August 14, 2008

Fix the Heel and Free the Mind!

Dr. Snow tells me, "Fix the heel and fix the problem". Just what I want to hear. The ravine crossing in flat light left me half buried on the far bank of the ditch. Even with snow plugged ears, I could hear the fixed heel Dr. Snow offer his opinion.

Thanks, Doc. I always thought it was, Free the heel and free the mind. So, another free-minded free-heeler succumbed to the fixed heel allure for the back country.

Back country skiing for this two planker meant a free heeled sinusoid for many, many years. Going both ways, riding the lifts and skinning the switchbacks, meant fixed heel alpine power for the mechanized lifts and free heel telemarking for the self-powered backcountry. But, with today's alpine touring gear, why?

Still, free-heeling is the right tool for the right application, such as the skateski trails, long-approach trips, and point A-to-B tours, even with some steeps thrown in. But for putting in backcountry laps, this old timer telemarker had to admit that fixing the heel does fix some problems.

Weight is not a problem for modern fixed heel systems. Fact: my fixed heel alpine touring set up is lighter than my telemark set up. Now, I'm not talking Bishop Bomber on megawide skis (& skins) with knee high, super stiff, duck-billed "telemark" boots. We're talking backcountry set ups for dawn-to-dusk laps. That's right: Scarpa T2/BD O2/Atomic 10ex (2003-2005 vintage) is a heavier set up than Scarpa Spirit 3/Dynafit Vertical ST/Atomic Snoop Daddies (2008). Plus, the AT set-up has a more powerful descent capability. And, the near-frictionless ascending pivot with the Dynafit allows more efficient (lower effort) ascents.

More efficient ascent, more powerful descent. Why not?

So, my backcountry friends, another telehead has converted.

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