Here’s a look at some of the latest and greatest innovations and necessities for alpine touring this year.
The Deuter Freerider Pro 30 pack is loaded with features for carrying your winter backcountry tools, including easy-access dedicated shovel and probe compartments. The Freerider is equipped to carry a snowboard, snowshoes or skis (in the A-frame style or slung diagonally). A full-zip back panel allows access to the pack even when it’s loaded with boards. Deuter’s signature Variflex hip belt offers natural movement, mobility and balance when skiing and riding. The pack is topped off with creature comforts such as a fleece-lined goggle pocket, hydration compatibility and an external helmet holder (retail: $159, deuteroutdoor.com).
From ski mountaineering leader La Sportiva comes the Spitfire ski boot, a two-buckle ski-mo competition animal. Its ski/walk mode is integrated into the top buckle for fast transitions and weighs only 1,190 grams per boot. The Spitfire features 110 flex for stiff, aggressive performance on the down (retail: $899). The La Sportiva RST ski is a versatile racing and touring ski. At 77 millimeters underfoot and with a light Karuba wood core, it weighs only 1,100 grams per ski (retail: $579, www.sportiva.com).
Air bags are all the rage due to their proven life-saving abilities, and ABS is the originator of the concept. Its twin-bag system operates independently, providing redundancy, a safety precaution borrowed from the dive/caving world. It also offers superior float with larger bags. This particular system uses compressed nitrogen that must be filled and/or obtained from ABS. They actually offer a discount on your first refill, encouraging you to actually test the system so you are more familiar with the equipment in the event of an emergency. The ABS Vario 30-liter pack is slim, comfortable, expandable, durable and functional, with or without the air bag and activation unit inside (retail: $1,040 for the pack and ABS Unit with Activation Unit, www.abs-airbag.com).
The new Scarpa Freedom SL boot melds high-performance, light weight and cuff motion to create a best-in-class freeride ski boot using Pebax and carbon-fiber construction. Its proprietary Carbon Core Technology yields a 120-flex and alpine performance paired with 27 degrees of cuff range, weighing 3 pounds, 15 ounces per boot. Swappable soles bolted through the carbon fiber frame offer compatibility with alpine or tech bindings in a design that improves strength and power transfer to the ski. The Freedom SL comes with the Vibram Mountain Plus, a lugged sole compatible with tech-touring bindings (Dynafit, G3). The Vibram Mountain Piste Sole is DIN compatible for use in alpine bindings, available as an accessory. The Intuition FR Speed thermo-moldable foam liner is all the rage. Men and women’s specific fits are available (retail: $769, www.scarpa.com).
The Outdoor Research Valhalla Hoody and Pant use Gore Windstopper X-Fast fabric to balance breathability with weather protection for uphill skiers. The pieces feature a roomier cut versus the traditional trim fit of most backcountry-ski apparel. X-Fast fabric has a quiet hand and four-way stretch, and jacket details include a standup collar, integrated low-profile hood, touch-compatible media pocket, taped seams on the hood and shoulders, a pass-through chest pocket and TorsoFlo zippers for ventilation. Pants include both belt loops and attachment points for suspenders, internal stretch gaiters, scuff guards, removable kneepads inside articulated knees and taped critical seams. There are two thigh pockets and two front pockets (with internal beacon pocket with clip-in retention). Men and women’s specific fits available (retail: $350 jacket, $299 pants, www.outdoorresearch.com).
One of the most popular kits for people taking avalanche classes is the Brooks-Range Mountaineering Pro Snow Study Kit (also known as the Guide Snow Study Kit). It includes a field book, a ski guide card set, a slope meter, snowbrush, folding magnifier, thermometers, snow crystal card, folding rulers and an organizer (retail: $124.95). The Brooks-Range Ski Scraper is another must-have that is simple, versatile and durable, ideal for scraping excess wax, ice and gunk off skis and skins (retail: $6.95, brooks-range.com).
POMOCA makes some of the best skins available and is the OEM partner for Dynafit, Dynastar, K2 and La Sportiva. The POMOCA Climb Pro Glide features a combination of 70 percent mohair and 30 percent nylon, a blend designed for perfect grip and glide over multiple days on the trail. Skins feature an Ever Dry multilayer system to keep water out and glue fresh (retail: $189). Buy the skins that are best suited to your skis. The G3 District 100 ski (retail: $679.95) paired with the G3 Onyx binding (retail: $399.95) and the G3 Alpinist skins (retail: $144.95) make a great one-ski all-mountain set up (www.genuineguidegear.com).
It’s hard to go wrong with a full backcountry touring kit from Backcountry Access, the ultra-authentic Boulder-bred company that was purchased by K2 last year. Its new Tracker 3 beacon (otherwise known as an avalanche transceiver) is lighter than the Tracker 2 and features instant, reliable real-time display with an added marking function (retail: $369). Add to that the Stealth 260 carbon probe (retail: $79.95) and the B-1 EXT shovel (retail: $49.95) with flat blade and telescoping handle, and you’ll be ready for your Avy I class (avtraining.org; backcountryaccess.com).