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Colin

Ultra-light descent skis / "firn-cruisers" ?

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I'm looking to put together an ultralight ski descent setup to use with mountaineering boots.

 

For the skis, I'm thinking 100cm, although maybe even 80 or 90. Probably I'll need to buy a pair of Hagan's over in Europe (can you buy them in the US?), but are there other options available? I think the shortest TRAB skis are 157cm.

 

More importantly, I'm looking for binding suggestions.

 

The old-style Emery bindings are perfect for this application:

http://www.wildsnow.com/backcountry-ski-museum/emery-chrono/emery-chrono-ski-binding.html

 

But I don't know how to find them. Anyone have an old pair they want to sell?

 

Another option would be a binding setup with no tour mode, and no release capabilities. It would basically just be a wire toe bail and a wire heel lever, like on a step-in crampon. Certainly "snow-blade" bindings are similar to this, but all the ones I've seen are actually quite heavy. Anyone know of a super simple, light, binding system like this?

 

Thanks!

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I've got some silvretta 404s I could be talked into selling. They work fine with mountaineering boots.

 

I'm not sure about skis. In the old days I had a pair of 120s, but that was at a time when everybody had that length AT skis. These days the bindings are on really old Volkl 190 that are heavy ;)

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Unfortunately, the Silvretta 404's are much too heavy for this application. I already have a pair of Silvretta 500's, which are lighter than the 404's, but I consider those to also be too heavy for this use.

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It sounds like you know about snow blades. Searching for "ski blade" or "snow blade" on the web should get you some hits. Also search for Kneissel Big Foot skis. These little skis have simple non-hinged and non-releasable bindings, which I think would be fine if you're looking for shorty skis for descents only. But as you mentioned, some of these bindings aren't light. You have to look around.

 

I have a pair of figls with some really light step-in bindings made by Salewa. They're nearly 20 years old, so I don't know if you could find anything like them today. I'm reluctant to part with them, so I'm not offering them for sale. Here's a picture:

 

figls.jpg

 

As for skis, be aware that short does not equal light. Trabs are incredibly light skis even though they're not as short as you may want. I don't know how heavy a short pair of Hagen's would be, but they may be heavier than Trabs. But then again, if you're thinking of non-releasable bindings, short is important, so you're less likely to generate leg-breaking forces in a crash.

 

Here's a picture of some 130cm Kastle firn skis mounted with Ramer bindings. Unfortunately these skis are so heavy that they weigh as much as my standard 175cm touring skis. They are nice and compact though. I skied the SW route on Mt Buckner on these skis in 1999.

 

firn-skis.jpg

 

I seem to remember some interesting looking non-releasable bindings at Marmot Mountain Works in Bellevue. They weren't super sturdy as I recall, but they might be worth a look.

 

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I once knew a guy who made his own non releasable bindings out of the front and rear bails of an old pair of crampons and some wood blocks. Looked a lot like the bindings in Lowell's first pic. They seemed to work fine.

 

Better yet with an old pair of semi-automatic AL crampons a hacksaw a grinding wheel and a decent drill bit I bet you could whip up a very light lowprofile binding in no time.

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Lowell, those figl's look almost ideal, especially the bindings. Are you able to adjust the length on those Salewa bindings to accomodate different size boots?

 

Yeah, I know that Hagan's aren't especially light for their length, but as you say, short is important. Anything longer than 100cm is a serious nuisance on your backpack when climbing hard pitches. These short skis are all over the place in the Alps, but hard to come by over here.

 

By the way, Lowell, why have you marked these skis right and left? Did you mount the bindings a bit to the side to make edging in your climbing boots easier (on the inside edge of your outside ski)?

 

Darin, that's not a bad idea, and perhaps what I'll end up doing. The hardest part I think would be to make them adjustable for different size boots (for example work with a pair of Baturas, but also with a pair of Spantiks), but maybe not too difficult.

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Lowell, those figl's look almost ideal, especially the bindings. Are you able to adjust the length on those Salewa bindings to accomodate different size boots?

 

Yes, the toe wire has two positions. The heel lever has three different positions (where it can be screwed into the base plate). The heel lever also has a fine adjustment screw the tightens the cable a little.

 

Yeah, I know that Hagan's aren't especially light for their length, but as you say, short is important. Anything longer than 100cm is a serious nuisance on your backpack when climbing hard pitches. These short skis are all over the place in the Alps, but hard to come by over here.

 

Yeah, my shorty skis were acquired on trips to Europe several years ago.

 

By the way, Lowell, why have you marked these skis right and left? Did you mount the bindings a bit to the side to make edging in your climbing boots easier (on the inside edge of your outside ski)?

 

Historical. The first mountain boots that I used with Ramer bindings had a very minimal toe notch. (This was when step-in crampons were just beginning to appear and plastic boot manufacturers hadn't fully designed for them yet.) I had to make homemade toe wires to fit precisely on my boots. Because of this, I had right and left skis. As the boots evolved, I didn't have to do this anymore. But some toe wires are a bit asymmetrical, so I've always marked my skis to indicate the best fit.

