Winter OR 2018: Ski Gear

This article covers a hodge-podge of cool new ski touring / ski mountaineering related kit. From crampons to transceivers to gloves and shovels, Winter OR & Snow Show 2018 had a lot of eye candy for the skiers!

BCA Tracker S Transceiver:

BCA is adding to their transceiver line with the introduction of the new Tracker S. Basically a stripped down version of the Tracker 3 it doesn’t have a motion sensing auto-revert function (it does have an auto revert function though), fleet management capability or the ability to upgrade the software at home. On the flip side it still has the unique time limited signal suppression for multi-burial scenarios and the Big Picture mode of the Tracker 3 in a compact and lightweight package. A step up from the Tracker 2 but still limited in features and simple to use. Likely to be popular with Tracker 2 fans that are looking to replace their old units.

Black Diamond Guide & Recon BT Transceivers:

Black Diamond is coming out with a pair of avalanche transceivers under their own flag instead of using the Pieps name. These new devices will be called the Guide BT & Recon BT. The BT acronym stands for Bluetooth as the software that operates both models can be updated wirelessly. A feature that was introduced in the Pieps Micro a few years ago.

The Guide BT.

The Guide BT seems to be a rebranding of the Pieps DSP Pro with a few minor changes. Basically the Guide can be updated via Bluetooth but doesn’t have the frequency measurement function or self-checking reference antenna.

Recon BT.

The Recon BT is a little different as it’s not a rebranding of the Pieps DSP Sport. Instead the Recon is a simpler but more limited device with fewer features. It has no self-checking reference antenna, Digital Signal Processor, inclinometer, smart transmitter or continuous carrier mode, all of which are on included in the Sport. It also has a slightly smaller advertised range when compared to the DSP’s (50m instead of 60m). Of course it can be updated via Bluetooth making it easy to keep up-to-date. I expect that cost was a big motivator when developing the Recon and that BD wants to compete with companies like BCA which have very successful offerings on the budget end of the spectrum.

MSR Dynalock Ascent Poles:

MSR’s new Dynalock Ascent Poles are lightweight, adjustable and user-friendly. They utilize a quick deploy Z-folding design similar to Black Diamond but in a much more finessed package. Constructed with Kevlar-reinforced carbon fiber the poles should be durable, not just light-weight. The Dynalock name comes from a new adjustable locking system that can be tightened without requiring a screwdriver. The lock is even pointed in a backward direction and so it won’t inadvertently come open when skiing though brush and trees. A big issue with some locking systems.

The poles come in the two sizes, a small and large. The small poles are 37cm long when collapsed and range in length from 100cm to 120cm when extended. The large are 120 to 140cm long when extended. The lack of overlap in the extended length will make choosing between a small or large a bit difficult for anyone that likes a pole around 120cm long though. The collapsed length of 37cm is ideal for stashing the poles in a pack which will likely make them popular with split-boarders, climbers and ski-mountaineers.

The new Dynalock system allows the locking system to be tightened with out the use of tools.

Camp Ski Mountaineering Crampons:

Camp will be releasing a new line of ski mountaineering crampons this fall that includes 4 different models. The line has been designed specifically to address fit / compatibility issues associated with mounting crampons on ski touring or skimo boots with a new toe attachment system and modified heel. Of course weight was also a consideration in the design. When isn’t it! The line of aluminum crampons range from an ultra-light 290g to light-weight 475g depending on the model and options.

The lightest of the new crampons features a pin binding attachment system while the other three have a touring boot friendly heel bail.

The new toe system is being called the T-Stop. Basically a small T-shaped adjustable catch that grabs the front of the toe welt instead of using a metal wire bail. The main benefits are an increase in ski boot compatibility while making them easier to put on. Semi-Automatic toe bails are still available for boots without toe welts like the new Dynafit Hoji.

The heel bail on the new crampons has been modified with a shorter profile so that it won’t conflict with the walk/ski mode switch found on touring boots. This was accomplished by shortening the plastic bail and providing 3 height settings. The only crampon that doesn’t have this new bail design is the Total Race crampon which simply doesn’t have a heel bail as mentioned above.

A more traditional and longer/taller heel bail on the left compared to Camp’s new ski touring boot friendly heel bail on the right.

All four of the new bindings are available with the new T-Stop toe or semi-auto bails, are made of aluminum, have 10 points and come with anti-balling plates and a carrying case. The main differences between each are as follows:

  • Skimo Total Race: Dual-pin heel attachment system, length adjustment screw
  • Skimo Race: Short A/T compatible heel bail, length adjustment screw
  • Skimo Tour: Short A/T compatible heel bail, tool-free length adjustment bar
  • Skimo Tour: Short A/T compatible heel bail, tool-free length adjustment bar, Nanoflex steel front points

Now if you really want to lighten up the crampons Camp has made a Dynema® linking strap that replaces the steel linking bar and cuts down the weight by around 60-100g.

Dynafit Cramp-in Crampons:

Dynafit’s new Cramp-in system was definitely designed with the skimo race crowd in mind. However, they seem to have made all the Speed Nose (no front welt) touring boots compatible with this new system. Great for anyone that needs to shave a few more grams from the pack. So what is it? Basically any Dynafit boots with the right sole can be outfitted with a small catch at the toe (see below illustration). The toe piece on the Cramp-in crampons then hook into this catch and clip into place at the heel with a standard bail. A cool idea but they may be a bit finicky trying to put on when out in the mountains and the bar may be at risk of damage if scrambling around on rock.

An illustration of the toe catch that can be attached to the toe of a compatible Dynafit boot. Image courtesy of Dynafit.
The sole of the new Hoji Pro Tour with a section of rubber that can be removed for attaching the toe catch.

The Cramp-in crampons feature aluminum toe and heel pieces that are connected together with a pair of thin steel cables. Length adjustments can be made at the heel with the help of a screwdriver. The combination of no toe bail or linking bar have resulted in an uber-light 260g crampon. But if you’re really counting the grams it’s worth noting that the weight of the steel catch on the bottom of the boot isn’t included.

Elite Climb Sultro Avalanche Shovel:

This Kevlar-reinforced carbon fiber shovel from Elite Climb is an exercise in uber-light innovation. The elegantly simple design features a single-piece handle with a 50cm disconnected length giving the shovel a 70cm assembled length. There’s a stainless steel cutting edge on the 30x23cm shovel blade and it weighs in at 380g! The Sultro’s still a little ways from being available in stores however and a price hasn’t been set. I’m really hoping that a model with an extendable handle will be available eventually as well.

Hestra Army Leather Couloir Gloves:

Despite already having a fairly exhaustive selection of gloves available Hestra continues to introduce new and updated models annually.  One pair that really caught my eye at the show were the new Army Leather Couloir gloves. By marrying the extremely comfortable and dextrous Ergo Grip with the soft and popular Dobby Melange fabric this lightly insulated offering looks ideal for ski touring and summer mountaineering. The palms and fingers are made of a durable impregnated cowhide and goat leather. Hestra’s proprietary waterproof breathable Czone membrane is utilized over the back of the hand and fingers while the lining is made of a soft bushed polyester. The cuffs are elastic with a Velcro closure.