Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dynafit TLT 5 Performance Carbon Boot

Dynafit is coming out with a new line of light weight touring boots for next year. I was lucky enough to procure a pair of the TLT 5 Performance Carbon boots for a little test run last week on a tour with Bruce Edgerly from Backcountry Access (Look for a Tracker 2 review soon). There are three models available for next year the TLT Race (lightest), TLT 5 Performance (middle weight), and TLT 5 Mountain (Heaviest if you can call it heavy at all.

The basics are this is a Dynafit compatible two buckle boot made of Pebax body and a carbon cuff. A single boot in size 27.5 weighs 2lbs 6.5oz (4lbs 13oz a pair). While not the lightest boot on the market it feels featherweight compared to my 4 buckle Titans. It comes with a heat moldable liner with a unique touring hinge in the back (Think of taking all the stiff foam out of the area by your Achilles tendon).

So what are the latest and greatest features, and do they work. The first thing you notice is there is no normal lever for the walk and ski mode. Dynafit has ingeniously created a way to integrate the top buckle into the tour and ski mode. When the top buckle is open you are in tour mode and when it is closed you lock into ski mode. This little detail saves a fair amount of time compared to my Scarpa F-1s. The boot is sleek and is a welcome sight for lower volume feet. The outer Pebax shell is formed for a snug fit even with a thin liner. If you have a high volume or high arched foot this may create an issue, but you will know when you try it on. The next feature is a removable tongue. While this is not a new concept it is certainly the first time I have used one that you can put into and take out of your boot easily. Simply open the 2 buckles and you can slide the tongue in or out. I took the tongue out for going up and put it in for going down. You can also simply leave the tongue at home if you don’t want the extra stiffness for the descent.

While tour modes have been around for a long time. The TLT 5 Performance is the first boot where my body was the limiting factor in how far I could stride while skiing. The boots feel like you are wearing sneakers with a taller cuff. Instead of seeing if the front of my binding comes to the other ski tip for a long stride, I was usually at the middle of my foot to the other ski tip and I am not flexible enough to get it further.

The boots skied really well downhill for a light touring boot. In fact I would say when I purchase a pair next year there will be a great deal on my F-1’s. I am looking forward to the opportunity to really give them a try on multiple tours and perhaps even in the Cosmic Randonee Ski Mountaineering Race series (http://www.ussma.org/cosmic/) this coming spring.

I look forward to seeing everyone out in the snow and please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Mike Alkaitis
CMS Senior Guide

Friday, February 19, 2010

Marmot Hydrogen Sleeping Bag

I was looking for an ultra-light weight 3 season sleeping bag. The primary uses would be for ski hut trips in the Colorado backcountry and summer camping. Over the years, I’ve managed to get fairly efficient at packing and I rarely carry more than a 55L pack, even for several nights out. So the sleeping bag needed to be highly compressible as well. My final requirement was a full length zipper. I’ve tried bags with only a half zipper and they just didn’t work for me – I like to be able to stick my feet outside the bag when it’s warmer and the half-zips were something of a pain to get in and out of.

Enter the Marmot Hydrogen. Utilizing 850+ goose down, it weighs in at 1 lb 8 oz, is rated at 30 °F, has a full length zipper, and stuffs down to about 6”x12”. I’ve taken it on several hut trips and been thoroughly pleased. As you may know, the huts are heated with wood burning stoves, so the indoor temperature can be all over the board. Thanks to the small size of the hut and my zealous partners, the temps at bedtime were close to 60 °F and I appreciated the full zipper. But by morning things had cooled down significantly and I was burrowed comfortably into the bag with the zipper up. I haven’t pushed the comfort zone on the temperature rating (yet), but with the full mummy design and drawstring hood, this will be my go-to bag for all but the worst of conditions.

Here are the specs from Marmot.
Colors: Hemlock (4484)
Sizes: Regular: 6'0"/LFT
Long: 6'6"/LFT
Weight: 1 lbs 8 oz / 702 g
Fill Weight: 11 oz / 311 g
Size on Hip: 147 cm
Size on Foot: 101 cm
Temperature Rating: 30F / -1.1C EN 13537 Tested
Comfort: 39.2F / 4C
Lower Limit 29.8F / -1.2C
Extreme 1F / -17.2C
Main Material: 100% Nylon Ripstop DWR 1.2 oz/yd
Lining Material: 100% Polyester Taffeta DWR 1.0 oz/yd
Insulation Material: 850+ Goose Down

For more info check out: www.marmot.com

See you in the backcountry.

