November 27, 2005: For those of us who love no-frills cheap steep skiing over frozen avy debris, the big news this week is the scheduled (according to an internal Booth Creek memo) opening of Alpental on Friday, December 2. There are still some issues to be resolved, like sewer and power (they were running a generator on top today to Skil-saw a new stairway to the patrol shack), but staff and patrol are acting on the assumption that it's a go. Alpental may be ghetto, but it's as tough as any mountain in the country and the management deserves a thorough round of applause for providing us with TWO years of sliding for $279 plus Washington State Sales Tax. Today's conditions were about 6-8" of really nice snow over some hard bumpy stuff . . . here's a preview featuring Kevin, in case you missed him last night on TV (in his alter-ego firefighter garb) pulling people off the wrecked Monorail (only two trains running on separate tracks and they manage to hit each other?)
Dynafit Race Ti's are in da house . . . they are things of beauty, super-light, and have little Ti markings in the toe arms and locking lever. My only complaint so far is that the little plastic template they supply for mounting the small-footprint heelpiece doesn't have a boot heel mark - I'll have to think about how to accurately get a 4mm gap between boot and binding on the first try, since the heel doesn't adjust once mounted . . . wait, I take that back. Examining the binding carefully with my digital calipers, it looks like the edge of the baseplate is about 3.98 mm out from the leading edge of the heelpiece! Real world weights: Heelpiece, 134 grams, toepiece and baseplate, 118 grams, total = 252 grams (didn't weigh the screws). By way of comparison, the non-lateral release race heels I have weigh only 55 grams each. Price was 355.35€, plus 30€ shipping, or about $452 USD, quite a bit less than what I had expected to pay - Telemark Pyrenees dropped the price and the exchange rate got better in the time it took to get the bindings from Dynafit and dispatch them to the US.
November 16, 2005: Snow is on the ground, more than at any time during the winter of '04-'05 in many locations, and stoke is in the air everywhere - in the shops, on the street. What's impressive? In a word, Dynafit. I stopped in at Pro Ski Service (actually BOTH Pro Ski Services) this week, and checked out the new Blizzard-produced FR (freeride) skis (most of the Dynafit skis prior to this had been produced by Kneissl or Atomic). Pro Ski had only ordered the fattest of the group, the FR 10.0, which weighs in at only 1390 grams per ski (118-88-110) in a 178 - pretty impressive. It comes in a light carbon grey, with small longitudinal markings in the skin (similar to Atomic's texture on their XC and MX skis). There is a beefy metal-lined slot for the rubber-ball skin tip attachment which reportedly can be undone just by pushing it with one's thumb, but owner Martin Volken hadn't ordered any skins or fixing hardware so I couldn't see it. They also make a couple of other narrower FR skis, the 8.0 and the 6.0 with similar features and weight savings relative to their smaller sizes, which are available through Telemark-Pyrenees, but the FR 10.0 should be the ticket for our PNW snow.
Martin brought out a box ("I know what you're looking for") containing a real-live set of TLT Race Ti's - I hefted them, and yes, they really ARE that light. Seems that every possible part has been done in titanium; the toe also feels significantly lighter than the steel version of the TLT.
Dynafit has also come out with a burly Dynafit-compatible freeride boot, the Aero FR , which looks like a winner for the one-boot-quiver crowd. Slightly narrower through the mid-foot than a MegaRide and stiffer as well, the boot seemed to have a fairly roomy toebox and medium heel. Finish and hardware were very nice, with a dial for the walk/ski control rather than a flipper. The new, exclusive to Dynafit binding fittings have a slot under the toe holes to facilitate pushing straight down into the binding, and a severely widened lateral slot extending out from the heel pin holes, presumably to facilitate release/return-to-center. Dynafit is showing a lighter version on their website called the Aero FR TF, something like 150 grams per boot lighter, though they are comparing a 27.5 to a 27.0. Cool stuff.
"Incoming" covers developments that have personal interest to me (ie. gear I covet, 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 . . .
© 2006 Gregory C. Louie