Your Ski Setup: The Balancing Act
What do you like to ski? Powder? Bumps? Backcountry steeps? Matching the right skis, boots and bindings for one’s needs is essential for a rewarding skiing experience. While there is no ideal setup for every situation, pairing the right gear with the intended purpose can be the difference between a decent winter and a great one. Heavy gear performs well at resorts or out of helicopters, but lighter gear allows you to tour. The major consideration is finding balance—balance between your expectations of the gear’s performance with the reality of it.
Some skiers dedicate one setup for inbounds skiing and another for backcountry. They choose specific boots to work with certain skis for a desired outcome. Someone who enjoys charging resorts might prefer alpine boots with high-DIN bindings and a robust ski for handling the day-to-day wear and tear resort skiing can bring. Yet alpine boots are not ideal for bootpacks and skinning, so that same person might have a separate setup that is more suited for the up and down of backcountry travel. Others opt for a one-setup quiver and adapt to changing situations.
Before you purchase any boot, do some research and find out where and what you like to ski, and what boots are appropriate for that kind of activity. Do the same for skis and bindings. Zero in on what you want, all the while keeping in mind your intended use.
Consider matching boots, bindings and skis. An agile touring boot (like Scarpa’s Maestrale or Black Diamond’s Quadrant) is designed for long days in the backcountry, breaking trail and sessioning powder bowls. Pair it with light touring bindings and backcountry-specific skis and you’re gold; the weight-saving ergonomics and comfort make for a “totally stoked” backcountry experience. The same can be said for the more Freeride-oriented boot (Dynafit Titan, Scarpa Hurricane Pro, or Black Diamond Factor), a four-buckle, high performance soldier that excels at driving big skis and charging hard. Match one of those with a suitable AT binding and freeride performance-driven ski and the rewards are similar.
Shortcuts in the balance game can shortchange your overall experience. Be vigilant about choosing gear and honest about the gear’s intended virtues before putting together your setups. The best turns begin with balance. Here are some 2012-13 skis, boots and bindings to get you started in your own balancing act.
K2 Hardside (Tip/Waist/Tail: 131/98/119mm); $700
Mid-fat width, rockered tip, and standard camber make this ski ideally suited for harder conditions, but still fun when the snow gets deep. Whether in-bounds or far from the trailhead, the universality of the Hardside make it a perfect match with mid- to lightweight tele, alpine or alpine touring bindings. k2skis.com
Rossignol Super 7 (Tip/Waist/Tail: 145/115/123mm); $750
This is one of the best-selling skis on the market for a very good reason: It feels at home anywhere. Yes, it’s big, with a large, rockered snout and tail, but traditional sidecut and camber underfoot allow this ski to transition between conditions with aplomb. Thought it's a little heavy to take deep into the backcountry, match this ski with a stout binding like the Baron and resort-based glory is yours for the taking. rossignol.com
Faction 3.zero (Tip/Waist/Tail: 142/112/132mm); $830
Similar to the Super 7, Faction’s 3.0 is a little more traditional in looks and feel, but still features early rise tip, traditional camber and will accommodate more backcountry-specific bindings [think Dynafit] than its Rossi counterpart. This go-anywhere choice will deliver performance in a variety of settings. factionskis.com
Black Diamond Quadrant; $640
The 120-flex Quadrant is an all-terrain vehicle best suited for backcountry skiing, sidecountry stashes and long-term commitments with tech bindings. blackdiamondequipment.com
Lange XT 130; $700
Simply put, the XT 130 is a high-performance alpine boot with a lug sole and walk mode, which makes it the go-to option for resort-based adventures. Match the Lange with a Baron and a Super 7 for the optimum freeride experience. lange-boots.com
Scarpa T1 [Telemark]; $700
The T1’s smooth, responsive bellows, ergonomic walk mode and stiff, high performance upper cuff shine in-bounds or out of the gates. scarpa.com
Marker Baron; $380
The svelte little brother to the famed Duke AT binding, the Baron gives alpine performance with the added feature of a walk mode. With the right freeride boot, such as the Lange XT 130, you can drive the biggest sticks in and around the resort. markerusa.com
Dynafit FT12 Radical; $600
Light, tough and will take you as far and high as you need, tech bindings have long been the only binding for serious backcountry, sidecountry and civilized in-bounds charging. Pair them with Black Diamond Quadrants for the perfect balance between uphill ergonomics and downhill prowess. dynafit.com
Twenty Two Designs Axl; $320
Designed after 22’s stalwart Hammerhead, the Axl allows free pivot touring for high performance deep in the backcountry. Pick any ski to lug around, and this binding will drive it. twentytwodesigns.com