Like every year when the snow starts falling it is time for what I like to call “the upgrade”. We all check the tons of new gear guides. Every single one with a different recommendation. We remember the marketing mambo jumbo from our last ISPO visit. In short the choice is not as simple as it seems. So to make it easier I share my own thoughts on my new setup.
Of course choice is always a problem as skiing has so many facets. So many different skiers. So many different styles. Sure you can compare tons of specs but in the end they are just numbers. In the end a ski with the exact same base spec can be completely different. It is kinda like sex when you start with it. At the beginning it all feels great and is over far to quick, but once you get a hang of it there are tons of different nuances and experiences with no limit in sight. Ok I might be getting a bit of track here :P.
Regardless, like every year I get together some gear to test for the season and to see how it performs. This year my plan was a little different. As some of you know I like Salomon. I have been skiing most of my freeriding life starting on a Foil over the Czar and the Rocker series and it always worked for me. That’s why I was really happy when Salomon contacted me to get some of their gear to test for the season. Also later Leki called and hooked me up with some poles and gloves too… wow thnx 🙂
At the last ISPO I was at Salomons booth but I was a bit baffled. The whole marketing concept of back-land skiing and adventure touring was a bit weird to me. For me Salomon was a straight up freeriding brand when it came to the fat skis. With Freeski TV (now SalomonTV), Mike Duglas and all the deep fluff I was caught aback with the reorientation. That was what left me shaking my head at the ISPO booth.
As I got more into checking the linup for this season I changed my mind. In the end they did not seem to deviate form the original formula. They just adapted it to the market. Basically the marketing changed. It got more goal oriented and more streamlined. The whole lines got simplified in terms of product recognition and as I had ridden the QST118 on one foot in march there were a lot of new things being brought to market. I wanted to test that out for myself so I headed out to Extreme Vital, Slovenian Conrad Sport to get the Solomon stuff and set it up properly. So lets start of with the:
BOOT – Salomon MTN LAB 26,5 Memo
I had been riding a really soft Salomon Quest 90 boot for the better part of two seasons now. After Japan and a few steep things at the end of last season it was starting to show its age. It was time for an upgrade. I wanted something light, in the technical combo range with good uphill but really good downhill performance.
The Salomon MTN Lab Boot shell is like all Salomon boots I had ridden over the years. Very comfortable. It might be a bit problematic if you have a high foot arch but for me it fits well. After trying them on last year I gambled a bit and took them in 26.5. My usual size for Salomon boots was 27.5 without any special modifications. The flex is great for downhill and the added higher motion angle to what I was used to for my quest boot is exactly what I needed. I also love the fact that you can put laces on the liner. Kinda like a rudimentary version of the liner I used to have on my SPK but without the fancy self-lacing system. As I have a bit of a narrow shin in the middle it helps heaps to tie them with laces.
The liner itself is a termoformable 3D liner. I noticed that at first it was a little tight but by changing my sock setup and using them around 5 times they have gotten very comfortable. Be aware that the boot is good for MNC and technical bindings. They do fit in alpine once but it is not recommended by the producer. Salomon specifically states they are not alpine certified because of the forward rubber sole. Still I had no problem punting them in. This might be an issue if the sole gets used up. Something it inevitably will once u get into the steeps.
I will see how they perform over all the extreme situations I will put them trough over the season. First impression is. This will work 😛
LIGHT SETUP – MTN Explore 95 with MTN Pin Binding and Skins
While going over the setup I wanted to use with Salomon, I had my eyes set on the MTN LAB ski. Classical pow ripper for anything. Since I also wanted to use the QST118 they quickly told me that the two skis might be to similar and recommended the Explore 95. I was skeptical. After all I had not ridden a ski with less then 100 mm in years. They would also come with the MTN pin binding. So this setup would be something completely new to me. I figured if nothing else it would be good for training.
Boy was I wrong. After the first 5 days on snow I can say that this is probably going to be my primary setup for this winter. The Explore is light and precise. It has a good balance. There of course is a bit of a trade-off for the weight and it remains to be tested how this will effect steeps with a bit more pow on them but for the rest it will do great.
The MTN binding is a no frills Pin binding. Classical. I have not fallen yet or had it release so for now from a normal use standpoint I will say it is solid. But it is not TÜV certified. How well it will work in a nasty situation I have yet to hopefully not find out. The binding comes with a few different back plate releases that have no actual corresponding DIN value. You are left with normal, woman and extreme. I put the normal on for now but I think that for the steeps the extreme might be a better choice. Also if you decide to get these make sure your shop has the right mounting plate. The guys at extreme vital fortunately did :).
So I will say this combo is pending more abuse in extreme. Normal use seems to work really well. I did test them on ice piste skiing and was surprised. They reminded me of my old competition slalom skis before the turn radius’s got super ridiculous. The only thing annoying is no stoppers on the pin binding. But Solomon has these available too. Will have to get used to being more careful putting skis on from now on. Or should I get the stoppers 😛 What do you think ? They do come with a safety cord but after a bit of discussion I noticed that no one, even the Salomon pro riders ever seem to use these…
DEEP POW SETUP – QST118 and GUARDIAN MNC 16
This one was a no brainer. I was super impressed with the handling of the very fat QST118 when I compared it directly to my old rocker2 so I wanted to have this one for the deep days and for some slackcountry. To be sure I put the trusted Guardian on them just to be on the safe side in case, you know, I make it to Japan again somehow. #dreams.
