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backcountry: custom carbon has arrived

By ccrossen | March 25, 2015

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Rarely, when trying something new, does it radically change perspective. But every so often elements align, and you tap into a pretty major shift. This season, I have been skiing a pair of custom made 106 Romp Skis, and they shattered my conceptions of what a backcountry ski should be. I have been researching small, custom-focued ski companies, and probably the most interesting aspect of their presence today is laying up carbon fiber. Recently the realm of the big ski makers (and still, as more and more larger ski companies introduce lightweight carbon  models), the small guys have gotten their hands on this material, and it is radically changing the way we will move in the mountains.


I have never been a huge fan of custom skis because, while you got a ski that was perhaps built to your specs and was somewhat better, the value wasn’t that discernible. I could go buy a factory model for half the price and not really notice much difference - so not really worth it. But now we have a radical change. You can get a custom ski that weighs significantly less than anything the factory guys offer, for a little more $. Now buying custom adds up, and it will really change your view of what a backcountry ski should be.


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Caleb at Romp Skis recently made a pair of his 106s. Here is a mid-fat ski (135-106-125) that weighs in at 3 pounds per ski. Most other big name manufacturer’s lightweight come in at 4 lbs or maybe a hair under 4 lbs. That’s almost a 2 lb difference per pair. Mount a lightweight Dynafit and you’re skiing a setup that can ski anything - corn, firm, crust, deep pow, steeps - without any real difficulty at all, and go for miles without really impacting your legs. A lot of people will say that 1-2 lbs doesn’t really matter, lose the weight from your frame, etc. But the effect of taking the weight from your skis (and boots) translates into a ton of energy saved in your quads and gluts from not lifting/sliding as much weight around. This savings, over thousands of steps a day can really add up, enabling you to ski longer each day and during the week. Perhaps a small group of people actually are worried about such things, but it makes a huge difference.


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From Romp on the 106:

The Romp Skis 106 will make those big turns you love in any terrain. The 106 is wide enough to cut through the crud but still fast enough edge to edge for those quick turns in the tight trees. This versatile shape works great in the backcountry and can be made lighter with our carbon option.


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When I discussed these skis, I was expecting to get a decent lightweight ski, primarily focused on powder. I spent about 30-45 minutes discussing my skiing style with Caleb, the skis I currently use, terrain, and conceptions of what the ideal ski should do. We went back and forth on various ideas. There are an ton of various options that Caleb helps you work through. I opted for traditional camber underfoot, 20cm early rise in the tip, their patrol tail, Medium-flex tip, Medium+ center, Medim- tail, paulownia core, carbon layout, list price $1250. 


I am 5′9″ and the ski length is shorter but great for backcountry, easy to whip around and get up on edge or planing quickly; if you’re taller/bigger, the 185 might be too small. The 106 in this configuration is an amazing one-quiver ski: enough rise and flex for a variety of powder conditions, and a very solid ski with a enough camber underfoot for powering through turns when need be. For the width, given the light weight, the ski is incredibly nimble, and you can basically place it anywhere you want to intiate or to adjust during the turn.


Here is the take-away: We have entered new territory. You can get a ski built for your style/body/terrain/range/snow that can tour forever, ski anything, and costs just a bit more than a mass-production model. And it’s way lighter. WAY lighter, almost a full pound lighter per ski, with similar dimensions.


Granted, $1250 is a lot of money to spend on a pair of skis… for most people it is a big stretch. Most people won’t spend this kind of coin. But they should. You can. Save up. It is actually worth it. The weight savings makes a huge difference in the ability to log vertical, log miles, to ski longer days, have way more fun, etc. I am surprised I am writing this, but it’s true. Do it, create a custom ski that’s going to excel the way you ski, and that you can put many thousands of vert in on a day, no problem.


I am going to have a really really hard time sending these back. I can’t fathom skiing on anything heavier, narrower, less responsive, and cookie cutter.


www.rompskis.com

Topics: Introduction | No Comments

cold snow

By ccrossen | February 24, 2015

Small storm coming this Friday into Saturday. Not much precip, but temps will be cold. We could see 4-6 at lake level and up to a foot above 8,000′. Should be cold and fluffy. Not much base to work with down low, but up high it should ski very well. Looks like we then remain dry until the second week of March.

Topics: Skiing, Tahoe Snow Report | No Comments

pineapple xpress

By ccrossen | February 3, 2015

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After a long, dry January - driest on record - we have a decent atmospheric river approaching Northern California. And while we need the rain, snow levels will be very high throughout the majority of the event, which begins Thursday evening and should last through Monday. Rain will be heavy at times and persist to 8-9000′ for most of the weekend…. There is a chance the storm track shifts somewhat south and we end up in a better, less warm position, but right now it’s looking like all rain, with maybe 24″ of heavy wet snow above 8000′. Sunday evening into Monday morning we may see snow levels lower to 7000 for a short period. A lot of variables and questions with this storm. We are relying upon a new GFS model, and it remains to be seen how this new model matches up to reality. The next two days should bring more clarity, but most likely nothing dramatic with regard to snow levels. Looks like this event is going to make a tricky season even trickier, but we’ll take the rain at least.


Aside from the lack of weather, the skiing has remained good, though a little extra effort is needed these days to access the backcountry, and some approaches and exits require a little bushwackery. The skiing has been remarkably good given the lack of snow down low and the burned out southern exposures. All in the name of fun, so we have what we have.


I have been working on a piece focused on small ski manufacturer’s approach to lighter weight backcountry setups, and should be coming out with some info and test-related stories soon… looking at www.rompskis.com out of Crested Butte, CO, and their new carbon layups that really bring the weight down in a custom ski that is surprisingly affordable for what you get.

stay tuned.

Topics: Introduction | No Comments

high and dry

By ccrossen | January 6, 2015

We are back into our June-uary, after a nice run of snow and very cold temps… the snow is still happening up high, a 40 inch base consolidated and very skiable, though definitely some work getting up to it…. the lower elevations, below 7500′ are still very very thin, and with the big warm up in temps, expect these areas to need a major reset soon. We are entering at least a 10-14 day dry spell, with maybe some activity starting up again for the weekend of the 17/18th… so settle in, get ready for some corn, exploring, hit the groomers, go bike and climb…

Topics: Skiing | No Comments

skiing update

By ccrossen | December 15, 2014

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Great skiing after our “big” storm… weather on the west side of the Crest was very impressive, with a lot more precipitation and snow than the East side. Up high, in the most-favored aspects and locations, we ended up with 24+ inches, and the skiing has been great up high. Approaches are still a bit of a scramble, but for those who venture high, the rewards are excellent. We have more snow this week, with 3-4 inches falling this morning to below lake level and a total up to 12+ inches on the Crest by the weekend, and perhaps some more this Sat and Sunday. Christmas week is looking dry.

Topics: Skiing, Tahoe Snow Report | No Comments

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