Oz Season Summary
Kicking the tips up...for now
First-person footage has its limitations, but it's better than nothing!
Days BC skiing -
Bogong - 10
Feathertop - 6
Razorback - 2
Days resort skiing -
Hotham - 5
Falls Creek - 3
Buller - 1
Total days skied = 27
Even though we are almost mid-November, there is still snow for touring (more so in the Main Range - but I can't justify the 7 hours in the car with no more days off work). I skied from July to November, and got almost a full month of skiing in. I'm pretty happy with that!
Cairn Gully in November
Steeps on Feathertop
The season ended up being quite good; we've got probably a month more of skiing in than we did last year, and the snow depth and quality has been very good. The only complaint this year was the weather...even in spring there were precious few good weather days, and at times the precipitation fell as rain rather than snow (particularly when we had about 100mm in one evening!) The bad weather resulted in more days in resorts than I would like, but this did assist in me progressing my downhill technique quite a bit this season.
More steep lines on Feathertop
Bogong near Audax
Looking north from Feathertop to the Big Fella
I can't even remember where this is...
Last year I was very much a novice, but this year I felt at home on Bogong and Feathertop. I skied pretty much every line that I had aspired to, and I definitely noticed my technique improving throughout the season.
I can credit that improvement to a few things. The first is that simple yet elusive trick of getting forward and staying there. I've become much more aware of my posture, and have sought to feel the front of my skins against my boot tongues, and to project my hands forward (to encourage my shoulders to be forward of my hips). These strategies have worked, and I no longer get the excessive fatigue that I used to feel on the descent. The other thing that has helped has been curling my toes upwards in my boots - it results in pulling my skis back under me, which again maintains the weight forward on the skis.
In terms of boots and ramp angle, I've found that the TLT6 Performance is more than enough boot for me (hence the Salomon Mtn Labs have barely seen snow this winter). The La Sportiva Syborgs are only a tad softer than the TLT6, and have seen good use this season too. I probably only need two boots in total - a 1kg plus version for general touring, and a sub-1kg boot for longer days with more vertical.
As for ramp angle, I've found 0 to +5 is fine - anything more than that has a tendency to put me against my rear boot cuff more than I'd like.
Zero G 85 - tearing up spring snow
I have tried reading books, getting lessons and soliciting advice from the internet on how to improve my downhill technique. The one source that has been of use has been this book:
I can completely recommend buying this book for the way in which it breaks down the art of turning on skis. I take a notebook into the mountains, and in it were all the following tips from the book:I still have much work to do, and I want to start developing my technique on ice and the steeps more (particularly jump turns). Besides skiing more, I hope to get some video footage soon to help me adjust my posture and movement to become something resembling an expert skier.
- All weight on the outside ski
- Transfer weight as early as possible to new outside ski
- Consciously guide the unweighted ski through the turn (pull it close to the outside ski)
- Ski with your legs, balance with your hands
- Keep the hands forward (shoulders ahead of hips)
- Flex down and forward to shorten turn radius (a really good tip)
- Move your weight, then change edge angle (not the other way around)
- Short radius turns can be done by collapsing the outside leg, along with a pole plant and skidded turns
- Active feet beneath a quiet upper body
- Relax into start of a turn, work the end of it harder to change turn shape
- For ice, ski gently, patiently and with forward body movement
- For steeps, use pole plants more, lift heels to bum for jump turns
By the end of the season, I was quite happy with the gear I used. I skied on the ZG85s more than any other ski - mostly to incentivise better skiing from me, as they are punishing of backseat driving. The Mtn Explore 95s got a few runs, but I didn't feel much need for the 95mm waist. A damn good ski nonetheless.
Salomon Mtn Explore 95s getting some turns in
As for boots, the Mtn Labs got a couple of resort days, but no touring...which might be their fate for the foreseeable future. A few hundred grams extra might not sound like much, but when it comes to walking in to somewhere like Feathertop to bootpack almost every ski descent, it quickly takes its toll. I spent most of the season going between the Syborgs and TLT6s - both have been outstanding. I've added a Booster strap to the Syborgs for a little more support, taking the pair up to 1850g.
I've used ATK bindings for this season, and they have been outstanding. The Raider 12 2.0 was used for most of this season. I did experiment mixing the R12 with the SCTT heel and also the Plum Yak toe, but I think that the complete R12 (with toe shim) is perfect for most of my applications. The heel spacer is definitely a game changer - I noticed considerably better power transfer to the ski once I'd put it in position. Next year I may try to get a race binding and fit a heel spacer to it to see how it performs (R12 weighs 720g for the pair - super light race fixings can come in around 300-400g).
All my other gear performed exceedingly well, to the point where it made being in the mountains simple, easy and efficient.
Camping on Feathertop - like a summer holiday
Skialper 2017 Buyer's Guide - ski gear porn alert!The guide itself is very much worth the 10 or so Euros to access, as they review the lighter end of the gear spectrum that other websites and publications seem to have neglected. I've made most of my recent purchases based on their ratings, and have not been disappointed. New gear that caught my eye included:
Atomic Backland 85 UL
Regarded as the best speed-touring ski tested, this ski looks superior to my Zero G 85 in almost every way. The only question is about the sidecut - might be a little too much for steep, icy skiing. Otherwise, in weight and dimensions it is similar to the ZG85, but has considerably better performance - and is said to be a lot of fun to ski. I'm definitely getting a pair before our next winter, and they should relegate the ZG85 to rock ski status if they are as good as they are proclaimed to be.
Salomon S-Lab Minim
I was looking at getting a pair of La Sportiva Syborg skis, as they have been on sale at a good price. The Minim has completely eclipsed the Syborg. For one thing, it's performance is outstanding, thanks mostly due to a few extra millimeters width when compared to other race skis. They sound ideal for fast and light ski mountaineering, or resort uphilling, which is something I want to do more of in bad weather next year (rather than paying for lift tickets). I'll have a sub-4kg setup if I combine these with my Syborg boots and a race binding.
Arcteryx Procline Carbon
These I can't justify buying until my TLT6s start dying, but they are certainly attracting a lot of hype. I'm not sure that they can ski as well as the TLT6, but I'm hoping to get a chance to try them on in Japan (along with the TLT7), if only to get a sense of the flex and range of mobility they offer. To be honest, they are probably wasted in Australia, as we don't have the technical climbing terrain to require anything more than a TLT6, crampons and a couple of ice axes.
Hokkaido Here I Come...I've booked in for 3 weeks in Furano - looks like prime touring terrain, and they are already getting decent snowfall. I'll be working on my fitness until then, which (along with nutrition), I should do a post on soon.
Thanks to the Big Fella and Featherback - till next year