The QST itself is a bit of a combo of the rocker2 and the Q line. Difference being it is not a twin tip and it has titanal inserts to make it more stiff. They seem to work well. I did ride it only once since I got it and even then it was not pow so I will have to wait to see how these rip in deep fluffy powpow. As for the Guardian binding. Proven and tested. I had it for 2 seasons fro everything and not once did it release badly. Even after that long the whole mechanism was still spot on on my old binding. The only difference is the upgrade of the front sole plate to MNC standard from WTR. That means u can use the MTN Lab boot now too.
LEKI – TOUR PRO V GTX GLOVE and AERGON 2V POLES
The Tour Pro V in GORE TEX is the best touring glove Leki has to offer. It comes with the vertical Trigger S system that allows for easy separation from the pole. It is in a sense a compete system. That is why I was supper happy when Leki asked me to join their team and put these new system to the test. I took it out for a spin after being sick for two weeks today and I like it. It is so user friendly. Since I never use the slings on the poles because of avalanche danger I like the option of integration in the gloves. This will come in very handy in the super steep and specially when one is exhausted or in very high altitude. I do like to drop poles there from time to time. The only thing that will remain to be seen is how the sling attachment rope handles the abuse.
As for the pole. The Aergon2. This one is Lekis light touring pole and can be height adjusted with a speedlock2 system. I love the thermal hold that extends down from the grip for steep ascends and the best of it the more u squeeze it the warmer it gets 😛 Aside from that over the season I will see how well the speedlock2 system works. As the pole is new now it is solid. I am more interested to see how it will perform in extreme cold or when moisture builds up over a long day.
SALOMON MTN LAB HELMET and XT-ONE PHOTOCHROMATIC Google
Since my old Smith Helmet looks like a asteroid and my old Scott Google has a nice scar in the middle of the viewing field, a nice reminder from the woods of Hokkaido, I went all out and got the helmet and new googles too. Yeah I know I am almost broke now 😛
So in short. The helmet is very light. It has no fancy sealing systems for the vents or any such nonsense but it has a very intuitive strap system for your googles that you can use even with your gloves one. Imagine that. For once. In short it is a good helmet and it has all the standard protection features and certifications. Also be careful when it is windy and you take it off. It is very light and might fly away. Verdict. I am gonna keep this one for quite a while. Might even draw something on in 😛
As for the Google. The XT-One is a new line. It has the added feature to fit specifically well to your face. And it does. Until you have anything on the top to prevent you from showing an Eurogap. Have to get used to that :P. As for anti Fog all that works reasonably well. A few weeks back we were out in 92% humidity and rain/snow whiteout and it held a 1000 hm ascend reasonably well. After that thou it failed as would any other google by fogging up thnx to me sweating. I am used to wearing my googles on the way up and we all know that is a bad idea. I love the Photocromatic lens that adapts to the outer light but would advise anyone who uses it to take a backup lens for the really shitty days. The filter will still be a bit to bright for my taste in a whiteout. But all in all a good google. Definitely an improvement over my old Scott FWT. I have to admit thou that that one was build like a tank to be honest. How well this one will survive the season of beating will remain to be seen. For a start it works well.
OUTERWear – Salomon Charge GTX 3L Pant and Jacket
I must admit that I was a bit skeptical at first. But as my old gear was getting somewhat used up and after two seasons I needed some new outerwear. I decided on Salmons more freeride oriented Charge set as opposed to the X Alp set that is more geared towards alpinists. A first for Salomon.
This is one of those premium GORE TEX Pro garments that is coming close to the Norrona Lofoten, which in my eyes is still the benchmark in outfits for powder hunters. With that said I never owned that one purely because it was far to expensive and was super happy with my affordable Ferrino Prototype that never went into mass production and worked great for almost two seasons.
After a few days with the new stuff I learned a lot on how clothing had evolved since my last upgrade. First of I love the high pant with the suspenders. You might look like a trash worker for 700 bucks but hell it is so practical and warm. Head dissipation works great. When I hike up now I usually just ware a technical undergarment (the last two times even just a Polartec freebie T-Shirt. The zippers are all well placed and as advertised the range of motion is really good and nonrestrictive.
Same goes for the jacket. It fits well and has a cool Cap that fits the helmet and can be adjusted to seal it in but somehow I have not managed to make that work to well yet. When we were at the Dachstein in 70 km/h winds it kept getting blown off. There are two strapping laces for that but I have not yet figured out how to adjust them properly.
The clothing is very technical and warrants a whole article so at the end of the season I will dive into all the facets I have learned as I “ease into it”. For now I am positively surprised and this is a good upgrade. Question as always with these premium outer layers is as always if it warrants the high price. I will know that at the end of the season.
So this is the stuff I will be testing this season. Let me know what you think or just ask if you have any questions about the gear. Next up Biwipow projects final article for season 1 and then we head to Stubai for some ski testing at the opening. Since I was out sick with a for two weeks all this is kinda pushed back a bit.