Breaking Crust

Last sunday, I used my alpine touring (AT) set up.

I know, I know, “Not Telemarking, Brook?” Though we were on a quest for wind blown powder resting in the leeward trees, I knew that we were going to have to turn on iced sastrugi, refrozen hardpack, and breaking crust. (Notice, I did not write, “breakable”).

I’m confidant that I can parallel a jump turn hard enough into crust to cause a turn to develop. But I’m not confidant on how to smack the crust enough to break it with my ┬átelemark turn. So, for safety’s sake, I elected to lock my heels down. Plus, my backcountry, telemark skis don’t hold an edge nearly as well as my front-side tele’s or my AT rig. The AT rig is, sadly, lighter than their telemark counterparts. I wanted to keep up with my fellow skiers. Lighter is always more energy efficient than heavier, yes?

Hence, my last minute decision to abandon my backcountry rig in favour of the AT gear. I’m thankful that I have choices.

On my second lap into Round Valley, I started to fall every couple of turns. “Am I that tired?” I even hit a tree (though with no consequences. I’m fine – not even a cut or scrape). Still, I soldiered down, laying a few series of linked S’s for my troubles. My friends took off up the hill, having waited for me. I put on my skins and started the climb out.

One of my skis immediately fell off. “OK, I know, I almost never ski this gear. I must have put it on wrong?” I’m not very skilled at getting the dynafit toes to click in.

My skill was not the problem. No matter what I did, try the other boot, manhandle the toe control, whatever, the binding toe was still loose on the boot. No forward, no backward, no up, no down. “Oh, no!”

I ended up boot packing all the way back up, carrying my skis (I wasn’t going to leave them behind!). In some places, waste deep powder. Generally, a 30┬░ slope. That 800 feet was a very long climb, I can tell you.

Once back on the ridge, my party, wonderful (far more AT experienced) folks, played with the binding, knocking out ice, cranking on the toe control until it worked again. Is that normal?

I’m used to tele gear. If your boot goes in or the 3 pins click, you’re good to go, whatever happens. My friend, Robin teased me a few times, “If you’d had skied your tele gear, this wouldn’t have happened.” Yep.

Which brings me to the point. Do you know how to ski the kind of crust that isn’t strong enough to support turning skis, but which isn’t friable, doesn’t break easily, either? If you do, please comment here for our benefit or email me. I don’t know how do make that turn.

If I figure it out, I promise to post a description of whatever seems to work.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *