The major hurdle for northbound thru-hikers on the CDT pivots on snow levels in Southern Colorado. This is a major point of stress, and rightly so. Stories of thigh-deep post-holing for miles (a veritable swimming pool of spring snow) may sound sweet if you are a skier, but as a backpacker intent on making it to Canada before NEW snow falls on THOSE mountains, anything that slows your pace down to 1 mile an hour deserves the panic. Just ask anyone intent on heading out on the CDT what their snow plan is, and see the wild look that comes into their eyes. It’s a real fear.
Since moving to Bend, and taking up several new outdoor sports, backcountry touring has been one of the most enjoyable ways Kirk and I spend time outside. We’re not talking about skiing sick lines off of Broken Top or South Sister, but traveling long distances over snow. Really, it’s backpacking…in winter.
So Kirk and I got to thinking after hearing our friend’s horror stories (or lack there-of because they skipped around the heavy snow sections) about these “spring skiing” conditions on the CDT. Spring skiing is some of the best skiing out there! The snow pack is relatively stable, the air warm, the sky blue, and the snow slushy in the mornings, icy at night. I feel pretty comfortable in those conditions.
And then Kirk, ever the searcher of cool experiences and amazing adventures, commented that he had seen shoe bindings made for polar expeditions that would probably work if I wanted to ski some of Colorado. What!!?!
OF COURSE I WANT TO TRY THAT.
Needless to say I liked his idea, and we decided that some old Atomic Rainier metal-edge touring skis that he had were light, and would work well for the job.
So now to make the binding.
Now please don’t think I’m any sort of McGyver type here. This is all Kirk. I would still be in snowshoes if it wasn’t for this man. He can make anything, and I think we are a pretty damn good team.
Things came together over the past 4 months. Some of that time was spent sitting on the couch talking about the idea of how great these would be if they worked, but for practicality, I was eager to try them, could this really work?
Cut to this weekend.
Kirk finished up the bindings on Saturday and mounted them on the Atomics. We headed to Dutchman Sno Park for another amazingly clear “spring” day in Central Oregon.
All in all a great first run. We started to ski into some more varied terrain, but after falling a few times it sunk in: I was not in my plastic touring boots, I was in low-top trail shoes (no ankle support). I think these shoes will be perfect if I have a deep snowy section of less than a week. If it happens that there is a blizzard Armageddon in Colorado between now and June, and I think I’ll need the skis more than a week or two, I would get high-top hiking boots instead for the extra ankle support. That, however, is unlikely.
And here’s a short video I put together of the ski.