Riding high on AT gear | AspenTimes.com

Riding high on AT gear

For years, I’ve been a frustrated uphiller in the winter because I’ve been relegated to Stabilicers and limited to only hiking.

I recently went to Aspen Expeditions at Highlands to get myself set up with alpine touring (AT) gear so I can skin up and ski down. Aspen Expeditions is one of the valley’s top backcountry guide outfitters, and experts in gear.

I tried two different setups ” the G3 Viva ski with Dynafit TLT Vertical bindings, and the G3 Luscious ski with Fritschi Freeride Plus bindings. I used Garmont Radium AT boots on both setups.

Let me start by saying the boots are incredible. At 4 pounds, the Garmont Radiums are considered one of the lightest boots on the market. They are equally at home doing miles of uphill, as well as driving big skis down the hill. They are so comfortable and light I’d consider buying them just for alpine activities.

The G3 (Genuine Guide Gear) backcountry ski brand is known for its all-around performance. Both the Viva and the Luscious are newcomers to the ’08-09 lineup, and are designed specifically for women, including the killer graphics that us girls are naturally drawn to.

While the Viva is a lighter ski, I found more stability on the Luscious, which isn’t that much heavier that it prevented me from climbing efficiently. The same can be said for the bindings ” the Fritschi Freerides are a bit heavier than the Dynafits but I liked them better because of their functionality.

The Fritschi Freeride Plus is the benchmark binding in AT gear ” it’s the most popular and the most user-friendly for its step-in and go capability. The binding is compatible with regular alpine as well as dedicated AT boots.

Dynafit has designed an incredibly lightweight binding system. They literally weigh a fraction of other AT bindings. Dynafit bindings can make climbing tons easier, and are ideal for hours of uphill. It’s got a solid retention system for the way back down. They do require an extra step to switch from hike to ski mode, and clicking in can take some getting used to, but it’s a small price to pay for faster climbing and reduced effort.

Back to the skis, the Viva is softer than the Luscious, and is considered more of a backcountry ski. But I found that it rebounds back, turn after turn. Designed and flexed for a woman, the Viva has the necessary surface area for flotation and stability with a lively and reactive flex for dynamic turns. It’s a wide, fun ski for aggressive female skiers.

The Luscious is an all-mountain ski and in my mind, far superior to the Viva if you are ripping it up in-bounds. It’s got an asymmetric sidecut, making it nimble and agile like a narrower ski while offering the flotation and stability of a wide, big-mountain ski. It’s easy to engage, responsive and unflappable.

The skins I was set up with were the bomb ” the 63 Elle. They are the lightest skins on the market and woman-specific, meaning they are easier to pull apart and are again, graphically cool with bright colors. (Even a Highlands ski patroller was impressed with my setup, but not necessarily my skinning techniques).

Getting geared up with AT gear isn’t cheap, but it’s a great investment. Aspen Expeditions has full setups for sale and to demo. Renting a full package is $65 a day, and local deals are available. Retail prices are: Garmont Radium ski boots, $759.95; Fritschi Freeride Plus, $439.95; Dynafit TLT, $454.90; G3 Viva, $579.95; G3 Luscious, $589.95.

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