Women’s Gear, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly… installment 4 (sorry for the delay, blame the Snowmageddon)
So, as some of you may know, Crested Butte has just surfaced from what we here fondly call a Snowmageddon. A Snowmageddon is when NOAA literally states that you will be receiving “epic” amounts of snow. In the last few days it has snowed 52 inches, bringing us to a whopping 169 inches for the season so far. This is big for us here, don’t make fun if you live in Utah or Alaska. Needless to say, I was skiing a lot and did not have the time or the desire to update this blog. At long last, however, here is the fourth installment of our Women’s gear review by me, about my uber radical skis that I love when it snows and snows and doesn’t stop snowing!
There is one item that has changed my skiing more than anything else, and that is the Armada JJ. This is a rockered ski with regular camber under foot. The camber is important because even though the ski is 115mm at the waist, I am still able to carve up a storm (this is important to me as a former racer). The rocker is key not only for pow runs but also for faster mogul runs because I can pop over multiple moguls, which takes less time and energy in a competition than skiing each one. The JJ also helped me overcome my fear of longer skis. I am 5’2” tall and weigh about 120lbs. I can use the 175cm JJ easily. A longer ski is a bigger platform for landings and for balance in general. Thank you so much ski industry! Now on to my next battle…body armor that fits.
When I Alpine ski, I torture myself with Lange Freeride 110 boots, probably two sizes too small… but what’s a girl to do when she wants unsurpassed control in steep falling-is-not-an-option terrain?! The Langes are cold, tight and narrow, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I tele in the Scarpa T2x: great boot for going uphill and downhill. I wore them for a six day hut trip and was warm, comfortable, and able to rip narrow couloirs with precision in every turn. One thing that aggravates me about women’s ski gear is the pants. I’m young and want a modern fit to my pants without sacrificing function. It seems that really “good” ski pants, you know, waterproof and durable, are made for my grandmother. I.E., the waist comes up to your ribs. And there’s never enough pockets! I’m not talking about lipstick and compacts either… when you’re ripping the mountain and don’t carry a backpack, where can you put your Platypus, chapstick, sunscreen, PB and J, ski pass, and mouthguard??
What I like about my gear is it is made for me, for my height, my weight, and the way I ski. My skis are light, my bindings flex well and my boots are flexible enough for me to move. I like the fact that companies like 22 Design make a binding that is exactly like the guys binding, except with less springs to flex. I ski on a guys ski so what can I say, I like the stiff flex of my skis, I don’t want a limp noodle under my feet. The only thing I would change about my gear is my boots, they are little things that pack out fast and aren’t very durable. They don’t offer a lot of support and after just one season I had already worn a hole in the bellows of both of my boots. If I could change anything about my gear I would just make aspects of it more durable and sturdy like Flylow Gear pants and jackets that are made for girls but are just as warm and durable as any guys clothes you could get, they don’t rip or tear easily and also look very cute. Also while there are a ton of guys boots and guys bindings and guys skis, especially in the telemark world, there are about half as many options for girls. Just because we’re girls doesn’t mean we have to settle for less.
For women of the Freeride persuasion, gear is a constant issue. Our sports are in a constant state of flux from a development standpoint. The bar is continuing to rise in terms of what female athletes are capable of, but the gear we need in order to keep progressing has not always been available to us. In the last few years, however, more and more companies have been making an effort to listen to their female consumers, and we are all thankful for that. We all have our own needs when it comes to gear and one of the best ways to put together an ensemble that works is to read reviews and then make an informed decision. The trouble is that not enough women test the right kind of gear, which is why our team of female Freeride athletes have put together our initial thoughts on the gear we have used or would like to use and how it has affected us. We will be posting our thoughts in installments, so stay tuned this week!
