As the festive season approaches, it’s about that time where your jeans start creaking. The snow has started to fall and we?re excited about the season ahead, sure ? but there are a whole bunch of meals, nights out, social engagements and, let’s face it, calories to navigate before we can think about enjoying much of that.
After all the eating and drinking we?re about to do over the next few weeks, January will bring with it the inevitable annual fitness and weight loss push, in a vain effort to reverse the effects that a month or so of roast dinners and heavy ale has had on our waist lines.
Luckily for you, the enlightened snow-seeker, there’s no better way to burn off those excess mince pies than by skinning up a few mountains! Why cram yourself into a stale sweaty room with a crowd of over-indulgers when you could be out there in the wilds, with your buddies, experiencing the wonder of mother nature at her finest (and tearing up a few descents while you?re at it too)?
That’s why, being the helpful bunch we are here at Freeze, we thought we?d whet your appetite by bringing you a wee selection of the finest touring goodies for skiers and splitboarders. Sack off the gifts for everyone else, save on the inevitable January gym membership, and treat yourself to some new touring gear instead. You know it makes sense! And besides, last time that Santa stopped by the shop, he told us that you?d been really good this year, so why don?t you bear that in mind while you take a look at this little lot?
Of course, with touring, it’s really important to learn the ropes first, because it ain?t no joke out there! Whether you’ve just left the piste or you?re nowhere near a resort, there’s the real risk of injury or worse. So, if you haven?t already, go and enrol in an avalanche awareness course to learn how to keep yourself safe. We suggest you check out our good friends at the Avalanche Geeks.
Before you even think of leaving the piste, let alone going touring, you need to pick up the essentials ? shovel, probe and transceiver ? and learn how to use them with your buddies. It’s all about minimising the risk of course, so you should hopefully never need them, but if the worst comes to the worst, these tools could mean the difference between making it home or not. So, if you?re thinking about touring, you need to get them and learn how to use them before you go.
The Ortovox Zoom+ Avalanche Rescue kit is the ideal starter pack for beginners and makes an appealing package for more experienced tourers too ? featuring the intuitive Zoom+ transceiver to find your friend, a 240cm aluminium probe to pinpoint them, and the super lightweight Badgar shovel to dig them out.
The Zoom transceiver uses an incredibly simple design that’s very easy to use, while still being capable of identifying multiple avalanche victims. Plus, if you?re on the receiving end, it uses Smart Antenna technology to choose the best of three transmitters to suit its position within the avalanche.
We can?t stress enough how important this stuff is, so if you?re looking for a competitively-priced starter pack, from one of the world’s most respected mountain safety brands, then the Zoom+ Rescue Kit should be a real contender.
Obviously, you’ll need somewhere to keep your shovel and probe, but if you want to go one step further and try and prevent yourself from being buried in the unfortunate event of an avalanche, then you might want to consider the Ortovox Ascent 30 Avabag Backpack.
This bad boy is really the Rolls Royce of backpacks, or perhaps the Volvo, depending on how you look at it. On the surface, it’s a high-end lightweight touring backpack, with all the bells and whistles that you?d expect. You get a spacious main compartment, which zips all the way round for quick access. A separate compartment looks after your emergency kit, and you can attach your skis, ice axe and other essentials to the outside with ease.
But when you look below the surface, it’s clear the Ascent is much more than just a top-of-the-range touring backpack, thanks to the Avabag system. Avabag is a gas-propelled airbag system that’s stored in a special compartment in the top of the bag and operated by a rip-cord on the shoulder strap. If you?re caught in a slide, just pull the cord and the airbag deploys. Giving you a bigger surface area and added float, the airbag should keep you higher up within the avalanche ? either preventing you from being buried or leaving it easier for you to be uncovered by the rescue team.
Even with the airbag system and gas canister, the entire backpack only weighs-in around 2kg, so it’s an unbelievably light yet durable backpack. The Ascent 30 is the biggest in the range, but there are 22 and 28 litre versions available if you?re looking for something a little more streamlined. They?re certainly not cheap, but if it ends up saving your life you’ll be more than happy you paid a little extra.
For the splitboarder
It’s been about for 20 years and in that time it’s become an icon in the world of snowboarding ? having been seen underneath the feet of some true legends in the sport. Burton have made variations on the original Custom design to suit almost every niche going, and now it gets the touring treatment.
Using quite a traditional mix of pure-pop camber, directional shape and symmetrical twin flex, it’s a big hit with lovers of the Custom’s tried and tested formula. It’s also not as uncompromisingly stiff as some of the splitboard options out there in the market today, so it rides with a playful pop that makes it fun and versatile.
