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June 12, 2011

Refresh for the Talent Pool

It's always fun to help introduce people who are already expert skiers and good athletes to ski touring.

My friend Hunter's daughters Laura and Elissa had been wanting to get out and had already done a couple of shake-down trips on their own with new gear. When the weather for Sunday didn't look too bad, we decided to head to Paradise to take a look at some of the options that didn't lie right on the climber's trail to Muir.

Skinning was smooth and fast and went without a hitch except for a quick boot up about half of the Pan Point Face on still-frozen corn. We veered off the main trail at about 7,800 ft. to the Paradise Glacier side of the divide and were left to ourselves on glass-smooth corn that was just approaching perfect consistency. Skiing ran the gamut, from perfect cruising GS turns next to and under Anvil Rock to steep debris fields with crevasse dodging and runnel-hucking in the Nisqually Chute area, a pretty good introduction to the range of backcountry skiing.

We timed our excursion perfectly, as pouring rain started before we hit Longmire on the drive down. I introduced them to the burger feed after-mountain ritual at Copper Creek, and we practiced with my Mandarin Chinese language tapes most of the way home. I think the girls are stoked.

Laura and Elissa at the top of Panorama Point - frozen corn on the PP Face made for some challenging uphill kickturn practice

Laura Eng goes right

Elissa Eng goes left

June 8, 2011

Insertion Depth

Get your mind out of the gutter, I'm talking about how far the heel pins on your tech bindings go into the boot sockets while in ski mode.

It may seem like a minor thing, but this question has come up recently in a discussion on TGR as well as in a couple of e-mails sent to me from curious readers. All things being equal, it's nice to have a little more pin in the socket so long as the pins don't drag on the hard plastic of the boot sole during step-in or lateral release. An extra millimeter or so might make all the difference between an epic descent in heavy conditions in a steep couloir and yard-saling down on your face.

I posted the below picture of some of my Plum Guides in the thread, and asked for help in measuring the same dimension on different Dynafit models - I normally have a set of Speeds and a set of Comforts around the house for backup, but due to this year's austerity measures those were sold recently. Luckily Jonathan Shefftz came to the rescue and posted the following set of numbers almost immediately (he even had the same digital calipers as mine):

Plum Guide = 11.98
Dynafit Comfort = 12.35
Dynafit Vertical = none w/ me, but should be same as Comfort
Dynafit Speed (09-10) = 10.87
Dynafit Tech (~2005) = ditto
Dynafit Tech body w/ Comfort/Vertical pins = 12.45

Does any of this mean anything? Well, maybe. If you've ever ejected from your Dynafit Speeds when you didn't want to while jump turning in heavy mank, it might make sense to replace the heel pins with pins from a Comfort or ST/FT heel. That way you've got 8.45mm worth of pin inside your boot to hold you down rather than the stock 6.87mm with the recommended 4mm gap. The Vertical ST/FT bindings give you a nearly identical 6.85mm of pin insertion with the 2010 recommendation of a 5.5mm gap, but only 6.35mm with the old 6mm gap. And the Plum Guide, with its 4mm gap and 11.98mm pins (Jonathan's measurement), gives you 7.98mm "in the hole." If I was running Comforts or Verticals, I would be sure I was up-to-date on the 5.5mm gap, and be tempted to narrow it to 5.0mm . . .

While I've released vertically from Dynafits inadvertently and found it "disconcerting" - and thus lean toward the "more pin depth" camp - the opposite can also be problem. Certain big skiers I know who insist on skiing their Dynafits inbounds have reported hard compressions, or decambering (usually when skiing bumps) causing contact between boot heel and heel piece, in some cases bending or breaking the heel pivot post. I've not had this problem, but it seems reasonable to maintain a minimum boot-heelpiece gap of somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 to 5mm. In the case of Speed/Classic owners, I would certainly recommend grinding off the molded plastic bump under the heel pins as completely as possible (the plastic block is rock solid under the bump and the risk of weakening it is minimal). This issue will come up again next year with the introduction of the new Radical series bindings, which interestingly have the bump molded in once again . . .

Food for thought.

11.96mm pin length minus the Plum recommended 4mm gap between binding and boot heel = 7.96mm insertion depth, right?

June 3, 2011

Geburtstag Tour

It's Frank Neumann's birthday this week, and I won't go so far as to broadcast a number, but suffice to say he has a decade or two on most of the people he hangs with.

With State Route 20 open as of last week, we decided on the utterly appropriate Birthday Tour as a celebration. Frank's neighbor Tom Davies and Kevin were in, and we headed to the Washington Pass area on Thursday hoping to get the predicted break in the weather. We arrived at the Blue Lake Trailhead around noon and did a test run up and over Spire Gulch, setting off a barrage of wet snow slides on the way down. This lead to a decision to start early today and hope the snow firmed up overnight.

It did. Skinning traction was not a problem, but skiing at the higher elevations involved a little "tail hop" move to initiate turns in the breakable crust. Lower down, the snow was still prone to sliding on the wet corn surface, and this was well before noon. Still, a great day out with friends, plus a really fun overnight in Mazama at Brown's Farm (we rented "Matt's Cabin" for the night - super comfortable accomodations with complimentary home-grown eggs from the chickens next door in a space that would comfortably sleep 6 to 8). Our Spanish tapas dinner (yeah, yeah, I know - TAPAS in Mazama?) at Wesola Polana was a surprise and delight. Thanks Lori for the recommendation!

Frank skins through the burn enroute to Blue Lake Col.

Frank and Tom booting the last few steps to the top of the cornice

Apres-ski Methow Valley style - kickin' it at the kabin

Previous Incoming Pages:

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China: Wandering in the Middle Kingdom

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"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 link below with news or images that may be of interest . . .

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