December 29, 2010
Well, it was a bit of a dud.
Christmas was over, a bunch of snow had fallen in the past week, and the crew was ready to roll on Wednesday. Only problem was, a freezing rain event had laid a nasty thick breakable crust over all the nice pow on Monday night. Greg Ireton sent around a picture from the top of Alpental on Tuesday (when Kevin and I mercifully were engaged in a major plumbing job at my dad's house) of him holding up serving platter sized panes of ice that had formed overnight. Sweeeeet. Around 5 inches of fluff had fallen on top of the crust, but it wasn't going to be pretty, and all except Kevin, his friend and fellow firefighter Chris, and myself begged out.
Basically it was the three of us vs. around 20 snowshoers on the PCT - we went in early and made good time to the top, pretty much eliminating conflicts until the trail descent. Skiing was as anticipated - variable, with a few spots near the summit where we could point 'em and stay atop the crust and everywhere else more or less survival skiing, but the workout breaking trail up to the ridge was stellar!
December 17, 2010
But I won't, because it was about as good a birthday as I could wish for. I met up with Kevin and Justin Herx in the Alpental maintenance lot just before 9:00 with my birthday TLT 5 Performance boots freshly fit and ready for a workout. A number of other skiers, many of whom we knew, were parked in the front row with the same idea. When we heard that Justin, a skier whose skills I'd admired for years, had never skied the Slot our plan for the day was as good as set . . .
The verdict on the boots?
Skinning with the TLT 5 Performance is a joy. There's nothing like taking 580 grams of dead weight off each foot to brighten up your day. If you leave the power strap in place and just loosen the top buckle (which also unlocks the cuff), it's something like a normal well-designed AT boot on the uphill. If you undo the power strap and put it around just the liner (behind the two shell tongues), the range-of-motion is off the charts. I seem to be able to increase my average stride on a steep uphill skin track by around 10 cm. and it would probably be more on a flatter route - this is free distance with every stride, since you are just pivoting your leg from the hip and not incurring any (at least not much) muscle or respiratory debt. Guys like me with short legs have been waiting for something like this for years. The toe sockets are in the "full forward" position, include the proprietary Dynafit step-in guides, and for some reason didn't work so well with the "hook one side and roll" technique but rather wanted to be stepped in directly. Interesting. There's quite a bit of rocker in the forefoot of the sole that makes booting up steep frozen raincrust seem less secure than my Spirit 3's; a steeper angle with knees crammed into the snow seemed to be in order. Part of this may be due to the plantar flexation hardware; the boot flexes under the ball of the foot very slightly - not nearly as much as the bellows on Scarpa's F1 and F3, but you can feel it move when you walk and roll off your toes. I didn't notice the flex while skiing, but I'll see if it's noticeable in a few days when I get a chance to put some more miles on them.
On the down, the boot is remarkably stiff with the auxiliary tongue in place and everything tightened down. It skis stiffer than my Scarpa Spirit 3's, and comparable to my Garmont Endorphins, though with a different feel to it. The TLT 5 P is less progressive than either boot, particularly the Spirit 3 with either the Intuition or Plus Fit wrap liners, which start to transmit motion immediately and then gradually stiffen up - when you flex forward in the TLT 5 Performance your shin moves a bit, then hits a wall. I wasn't really "on" the boot and probably should have taken some runs in it on the lifts yesterday rather than just jumping into the Slot Couloir with it, but that's where I happened to be and fortunately it worked out OK. The extra stiffness and slightly more upright lean angle do make you stand a little differently in the boot, but I'm sure I can adjust. There are some little clicking noises that come from the forefoot area while both skinning and skiing, but I'm sure I'll learn to tune that out as well.
December 16, 2010
Congrats to Holly and Seth Davis, proud parents of Eli, born today! Knowing Holly and Seth, this guy is going to be a monster on skis and bike in a few years . . .
December 10, 2010
There's nothing like a morning of powder turns at Alpental before coming home to find these waiting at the front door. Damn stiff, extremely light, and unfortunately a little pricey . . . they'll need the usual shell work and liner bake at Jim Mates' place before I try them out, but I'm more than stoked!
Here's some specs right out of the box: weight, each boot (size 27.0), 1,160 grams (no insole). Actually one boot is 1,159 grams and the other is 1,164 grams. Not quite as light as I had heard, but the auxiliary tongue weighs 68 grams, and the boot is still reasonably stiff without it. You could easily go without the tongue for fast-and-light touring or rando racing; even without it the boot is stiffer than my old Scarpa F1's. With the tongue in, the boot is extremely supportive, perhaps (and this is a guess) 15 percent stiffer than the Pebax cuffed TLT 5 Mountain. My flexible footbeds out of my F1's are 60 grams each, so 1,220 grams per foot as I will typically ski them. This compares very favorably with my Spirit 3's, which weigh in at 1,800 grams per boot with the custom insoles. I've already cut off the velcro straps that secure the liner (a hassle to fasten, and I can't think of when I'd want them other than walking around in my liners in a hut - MAYBE) and trimmed the yellow rubber sole under the toe sockets where it hit the toe wings and supporting bracket of the binding. It seems like they've beefed up the sole a little in the interest of durability in this final production version, as well as covered the arch area with rubber (it was exposed hard nylon in the prototype I tried on). More to come as I play around with these . . .
December 4, 2010
For those of you not on my hard-copy Christmas card list, don't feel bad - I may have lost your address, or think you're hip enough to look on the Internet, or developed a cramp in my writing hand, whatever. Here's this year's picture, shot by our favorite ex-Yuen Lui photographer Carolyn on the Seattle University Campus. As for family news, Nick is living on Capitol Hill with his girlfriend Kerry and career-wise has not fallen far from the maternal tree - he's a contractor working on a Microsoft portal website, and enjoys his job. Jordan is in Marseille doing his semester abroad with the University of Washington, drinking plenty of Grenache-based pink wine and eating lots of moules frites when he's not riding his bike around Provence. Hope you all have a great holiday season!
December 3, 2010
Today was opening day for Alpental ski area, pretty early in the season for a place that specializes in steep, boulder-strewn terrain which often requires six or more feet of snow for reasonably safe skiing. Nobody had their expectations set too high - I was thinking that only the bottom lifts would be running and if we got lucky they would open the top and have a couple of runs on Edelweiss open.
Whaddya know, I pulled in around 9:45, took both chairs straight to the top, and saw people heading for International. Nice. I started lapping Upper and Lower "I" and found nice dry snow, no rocks other than at the very top, and a reasonably sane transition over to Lower International. After around 11:30 or so, the lines inexplicably dwindled down to about 2 minutes on Chair 2, quite unusual considering the parking lots were full. The sun even came out in the early afternoon as I hooked up with Rob and Crispin for a few runs. Exceptional skiing for early season!
On a related note, John Stimberis reports via TAY, "Alpental Beacon Park is now up and running. Early season conditions exist. If you encounter any troubles with the site, or wish to provide feedback, please send a message to: firstname.lastname@example.org" - The beacon practice site is directly across from the main Alpental parking lot, running up the hill for 300 ft. or so. It's a great place to break in a new transceiver, hone your skills, or just kill some time on a crappy weather day with your touring partners. Highly recommended.
Previous Incoming Pages:
China: Wandering in the Middle Kingdom
"Incoming" covers developments that have personal interest to me (ie. gear I might consider acquiring, or events I feel may impact the sport of skiing) - it is by no means meant to be a comprehensive enumeration of gear or events in the ski world at large. Feel free to contact me via the randosaigai.com link below with news or images that may be of interest . . .
© 2010 Gregory C. Louie