Sunday, February 15, 2009

More Tour for Your Labor

Rando Racing/Backcountry Training Nexus–climbing faster means more turns!

Just last week I went for a tour up in Grand Teton Nat’l Park. We headed up one of the most accessible tours, Pt 9975, otherwise known as “25 Short”. It hadn’t snowed for a week here in Jackson Hole so the skin track was beaten in, but it still took us 6 hours to do the 4 Miles and ~3000’ of skinning to the top. The descent was a 40-degree shot into Avalanche Canyon called the Turkey Chute. The down is always faster than the up and true to form, it took us 45 minutes to get back to the car. 6 hours up and 45 down is not the sort of ratio that makes backcountry skiing sound fun or enjoyable, unless you really enjoy the up. Also, when you get a dry spell like this, you want to be able to tour in further to more remote slopes and shots that haven’t been tracked up yet. So how do you get more out of your tour?

The people to ask are the backcountry skiers who go all out to bust uphill as fast as humanly possible: ski-mountaineering racers. In broad strokes, the lessons they have for the rest of us (without going as far as carbon-fiber boots, toothpick skis, spandex, and anorexia that would make a sport-climber jealous)…

  1. Lighten up. Marker Dukes, Volkl Katanas, and your downhill boots = 24 lbs! That doesn't make for a very efficient touring setup. You don’t have to go to Scarpa F1 Carbon Race boots, ATK race bindings, and BD Cult skis (setup weight: 8.5 lbs), but you can go the middle road:

K2 Coomba ski, Garmont Radium, Dynafit Vertical ST =14 lbs :)

This setup will handle 90% of conditions in the backcountry and work just fine the other 10%.

  1. Get regular. A dedication to fitness is not just a good lifestyle choice, but keeping a regular regimen (45 mins a day 3 times a week outside of the weekend tours) has a huge benefit for your fitness level. You don’t have to train for a marathon, just get regular about exercise and your body will come to see physical effort as a part of life, not a weekends-only torture session that it just has to barely make it through.
  2. Put in some practice. Getting a few speed skills dialed will also greatly increase speed and efficiency on tour. Speed up transitions. Improve your skinning technique. Plan ahead to reduce stopping. Learn about skin track strategy and route planning. The same as you do beacon practice, work on transitioning faster, making more efficient skin tracks, and moving with exigency.