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post #1 of (permalink) Old 09-20-2011, 01:58 AM Thread Starter
High on the Mountain Top
 
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Default How to start AT Skiing?

I'm considering learning how to do Alpine Touring skiing this winter and I am looking for some practical advice/reasonable expectations. In return, I will quit ruining your skin tracks with my snowshoes [}] (I do try to avoid them....)

I do a lot of snowshoeing (so assume I will have all the basic winter clothes/avy gear) but I have basically no skiing experience of any kind (not even resort skiing.) My goal is simply to use skis instead of snowshoes to get from point A to point B and back (especially when point B is higher than point A.) I'd consider it to be a successful first season if I was able to use skis to get to the Elfin Lakes hut and back.

A few questions:
- What is the easiest way to learn? Should I jump straight to AT backcountry skiing or spend some time at a resort (using resort rental gear) first?

- I priced out the gear at MEC (skis, bindings, boots, skins, helmet, goggles) and it looks like it will be about $2,000. Does that sound about right? As a result, I'll probably try to start with used gear and may even stick to rentals. If I only buy once piece of new gear, what should it be? I'm guessing it's boots.

- I know it varies a lot, but what can I expect for a learning curve? Will I be having fun after a day or two of falling over or is it going to take the entire season to figure it out?

And finally..
Is there any non-obvious protective equipment that I should buy or likely novice injuries that I should be aware of? As an example, I've done some snowboarding and I would never take someone out snowboarding for the first time unless they were wearing wrist guards. I did that once and it ended with a trip to the hospital.

Thanks in advance for any pointers.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 09-20-2011, 05:24 AM
Hittin' the Trails
 
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I would recommend spending some time on ski lessons at the resort. You will get a lot more out of the backcountry, and be safer, once you learn to ski well. Once you can ski pisted blue runs at the resort start learning to ski the non pisted snow and in the trees. Build up your millage, start skiing blacks and gain experience in skiing different conditions. Then head for the backcountry.

$2,000 is about right for a set of new gear. Starting with boots is a good first step.

Learning with lessons at a resort you should be having fun from the get go and be able to ski blue runs within a few lessons. I would then spend most of your first season building up technique and experience in different snow conditions at the resort. Skiing Elfin Lakes and back is a good goal for your first backcountry trip.

No non-obvious protective gear I can think of for skiing. Note, I rarely wear a helmet in the backcountry but I always wear one at the resort. In my experience other people are a much bigger risk than natural hazards.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 09-20-2011, 05:54 AM
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Skiing for me is a source of great fun and tremendous frustration. I find the skills curve to be very non-linear with a steep section at the beginning, and then increasing at a decreasing rate. This means I made great strides early on, and now, not so much.

It's about practice. The more time on skis, the better. The more time going down, the better. So, that is why the resort is the best learning tool. Use the lift to your advantage. You can ski on your own, there is no time spent evaluating avalanche hazard, and for most novices, a weekend at a resort is probably more vertical than a whole season of backcountry skiing.

The first purchase you make should be boots. Boots are the hardest rental bit of kit and poor boots are the #1 reason people wash out. Well fitted boots are worth the money x10.

^^^ on helmets. I never ski the resort without one. A few years back I got smoked by a boarder at KHMR and I've worn a lid since. I too rarely wear one in the backcountry, but occasionally if skiing trees I might.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 09-20-2011, 06:23 AM
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If you are only going to start with one item, then definately boots. I'll echo what has been said, if you have never skied then start in a resort. You will not be able to do anything resembling skiing if you head right for the back country....infact you might totally wreck in to a tree, taked a MCL blowing twisting fall etc etc.

It takes ALOT of miles to get truely good at it....years and years. Hell even some people that have been skiing for years still can't ski worth a crap. It all about days out and if you are only doing it a few times a year then expect many years to get decent. So shortening the learning curve is all about getting out.

As for helmets, some of the people I ski in the back country with wear them including myself...some times....if we are planning on shredding but not for extended trips where the skiing is easy. Actually I didn't start wearing one until I needed some thing to put my helmet cam on.

To spend that much on gear when you can't even ski makes no sense what so ever. Go used, and when you do buy don't go getting some big mountain hard charging skis.....stick to skis that are suitable to your ability level.

Seriously though, hit the resorts and get miles in. Look at the average back country snob that revels in "I never ski at a resort"...watch how they ski, typically it's not worth a shit.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 09-20-2011, 07:28 AM
Hittin' the Trails
 
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I will add my questions to the pot since i'm in the same boat as steventy. Looking at starting AT this year, however I have skied in the past, and skied well, accept I have been snowboarding for about 12 years instead.