The Armada JJ’s are my new ski for this year and I love them. They are playful, sturdy at speed, and solid when landing jumps. A ski is nothing without a good pair of boots, however, and last year I bought a pair of Head Raptors. I chose Head because they are designed for people with a wide last (last is the widest part of your foot). I have custom foot beds and have had work done to the shell to make them fit a little better. No matter what boot you choose, make sure that you have a foot bed that supports your arch. Boots normally aren’t perfect out of the box so don’t be shy about spending a couple extra bucks to get them to fit your foot the way they should. A challenge for me is finding pants that have features I desire. Drop seats make going to the bathroom easy in the backcountry and vents on the inside of the leg are also necessary so that swamp ass is not a concern. Finally, when buying a jacket, I want big cuffs with good Velcro to easily secure mittens in place. I also want a jacket that covers my butt to help keep out snow and keep it warm!
A weekend with my boyfriend’s dad and step mom is never the most appealing way to spend my time, especially on Thanksgiving. We seem to have made it a ritual though, and this year I suggested we go down to Durango, instead of everyone trying to squeeze into our dilapidated shack we call home. Gravy from a jar? Sweet potatoes from a can? Bean casserole with olives? Yuck. At least Boyfriend’s dad is a skier, so ski we did.
Thanksgiving day we ventured up to Molas Pass and some mellow backcountry. The avy forecast had been high and considerable due to new snow and winds… and I have never heard this much whumphing in my life. We didn’t ski any slope higher than a 25 degree angle, but every pitch up and down gave us prominent collapsing, whumphing, and an eerie feeling usually reserved for much steeper, technical missions. It seemed that we had more skinning than skiing that day, but it was in preparation for the three pies being served up that night…
Friday was opening day at Purgatory and it was sick! Crested Butte’s opening day was a powder day, but things don’t get too exciting on green groomers… Purgatory’s opening was way better! The only thing open was steep blue runs with two feet of powder! Fun little airs, newly forming moguls, and tree skiing made our day! It was great to be able to get the skis off the snow for one of the first times this season and build up a little confidence on some 5-footers. Stoked for more!
We ventured to some more backcountry around Silverton on Saturday, as the avy hazard dropped to moderate. We picked a long tree run from unnamed 12551′ peak and skinning up through the trees. I led the skin track the whole way, and was pretty proud that I kept my pace throughout because I usually get slow as my mind and eyes tend to wander to the gnarlier peaks around. (The dog beat me to the top, like usual.) We still a little skeptical of the snowpack and as Boyfriend dropped in to ski cut the treed slope, the whole thing settled about two feet. Very Unsettling, yet we decided to continue down and play it safe. We found that though the snow was almost thigh deep in places, it was also very unsupportive. We found a few powdery gullies to surf in and some rocks to ski across at the bottom! The goofy dog get so excited to “ski” she cries until it’s her turn, at which point she bombs down the hill getting faceshots, seemingly about to go head over tail and tumble though the snow! Fun, safe ski… but won’t want to be on that terrain when it gets loaded with more snow.
Sunday we went to Wolf Creek. I’d never been there, but having heard that it gets the most snow out of all the Colorado resorts, was pretty stoked. A free AT and tele demo was also enticing. I started off in my torture boots… I mean alpine gear… only to have frozen toes after one run. It probably didn’t get above zero degrees that day and was nuking snow! I thought I’d demo a pair of BD AT boots, partially because of my interest in them and partially because they were in a warm truck all morning and my boots were like ice cubes. Bad idea. The instep was so short in the boots that my circulation was cut off almost immediately, though I managed to get through two runs. I then gave up and switched to my tele gear. With warm toes (thank god for flexy toed tele boots) and my own familiar skis, I thought of a lesson I’ve learned many times before: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. No need to demo new gear all day when all I along I already owned the best gear for me. I headed back out to meet Boyfriend and his dad and the rest of the afternoon was a blast! Tree skiing, deep powder, and hardly any other people in sight! Boyfriend’s dad left early to head back to Durango, but we kept on ripping and finally had the opportunity to chill after the weekend of canned gravy and parents. We just made the last chair ride of the day and finished it off with a stellar pow run, untracked, steep, and deep! I’ll definitely head back to Wolf Creek again, but sure was glad to sleep in my own bed and make my own food after Thanksgiving weekend. 🙂