I escaped Edmonton for an early start to the Family Day weekend on Thursday evening and headed out to the slopes in the Rockies aboard my new Telemarking gear with my brothers. I’ve just acquired some Black-Diamond Seeker boots, and am skiing on a pair of Rossignol S2 with Target Ascent bindings. The skis are 92mm underfoot and 180cm long, that’s shorter than every pair I’ve skied on since the days when I was bombing around on a pair of straight cut K2s back in early Junior High. It’s also wider than I’ve ever skied on before. So, I was undertaking only my third and fourth days of telemarking but also learning to ski on vastly different equipment than I have skied on previously.
I felt like a really good understanding of how snow moved underfoot was one of the things that helped me make the transition from alpine to telemark but then throwing in the curveball of skis that behaved differently was a pretty big challenge. I felt like I had an ace-in-the-hole with my many years of alpine skiing but now it wasn’t all so useful when what I did know well wasn’t directly relevant. My first few runs at Kicking Horse were a serious challenge, those skis just move so much snow it’s outrageous. Cruising through settled powder and soft-pack was tough, there’s a lot of ski to steer with, but there’s also a ton of ski to push back at you when you let your feet forget who is boss. It was another learning curve to climb but I handled it OK. The snow conditions were fantastic in terms of coverage (and accessibility to all sorts of fun terrain) but they weren’t terribly conducive to learning on nice even snow, everything was choppy and so skiing required an immense measure of brute force and some serious strength to push the skis through all sorts of lumps and bumps. I’m a bit lost on whether or not these are great skis or they’re just good skis. Switching to tele-skiing from alpine and then immediately trying to pass judgement on the second pair of skis after only four days of skiing in just two sets of snow conditions each with different equipment doesn’t make me very knowledgeable regarding which factors affect which issues. I think they’re good, they might be great.
The S2 is designed for a combination of powder and park, meaning they’re a reasonably flexy ski. That may contribute a bit to how much I feel like these skis can scoop snow, as they can really smear out choppy snow like a giant spatula if you’re strong and brave enough. I do however find that the extra flex really helps you set a solid corner, especially when you weight them well, creating the requisite reverse camber to carve a turn in softpack comes naturally. One disadvantage of the lower stiffness in these skis arises when you try to set a turn on hardpack, groomer or icy patches, they will give a bit more than you might want and so they aren’t terribly conducive to maintaining even pressure along a long edge while maintaining speed. I can go really fast on these skis but as soon as I start needing to navigate I feel like I have to sacrifice more speed than I normally would to make the changes in direction when compared with my experience on the various Rossignol racing sticks that I spent the last decade+ of my life schussing around on.
The boots are great and I’m happy I increased the amount of support from the Scarpa T2 boots I was trialling back in January. The higher cut combined with the ratchet-wire cinch-system make for a lot more stable and supportive structure and especially when cruising through all sorts of chop and needing to apply loads of force out through your feet this is a really valuable thing to have. I do think that the extra control can make it a bit easier to be a bit sloppy with turning, as the low tele-stance isn’t as required for the average turn. The amount of “walk-mode” in these boots when the forward lean is switched off is amazing. That proved particularly useful for our two bootpacks up into Superbowl at Kicking Horse where we skied from both Terminator Peak and from the T2 ridge. From what I can tell from two days of skiing these boots are really fantastic pieces of equipment. You’ll have to pay a pretty penny for them, but so far they are on their way to making themselves worth the price.
These Ascent bindings have a higher mount than I had trialled before which I don’t really think is problematic, but it’s different, there’s that extra cm of height that you have with your center of gravity so when you’re trying to get down and push hard on that turn it means you have to lunge a cm lower. That adds up pretty quick with a few dozen hard clutch turns being required each run. Stretching that out over a full day of skiing adds up fast as I’m the type of skier who is going to try and ski as much as I can between the moment the lifts open and the moment they close. The extra height in the binding also creates a bit more lever arm meaning more torque is applied to your knees, hips and ankles to apply the same amounts of force to the edges of your skis. When that’s combined with the tough and variable snow, this extra lunging makes for some serious aching and soreness. I haven’t had an opportunity to test out the free pivot mode on these skis as we were just skiing in-bounds. From what I can tell from the tests in the living room, it works great but I’ll not pass complete judgement and make recommendations for or against until I’ve used them out in the wild.
I got a bit of follow-cam footage from Saturday afternoon under blue sky at Lake Louise. It’s not very challenging terrain compared to where we spent most of the day skiing but without a go-pro the filming options for those parts of the day aren’t available.