I can get a good deal on some good ski gear, was thinking maybe Dynafit Manaslu or Black Diamond Stigma. Will proper AT skis such as these be too lightweight and soft for re-learning at the resort? I don't want to buy downhill skis then buy another pair of AT the following year so I was thinking just starting with good AT skis. But will they be good enough for learning on groomed runs?
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 09-20-2011, 07:36 AM
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quote:Originally posted by time2clmb



Hell even some people that have been skiing for years still can't ski worth a crap.
Hey, I resemble that remark!!
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 09-20-2011, 07:41 AM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by coryostertag


I can get a good deal on some good ski gear, was thinking maybe Dynafit Manaslu or Black Diamond Stigma. Will proper AT skis such as these be too lightweight and soft for re-learning at the resort? I don't want to buy downhill skis then buy another pair of AT the following year so I was thinking just starting with good AT skis. But will they be good enough for learning on groomed runs?
I'm not a great skier, so take my advice with a grain of salt. I use my AT rig at the resort. I do because I'm not hard on the gear, and I like to feel comfortable with my set-up, so I ski it as much as possible. If you're a hard and fast resort skier, AT gear will wear out faster than an alpine set-up.

Not directed at anyone...

It hasn't been mentioned yet, but for backcountry travelers, the most important skills are not related to skiing at all. It's about staying safe in avalanche terrain. I meet people in the bc that are on $3K worth of gear and have no clue as to what's going on around them. Don't be one of them...
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 09-20-2011, 07:56 AM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by coryostertag

I can get a good deal on some good ski gear, was thinking maybe Dynafit Manaslu or Black Diamond Stigma. Will proper AT skis such as these be too lightweight and soft for re-learning at the resort? I don't want to buy downhill skis then buy another pair of AT the following year so I was thinking just starting with good AT skis. But will they be good enough for learning on groomed runs?
You don't have to use an "AT" ski for AT skiing...it's marketing, although they are a bit lighter, and some such as K2 have some features such as tip and tail holes, but there are some very close weight skis out there that are not marketed as AT specific. Just get some thing you like skiing on and use that if the weight is reasonable and through some tech bindings on them. *Comments do not apply to alot of "resort" type skis though such as front side line ups.

If you go with uber light weight skis then expect them to deflect more and not be nearly as powerful when pissing around at a ski hill. Then again if you are at a low level then it won't matter much since you won't be trying to charge through crud either

As for your options, the Mansalu has more girth so I would expect it would float a bit better. Both options are still relatively narrow so both should carve ok for your needs.

The ski market is saturated with options, and no one is going to tell you what is best as best doesn't exist. It's all user preference. Try to figure out what you will be doing most of, pick some thing up that is good for that and that you like and get used to that ski. Spend time skiing them and after a long while you might start to steer towards your own personal preference.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 09-20-2011, 08:13 AM
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Whether you take lessons or not, definitely get yourself some kind of pass to a ski hill. Make chairlifts your friends.

I found last year that learning to AT ski in the backcountry is a little frustrating. You grind up a hill, then quickly swoosh down. At the bottom, you think about all the stuff you mucked up and wish you could go back and have a re-do. Only, it's too late in the day or you are too tired, so you go home.

The ski hill allows you to repeat downhill manoeuvers over and over again. It allows you to experiment, try different types of approaches. If you have trouble in the backcountry, you can try to duplicate the situation on the hill, over and over again until you improve.

I started out last year at Seymour. It's cheap. I ended up at Cypress, where I have a pass for the upcoming season. It has more runs, nicer lifts (mmmmm nice cushy seats with cushy seat backs), and more variety.

I can also vouch for the value of a helmut. Mine hasn't yet saved my life, but it did save me from a nasty headache.

I was skiing in an area with soft snow and icy patches. Going down a logging road in soft snow, I suddenly hit an icy patch I wasn't expecting. Down I went, smacking the side of my head on the hard stuff. Thanks to my helmut, just a little dazed and nothing more.

If you are skiing the backcountry, at some point you are going to do some tree skiing. As my little incident shows, even at slow speeds things can go south in a hurry. Best not to learn that lesson in an encounter with a large douglas fir.

Wear a helmut.
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 09-20-2011, 09:12 AM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by coryostertag

I will add my questions to the pot since i'm in the same boat as steventy. Looking at starting AT this year, however I have skied in the past, and skied well, accept I have been snowboarding for about 12 years instead.