Burton’s splitboard system is an absolute doddle to deconstruct and reassemble, and with their channel puck binding system it’s quick and easy to set up and make stance adjustments on the fly.
The Arc is now in its second year and proving to be Spark R&D’s most popular splitboard binding. Coming in at just 1362g per pair for a medium, it’s the strength and durability that you get in such a lightweight frame that impresses. The baseplate has been machined down so that every last ounce of excess material is removed, but the binding still remains feature-packed.
It’s super-quick and easy to switch from riding to touring position ? sliding in sideways and clipping into place without the need for any tools or hassle. Once in touring mode the simple single climbing wire design gives you the choice of two boot angles for added comfort when things get steep.
Buckles, straps and pads are all built to last, while the comfortable medium-flex highback has tool-free forward lean adjustment that’ll swing all the way back to -13° for easy climbing. For us, the simplicity of Spark’s bindings make them the best in the business.
For the ski tourer
The V-Werks BMT, standing for Big Mountain Touring, is like a streamlined version of the popular Katana ski. Volkl really aren?t messing about with this ski ? they’ve chucked about every bit of tech they can think of into it ? and that’s reflected in the price. But for your money you get a serious piece of kit, and one of the finest backcountry touring weapons available today.
A dense ash core underfoot gives way to Paulownia in the tip and tail for unbelievable lightweight strength and pop. The ski uses a 3D construction technique too, with a strengthening ridge down the middle tapering away to the edge, removing as much of the bulk of the ski as possible without compromising on rigidity where you need it. The result is a big, serious ski that weighs-in at just 1.74kg.
The full-rocker shape, carbon wrap and long turning radius mean it’s a floaty but stiff, hard-charging ski ? ideal for blasting through powder, chop and crud on the way down. Whilst the low weight and snow-shedding hydrophobic top sheet will make it an easy climb back to the top.
Volkl have been making skis since 1923 ? that’s the year nineteen twenty-three. Not a million miles away from a hundred years ago! They’ve taken everything they’ve learnt in that time and put it into this ski, so that next time you commit to a big day out in the mountains, you can be absolutely certain that it’ll perform at the highest level.
The Dynafit Beast series was created for hard-charging freeriders who needed a binding that they could skin to the top in, but would stand up to the greater forces involved in skiing the most technical lines ? with all the steep chutes, jumps and drops that come along with that.
Following the critical acclaim they received for the Beast 16, Dynafit decided to introduce the world to the Beast’s little brother ? the Beast 14.
The Beast 14 is still a beast, just not quite as much of a beast as big brother. So unless you?re competing in the Freeride World Tour or racing Eric Hjorleifsen in the BC Backcountry, it should be more than enough binding for you.
The aim is to give you all the elements of the 16 that made it an award-winner, but in a lightweight package that’ll suit smaller riders or mere mortals who don?t require such colossal DIN settings or over-engineered design
Another top-of-the-line offering that takes weight-saving to the next level, the Beast 14 is designed to give you the functionality and climbing performance that you?d expect from Dynafit, without making any compromises on the descent. It should really give you the performance of a high-end alpine binding, with all the frame-less underfoot flex that you?d want ? something that’s rare in the world of tech bindings.
It’s important to remember that the one drawback with the Beast is that you won?t get an entirely flat touring stance, so this might not be the binding for you if you have to tour through long flat sections of terrain. But if you?re looking for a binding that will go everywhere and do it all, the Beast is a force to be reckoned with.
The Superguide is one hell of a touring boot. Building on the success of boots like the popular Cosmos 2, Scott has added carbon fibre inserts to the Superguide, to give an unreal level of precision and energy transfer.
While it might not be lighter than some comparable boots on the market, it uses that carbon fibre to give improved torsional stiffness while keeping weight down. The result is a really high performance, almost alpine-style boot, with the light weight and range of ankle movement to match the best of its touring competitors.
In ski mode, along with the exceptional torsional stiffness you get from the carbon inserts, the boot has a nice progressive ankle flex. Open it up into walk mode and without even loosening the top buckles you still have a huge range of walking movement. With the ankle buckles loosened too, it’s amazing ? a joy to hike and skin-up in.
It’s built to suit a mid to wide foot shape, with a Gore Tex inner liner that should help to keep you warm and dry in most conditions. And outside you?re all set up with a full-length Vibram rubber sole, for ultimate grip when you?re out of your bindings.
The Superguide is a king among touring boots and should definitely be on your Christmas list.