 

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Also search for Kneissel Big Foot skis. These little skis have simple non-hinged and non-releasable bindings, which I think would be fine if you're looking for shorty skis for descents only. But as you mentioned, some of these bindings aren't light. You have to look around.

 

 

There is a pair of those little ski's hanging on the wall as you go into the "Bargain Basement" at Next Adventure in Portland.

 

While they do not look like they are "for sale", you never know. :crazy:

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I have a pair of figls with some really light step-in bindings made by Salewa. They're nearly 20 years old, so I don't know if you could find anything like them today.

 

Similar are still sold in Austria. Most have non releasable snowboard type plate bindings. ~100-200 euro at the shops in Innsbruck - I can try and dig up whichever ones; I remember the small light ones being an off brand I'd never heard of.

 

The Hagan Nanook is 1390g pair with bindings.

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Hugh, when you say they have have "non-releasable snowboard-type bindings," do you mean step-in (hard boot) snowboard bindings, or strap-on (soft boot) snowboard bindings? The strap bindings are too heavy and bulky, and I imagine would have too much lateral slop for use on skis.

 

When you say you can try to dig them up, do you mean that you have a pair?

 

I'd really like to find a pair of Figl-type skis (like in Lowell's photo), so if you remember any brand names or other info that might be helpful to find them, please let me know!

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My Rossignol Free Trek Ventures are 2800g/pair, it looks like a Swiss company took over the ski: http://www.stc-swiss.ch/ Obviously quite a bit more than the Hagans though, although it seems like a very similar ski.

 

I also have a pair of 130 cm skis with some old Salewa tour bindings on them (releasable) but those are a bit over 3000g/pair.

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Hugh, when you say they have have "non-releasable snowboard-type bindings," do you mean step-in (hard boot) snowboard bindings, or strap-on (soft boot) snowboard bindings? The strap bindings are too heavy and bulky, and I imagine would have too much lateral slop for use on skis.

 

Hard boot type snowboard bindings. very similar to Lowells model if not identical.One of them was this "figl" model from www.Kohla.at I think (picture of one with embedded below):

1164886777_0.jpg

I don't own a pair - I'm trying to find the information it might be a little bit I'm in Kyrgystan atm and don't have access to my notes or the internet often.

 

 

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Colin, a guy I ski with is a machinist and could CNC parts out of aluminum and/or plastic if you wanted to make your own binding. He could make something like the Salewas, probably would just need to jack some parts from some old step-in crampons.

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My setup:

 

3976904679_c8d9f6365e.jpg

 

90cm snowblades with Stubai universal bindings. Very light and portable. Total cost: Snowblades $40 (slightly used) + Stubais bindings $65 (slightly used) + custom cut skins from a raw strip $40 + ski crampons $60 + heel lifters $20 + free crampon straps from the REI basement.

 

Some things I've learned about them:

 

 

They're wonderful for spring conditions where big flotation isn't an issue. Love these things.

With skins, they climb as steeply as any other ski.

Ski crampons only come so wide. If you want them as an option (obviously very useful), don't get too wide a ski. It's a flotation vs ability to crampon thing/wt thing.

With skis this short, stability/flexibility of the binding doesn't matter all that much. These Stubais are about as noodly as it gets, but they still work fine, even in avi debris. Standard ski mountaineering bindings would be huge overkill and, as has been mentioned, pointlessly heavy.

Snowblades are so thin that you must 'clamp' the bindings on the ski by countersinking through the ski base and using pancake nuts (available at ski shops), followed by a petex job. Even if the petex comes out of the countersink, you won't really feel the difference...these aren't exactly high performance skis anyway. You can try epoxied threaded inserts and to leave the bases intact if you wish...that system lasted exactly one run for me before the binding screw pulled out and I switched to the aforementioned system.

 

I'm making my own custom universal bindings from some Rivas for a higher flotation, winter pair (the Stubais aren't exactly easy to get). We'll see how that works out.

Edited by tvashtarkatena

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Are these skis for the descent? I suggest the lightest weight plastic garbage bag over your sleeping mat. Sledding is the new hardcore. Imagine going down some steep shiza in Cham on a sled.

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I'm pretty sure production is discontinued, but Prolite appears to have recently gotten some Hagan Nanook's. First I've seen them in the US, shame about the discontinuation.

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Kneisel makes a ski colled "Curvo" in 1m and 1.2m. I use them with Fritchi bindings, as they accept climbing boots. The main thin is you want heat molded (intuition or richle) liners in your plastics, so you can actually ski. I can ski up to about 45 degrees in them

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You might also consider Hagan Off Limits 130cms

 

http://store.haganskiusa.com/products/Hagan-Off-Limits-AT-ski.html

 

dealer talking on them

 

A quick google shows a pair on ebay with BC bindings, skins and crampons, I may bid on those myself.

 

I have the Hagan Nanooks they're pretty limited use, I think you'll need something larger, there's always the scouts too but those are getting almost as big as a regular ski.

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