Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Is ski mountaineering race gear durable enough for everyday use?

In Europe, the answer is obvious, and is "yes". Easy enough with specialty shops that know what they are doing at the base of every mountain and at pricing cheaper than pro deal pricing for North Americans. I'm sure if any issues arise, it is not uncommon to be able to get problems solved at the beginning or end of the touring day.

In North America, you can spend a small fortune on your equipment: a significant premium over more readily available recreational backcountry ski gear. This stuff is not stocked in local shops (unless you live near or Cripple Creek Backcountry, etc...) so you are looking at at least a week downtime for replacement parts while you wait for your online shipment to come.

Titanium and aluminum wear faster than steel. Carbon is much more expensive than plastic, wood, and aluminum, and is layed up much thinner. Skis, poles, boot cables and boot levers have also been known to break during races.

I recently had the scary experience of breaking a toepiece while training a week before the race. I don't ski on my race gear as much as I should: my bindings were 4 years old, but probably not even 100 days on them. I'm glad I had access to a spare set of toe pieces lying around, I'm doubly glad I didn't break the toes while in no-fall terrain. The same toepiece is featured on the Dynafit Speed Superlight binding, a binding marketed more towards every day touring. I urge users of that binding to check them over regularly for cracks.

There are people out there using race boots and race bindings to shave weight off their everyday setups. Unless one is regularly going for fastest known times (FKT's) and speed records, the lack of durability does not make up for the weight savings to justify the safety risks and the cost.

If the goal is to improve your skiing by skiing on your race equipment more often, then I think it makes sense build up an inexpensive training setup: soft boots and short, narrow skis are easy to come by, and save the race setup for racing, and ironing out the kinks before racing.

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