Wednesday, 29 November 2017

2017 Post-Season Analysis

Temperatures have gone up, the rain has arrived, and our bountiful snowpack has disappeared.

From this... this

In the absence of further skiing in the Australian season, it's a good time to analyse how I went this year.

This is aided by some of my slightly autistic tendencies - I've tracked my days in the mountains in terms of time, vertical distance and so on. Towards the end of the season, I noticed that I was closing in on a pretty decent figure of human earned turns for the season. It took a bit of grinding at the end, but I got there.

I managed 50,301 vertical meters of ski touring this Australian season.

Season 2017 Stats

Lifts                   - 11 days
Resort Touring  -   3 days
BC                     - 26 days

Total                 - 40 days

Days on each mountain:

Bogong      - 12
Feathertop  -  7
Razorback  -  4
Hotham      -  2
Stirling       -  1

I was pretty happy with the amount of skiing I got in. I thought that I'd do more resort touring, but if it was crappy enough to be at a resort, I found it more convenient to be on the lifts. As always, more time on Feathertop would have been ideal.

Closing out the season on Feathertop

In terms of analysis, I was most interested in seeing what my rough rate of movement was throughout the season - particularly as about halfway through I upgraded to a much heavier setup. I was also curious about speed of ascent when comparing booting to skinning for climbing up.

How much difference did heavier gear make?


Early in the season I was on my skimo race rig (weighing in at 3.6kg). Later, I moved to the setup that I used most throughout the season (TLT6, Blizzard ZG108 and ATK Freeraider) for a total of 6.5kg.

I was curious to see what difference it made...but it seems that any loss in speed was counteracted by increased fitness as the season progressed and gains in downhill efficiency.

Audax held together well till the end

Surprisingly, my rate of vertical movement didn't change significantly due to heavier gear. I even revisited the skimo rig late in the season, and my vertical times were still quite similar to when I used heavier gear. I would like to more 'scientifically' assess how much of an impact gear weight has on my performance next season; specifically, I wonder if there is a weight threshold that will negatively impact upon my performance, and also if it is important where the weight is in the setup (I'm guessing heavier boots are more detrimental for uphill gains than heavier skis).

I'm curious about those two issues, mainly because I am moving to heavier boots and higher total weights (in the 7kg weight range for total setup). Having said that, the advantages of the heavier gear on the way down (speed, stability, reduced fatigue) are also a factor in ameliorating the weight on the way up.


How fast did I go, and is skinning or booting better?


To some, the answer would seem simple - of course skinning would be more efficient (and that is true). I'm more interested in the planning considerations of ascending a mountain. Is it better to skin up the longer, less steep route or to boot up the fall line? Often, the mountain will dictate the answer, but I was curious nonetheless.

For me, Bogong generally means skinning (with exceptions like Eskdale and Audax), whilst Feathertop is all about booting. Hence, analysing the data was made a bit easier.

The figures I give for vertical rate of ascent are averages over many sessions, and include the up and down component of ski mountaineering and touring.

At the highest end, I managed about 350 meters an hour (mph) (recorded during a day of resort touring). At the lower end, I was averaging about 220mph (mid-winter booting on Feathertop).

TLT6 print - many of these were left about the place

The averages for each mountain were 328mph for Bogong, and 241mph for Feathertop.

As a result, it seems that skinning on Bogong is about 25% more efficient for gaining vertical altitude than booting on Feathertop. Again, this is quite a rough calculation, and I'd love to find more robust and stringent ways to assess performance...but for now it will do.

In the end, my rough planning speed should be around 320mph for skinning, and 250mph for booting. This will vary quite a bit due to conditions, fitness and other factors, and also includes time taken for transitions and breaks. It might not be wholly accurate, but having a figure for comparison is better than nothing!

In the end, I've gravitated towards the free-touring side of skiing as the season has progressed. For the immediate future, I'm looking to cope with snow withdrawal by preparing for a month in Hokkaido in January.

My new skiing goal is simple - climb like Killian, ski down like Hoji. To that end, I've employed a heterogeneous variety of gear to do my thing, as displayed in the photo above; the freeride-inspired 4FRNT Raven skis and Salomon Mtn Lab boots contrasted with skimo race clothing and pack.

Speaking of Hoji, I had his words in mind on the last day I skied. In a podcast he was discussing gear weight, and he said that if you're going to be dumb and choose heavy gear, you'd better be tough. I thought about that whilst I lugged this behemoth down the track:

This is what happens when you decide to test different setups in November

Here's a video of some of my season highlights (limited as always due to the first-person perspective and some bumpy, firm spring snow causing some rattling at times).

I saw this quote the other day, and bastardised it to reflect my feelings about my time in the mountains (property of Wally the Qigong master):

I'm constantly moving, unifying with patterns of nature, absorbing the energies of heaven and earth. My being in the mountains is in accordance with the principle that nothing stands perfectly still in nature, so my natural state is also one of movement.

I'm already looking forward to Hokkaido and getting on the move again.

Team Weasel

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