemarking in that a telemark gave you a more powerful turn with a free heel.

                  I do the exact opposite on my long, skinny skis. I drop my knee when I want a very slow, smooth turn... and I hardly put any power into it. My parallel turns on skis like this can only be done on hard snow and they are much choppier.

                  The other reason I am personally shying away from heavy freeheel is the fore/aft balance. I'd have to imagine being locked in Alpine style is much easier to keep from getting in the back seat.


                  • #10
                    The tele turn is the solution to fore/aft balance on freeheel gear IMO. It is possible to just parallel, but like you point out, especially on lighter gear, the tele turn is superior in most situations.

                    I don't currently have a heavy tele setup, I've got AT for that kind of skiing due to a foot problem that flexing big plastic boots irritates. But I sure love to make tele turns on the light Rebound/SNS-BC setup with leather boots. So fun and it feels great.

                    If I had tried to make parallel turns here, there would be craters with those tracks. (Rebound/SNS-BC setup, variable heavy snow)


                    • #11
                      Ahh beautiful. I need to master that...


                      • #12
                        Yea mike,
                        There's, in my experience, absolutely no "cutoff" in the sense of EVER having to choose a t-turn over a p-turn . But the converse is very true ; there are many many times when a p-turn is the more stable choice on Fheel gear than a Tturn is. And , cliche's aside, I do not think it has ever been demonstrated that a Tturn is more powerful or more "efficient" ( that term is really nebulous at best) under any circumstance or condition. Now you may "feel" more secure, or perhaps less unstable (less likely to pitch forward) , by lowering your COG in a tele turn as you spread more fore and aft, but whether that really translates into anything significantly different from lowering and sitting back a bit as you do a parallel turn on Fheel gear is quite debatable, and IMO a very trivial advantage best case scenario. For most, I think, one big advantage of alpine gear is in actually being HELD back i.e. you are less likely to be thrown forward by positioning -- whether a bit back or forward is easier in alpine gear because your heels are locked. I ski a wide range of gear Nordic to XCD to DH/BC, and I see no tele advantage, but I do see disadvantages. Confession: I do own 1 pair of DH boots.
                        Last edited by DonnyBilkinson2; 16 April 2014, 12:56 PM.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by MattB View Post
                          The tele turn is the solution to fore/aft balance on freeheel gear IMO. It is possible to just parallel, but like you point out, especially on lighter gear, the tele turn is superior in most situations.

                          I don't currently have a heavy tele setup, I've got AT for that kind of skiing due to a foot problem that flexing big plastic boots irritates. But I sure love to make tele turns on the light Rebound/SNS-BC setup with leather boots. So fun and it feels great.

                          If I had tried to make parallel turns here, there would be craters with those tracks. (Rebound/SNS-BC setup, variable heavy snow)
                          well, the first thing you might think about trying to improve your p-turn ability would be to maybe stay in the fall line? A p-turn simply does not work well without some measure of speed and that looks like a very low-angle meadow with some traversed turning, the last turn being an exception. I am not being critical; it's just what I see. I don't see where any snow has been displaced in the turns at all, which suggests that it's more of a step-turns situation than not. NTTAWWT.


                          • #14
                            No, it's a long, somewhat awkward tele turns down a double fall line where I'm breaking through a crust here and there, but not consistently. I probably stepped out in that part where there are two tracks due to breaking through. Had I not been in the tele stance that crust would have surely taken me down. This was survival skiing.

                            When the conditions are better they look more like this with that setup. This I probably could have survived P-turning but I feel much more stable doing tele turns on that gear. Plus it's more fun so that's what I did.

                            But the tele turn is certainly not more efficient from a energy use point of view. Ever. It's main advantage is stability IMO.
                            Last edited by MattB; 16 April 2014, 01:01 PM.


                            • #15
                              What about the effect of 'softening' your skis by moving your feet away from each other.

                              Doesn't that effectively give you more turning power by making the skis bend into an arc more easily when they are edged?

                              I've heard the analogy that you are taking two shorter, stiffer skis and making them into one, long, flexible ski. I thought this is why the turns also tend to be more rounded.