November 25, 2005 Features & Images » Feature Story

Gearing up to duck under 

Back to basics of boots, boards, and bindings

By G.D. Maxwell

There are only two kinds of skiers on the mountain who don’t want new equipment: those who have it – and I wouldn’t entirely rule them out – and those who are about to give the sport up. Everyone else, if they’re truthful with themselves for just a moment, wants new skis.

It’s not a matter of greed or insatiable want. It’s the nature of the beast. New skis, new boots, just look better, especially when so many people lined up around you are in ’em or on ’em. And getting closer to the heart of the matter, new skis and new boots certainly have the power to make you a better skier. It’s a fact. Isn’t it?

But with the dizzying array of skis and boots out there – I dare you to wade through any of the popular ski magazines’ gear guide and not get confused and bewildered – and the vast and varied terrain of our local ski hills, which skis? Which boots? Which bindings?

Now is the time to think outside the box, my friend. Well, if not outside the box, at least outside the inside. Look beyond the ropes to the great out-of-bounds.

The minute you begin to look at the near backcountry around Whistler and Blackcomb, as soon as you venture out into, and especially beyond, Flute backcountrylite land, one thing becomes abundantly clear. What you're wearing – unless you’re wearing touring gear – is meant to go in one direction only: downhill.

Problem is, most of what’s on the other side of the rope runs uphill before you get to the lesser-tracked downhill.

Until recently, that meant you either didn’t go, you were a freeheeler or hardcore tourer, or you stuffed some Alpine Trekkers into your downhill bindings on your downhill skis and schlepped uphill in the whole outfit wearing your downhill boots. Been there, done that.

Frankly, if that last setup describes your relationship with the backcountry, you know it sucks. Works? You bet. Works well, see previous comment. Compared to any gear even remotely touring in nature, that setup means you’re lifting six or seven pounds more than you need to each and every step you take, giving a whole new, masochistic meaning to the phrase "earn your turns."

But who wants to invest the bucks in touring gear you can only use touring?

Good question. Wrong question but good question. Here’s why. The newest generations of skis, boots and bindings designed for touring are equally at home yo-yoing in-bounds. Unless you’re a diehard gate crasher, unless you think any boot other than a Doberman is for wimps, unless what’s on the other side of the ropes holds zero interest for you, chances are you can ski 100 per cent of the time on modern touring gear – in-bounds or out, uphill or down.

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