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Monday, May 28, 2012

New life for an old discipline

Yesterday I used for the first time a new set of tele downhill ski gear, and I couldn't be happier with my purchase.  It is extraordinarily light and works like a charm.  Lately I had sort of given up using tele gear because it was so heavy.  Instead I'd switched over to the much lighter AT downhill gear (where you lock your heels down).  I prefer the free heel of the tele gear - especially for the downhills but AT gear has been just so much lighter.  My old tele gear weighs 6 pounds more than my AT gear - that is 3 pounds more per foot!  No wonder I found myself dragging up the mountain in my tele gear and seemingly flying on up in the AT gear.

The irony is that tele gear used to be light and portable.  If you wanted to get back into the backcountry you used tele gear and locked heels on skis was reserved for the ski areas.  All that changed sometime in the 90's when tele gear switched to plastic boots and became popular.  All of a sudden people started to tele ski at ski areas and the gear started to get heavy.  At the same time, AT or Rondonnee gear which has a free heel for ascents and a locked down heel for descents started to show up in the backcountry.  And it started to get lighter and lighter.  Best of all AT gear has much more comfortable lighter boots, releasable bindings, and a totally free boot with no heel compression (like with Tele) for the ascents.

A couple of years ago I tried to upgrade my tele gear and found I could not get any lighter than my old gear.  Nor could I buy lightweight releasable bindings.  I was stuck with super heavy burley tele gear perfect for resorts but bad for the backcountry - exactly the opposite of what tele gear used to be.

And then came yesterday.  My new tele skis, boots, bindings and skins weigh the same or a little less than my AT gear and they are over 6 pounds lighter than my old tele skis.  And that's because most of my new 'tele' gear is actually modified 'AT' gear.  I use my old AT boots and the same Dynafit front binding - only now I have a cable extending from underfoot that I can clip onto the back of my boots for downhill descents.  I have freed my heel in AT gear!  I could not be happier!  Patrick

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