I can get a good deal on some good ski gear, was thinking maybe Dynafit Manaslu or Black Diamond Stigma. Will proper AT skis such as these be too lightweight and soft for re-learning at the resort? I don't want to buy downhill skis then buy another pair of AT the following year so I was thinking just starting with good AT skis. But will they be good enough for learning on groomed runs?
A wide light ski will be fine for a beginner to intermediate skier, especially if you are sticking to groomed runs. The limitations of wide light skis only become a problem if you ski fast on the groomers, or in bumpy terrain where they will get thrown around a lot. I ski Karhu BC 100s (a wide light ski). They are fine in bounds on groomers (even at moderate speed) but have a hard time with chopped up powder or powder over an uneven surface.
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 09-20-2011, 09:48 AM
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I do a lot of snowshoeing (so assume I will have all the basic winter clothes/avy gear) but I have basically no skiing experience of any kind (not even resort skiing.) My goal is simply to use skis instead of snowshoes to get from point A to point B and back (especially when point B is higher than point A.) I'd consider it to be a successful first season if I was able to use skis to get to the Elfin Lakes hut and back.

That is how I started, a long time ago. With a bit of improvisation, skis can work just like snowshoes, except they handle much better when crossing steep slopes. There is almost nothing to learn about hiking up a trail on skis (apart from winter travel skills that you already have). I doubt you would have any trouble if you bought a set of skis and hiked into Elfin Hut the next day.

Descending on skis is a different matter, especially with an overnight pack. However I have taken lots of people into Elfin hut that had never skied before, and some that had never even hiked before - so it can be done. Mind you they didn't all have a great time and some don't talk to me anymore.

If you pick a weekday when there is lots of deep fresh snow, you can almost walk in, and walk out if you leave your skins on. If you go on a weekend when the trail is tracked out, rutted, and icy you will suffer no matter how good a skier you are. There are times when the Diamondhead trial is almost unskiable, even by expert skiers.

non-obvious protective equipment: safety straps (or brakes) for your skis. If your ski comes off up on Paul ridge, and the snow is crusted, you will never see it again.
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 09-20-2011, 11:01 AM
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The BD Stigma's are awesome. I have the women's version the Syncra, my partner has the Stigma. They are super light, but they handle everything really well. We skied them in deep light powder in the Wasatch and then went on to icy steep slopes in the Sierras and they skied everything well - yet are about as light as you can get a decent ski.

I'm not sure about Dynafit skis as my Seven Summits delaminated after one season - in a big way.
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 09-20-2011, 11:32 AM
Bry
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by Steventy
Is there any non-obvious protective equipment that I should buy or likely novice injuries that I should be aware of? As an example, I've done some snowboarding and I would never take someone out snowboarding for the first time unless they were wearing wrist guards. I did that once and it ended with a trip to the hospital.
Sounds like the early end of last year's snowboarding season for me! Except I think it was attempt #5 at riding for me... [B)]

Knee injuries are the big thing to be aware of with skiing. I found this a few years ago and thought it went over common causes/prevention fairly well:
http://www.vermontskisafety.com/kneefriendly.php

Also, I'd go for the resort + rentals + lessons combo. With lessons especially, I think you'll be having more fun and less pain right off the bat. But I haven't skied much for the last 5+ years and can safely be considered bad at it by now, so take that for what it's worth.
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 09-20-2011, 12:07 PM
High on the Mountain Top
 
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Maybe I'm pointing out the obvious here, but why aren't you both (Steventy and Coryostertag) considering a splitboard as opposed to AT skis? Especially considering you both have experience on a snowboard, and little to none on skis, I'd think that the decision would be an easy one.

Thanks to updated technology, lighter gear, the advent of Spark splitboard bindings (or Karakorams), the splitboard now acts just a good as a solid snowboard on the down and is virtually no different in skinning performance to AT skis. I usually ski in mixed groups of AT skiers and Splitboarders and often leave the AT skiers behind in the skin track. And I certainly have more fun on the downhill rides!

Splitboards are a blast in deep pow, but also seem to float better and ride more easily compared to skis in heavy coastal snow, breakable crust or icy conditions where I'm still enjoying the ride but my skier friends are complaining how tough it is to ski.

I'd say save yourselves a few years of agony and get into splitboarding instead!

Additionally, the gear is typically cheaper. You can likely put together a used splitboard with skins and hardware and spark splitboard bindings for $1000-1200 at most.

Check out www.splitboard.com for more info, ask some questions. Check out the splitboard swap for some used boards and stuff. Or pm me if you have any other questions.


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post #15 of (permalink) Old 09-20-2011, 12:33 PM
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Quote:
quote:and ride more easily compared to skis in heavy coastal snow, breakable crust or icy conditions where I'm still enjoying the ride but my skier friends are complaining how tough it is to ski.
Sounds like you need to ride with stronger skiers. Either that or they need to get off of those old granny 75 waist skis and get on some thing fat and rockered.
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