Matt Lipscomb
CMS Guide
AIARE Level 1 & 2 Instructor

Want to improve your backcountry skiing skills and gain confidence in decision making in the mountains so that you can enjoy one of the many backcountry huts or yurts in Colorado? Join CMS for a L1 Avalanche Course or a day of guided backcountry skiing this season.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

K2 Darksides

The latest addition to the wide ski market from K2 is an absolute blast. I was lucky enough to secure a pair of 174cm long Darksides from the new K2 Backside series. This series of skis was designed to combine the touring ability from Backcountry skis and alpine sturdiness from Sidecountry skis. From this can Mike Hattrups Backside series. Go to http://k2skis.com/news/2009/08/the-evolution-of-backside-adventure/ for the whole story and to see blog posts from around the world. The ski is the widest ski on the series at 154/128/144 and weighs in at 2100 grams in the 174cm length. The Darkside has a slightly rockered tip only and this allows for great versatility powder and on hard pack. The ski has a wood core (Aspen and Paulownia blend), and uses the K2 Hybritech vertical sidewall technology (Simply traditional sidewalls for most of the ski and cap construction in the tip and tail).

I have never skied a ski this fat and was curious as to how it would ski for me. The surprise came in how easy it was to ski. The groomers were not terrifying, nor did I feel I was on the verge of sliding to the bottom of the slope, and the ski was more agile than I imagined in powder. Would I recommend skiing the Darkside for a day of hard pack and groomers? No. Can you enjoy yourself on the way to your favorite Sidecountry stash or pocket of Powder? Absolutely.

The Darksides truly shine in the soft snow. They make you feel as if skiing is effortless and simply more fun. It does take a bit to get used to how fast you can ski and that you will pop over crud and push piles instead of going through them, but it is a quick adjustment. This ski truly shines when you are skiing fast and full throttle in powder and I must admit to backing off before I reached the speed capacity of the ski.

One of the great surprises of the ski was how well it skied in steep tight trees. The slightly rockered tip keeps the ski from diving and therefore you can turn with confidence. The landings from small airs in the trees also proved to be comforting in how predictable the ski behaved.

The Colorado Mountain School also has a pair of 181 Darksides and two friends John Winsor and Winston Binch were able to take the skis on a few runs. They both loved the ski and commented it was as easy a ski as they had ever touched. In fact, Winston liked it so much he is looking to purchase a pair as are two friends of his.

I will write shortly on the brake modification on Dynafit F-12’s to get a Salamon 130mm brake arm for the wider skis.

Get out there and enjoy one of the great new skis from K2.

Mike Alkaitis
CMS Senior Guide

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dynafit Titan

The Dynafit Titan AT Ski boot is the latest addition from Dynafit in the competitive high end stiff overlap ski boot you can still tour in. The Titan is a 4 buckle boot made from polyurethane (PU) plastic and comes in at a 130 flex and weighs 1600 grams per boot without liner in a size 27. The flex feels to be a true 130 flex during the first 15 days of skiing in the areas and out touring. I was able to test the boots at Vail and Beaver Creek as well as tours in the East Vail Chutes, Carbibou area outside Nederland, the Wasatch range, and Red Mountain Pass in the San Juans of CO.

The first thing you notice about the boot is that it is mainly white, with some red and black highlights. While I enjoy being truly stylish, it is more important to have great performance. The Titan does not disappoint. The Titan reminds me of a true alpine boot with the advantage of a large touring range when you are skinning. The touring mechanism is a small plastic switch and is easy to use. When you are in touring mode the boot is easy to flex through the entire range of motion and the buckles are well placed and seem strong.

When going downhill the Titan truly shines and loves going fast. You can lean into the boot and have a great response. I am interested to see how the PU Plastic reacts when the weather is warmer and the plastic softens a bit. So is the boot that different in stiffness from others? It certainly felt like it to me. It may also be the actual shell shape fits my foot exceptionally well.

So what would I change about the boot if I were king? I would change the liner. The stock liner the boot comes with is a good liner and feels comfortable after having a professional boot fitter mold them. The only downfall for me was the Dynafit TFX liner is slightly heavier (400 grams per liner TFX vs 220 grams per liner for the overlap Intuition liner) than an intuition liner and there is not enough foam in the ankle for a snug fit. I admit to having a skinny heal and ankle, but I hate to have my heal pull up when skiing. Other than this minor adjustment the Dynafit Titan is a great AT Boot for aggressive skiers looking for a stiff boot. Did I mention the boot comes with a Dynafit compatible sole as well as an alpine DIN sole?

I look forward to skiing this boot the rest of the year and writing a review of how the boot held up. Thanks and hope to see you out there. For another review of the Titan you can visit http://www.wildsnow.com and see another view.

Mike Alkaitis
Colorado Mountain School