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#129257 - 02/21/10 03:16 PM A beginning winter trip
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
This post starts with the analysis of a friend and his gear. My buddy makes about one stab per year at winter camping and has been at it for about 5 years. He lives in southern California and goes to the Sierras around 7,000 to 8,000 feet and comes up from sealevel and hes about 145 pounds. We spent a long time on the phone last night talking about his last trip and planning his next trip.

If you only go out once a year and come up from sea level, you won't be able to drag a sled, carry a pack and telemark. You won't have the strength, muscle memory, or endurance. My friend pulled a home made sled, the problem is that they flip over wasting precious energy constantly righting them. His summer pack is too small for winter gear, and his telemark gear with plastic boots demolished his feet. His winter navigation skills even with a GPS were inadequate when everything is covered with snow and the ski trail may not go where the topo trail does.

First off he should try really hard to find someone to go with to share the weight of a winter tent (8 lbs), and to share responsibility for route finding. Secondly he should get some softer ski boots that won't trash his feet because he will not be telemarking with a sled anyway; he will be more concerned with getting to camp unexhausted from altitude without falling a lot. Thirdly he should abandon the sled, and rent a backpack at least 5,000 cubic inches in size, mine is 6,500", and lastly he needs to reappraise his gear.

Skiing with more than 30 lbs is not easy or fun, especially if you're not a frequent skier. In the winter you must be concerned with keeping warm, well fed, hydrated, and little else. So pour out the contents of your backpack and throw away your summer gear list. Assuming that you are going into an area where 10 above F is a reasonable expectation, you do need a -50 degree coat, what you will need is thick (1") insulated pants and a medium down coat with a hood, a fleece jacket and long underwear. You ski in the long underwear an fleece and have water and wind proof shells along. When you get to camp you cease being aerobic and you put on your thick pants and down coat and warmer pair of gloves.

You will want reasonable insulation under you at night, not 3 pounds of pads, maybe a big agnes and a thin foam full length pad under it, and a 15 degree sleeping bag. Take a real winter stove, not alcohol, and a pan, at least a liter in size, a wind screen and maybe a shovel although I no longer carry one. You will sit on the foam pad around camp, as you melt snow etc. Melting snow will take up a lot of time, stir constantly and never add too much snow at a time, and always start with some liquid water..

You simply do not need and cannot take the misc stuff that even light weight campers take during good weather. You should be able to go alone with an 8 lb tent, camera, GPS, food, fuel, water, winter stove, warm clothes, first aid, toilet paper, flashlight, spare socks, balaclava and maybe booties and still be under 30 pounds, a weight that can be picked up and skied with without having to drag a sled.

Do not take a 6 ounce down jacket or thin fleece pants and a deep winter coat. An even thickness of insulation over your body will keep you the warmest and remember if the blood getting to your feet is cold because your legs were inadequately insulated your feet will get really cold, hurt, and send you running home to (insert your favorite soothing thing/person).
Jim smile
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#129275 - 02/21/10 10:15 PM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: Jimshaw]
thecook Offline


Registered: 10/03/08
Posts: 541
Loc: Minnesota
Jim, don't dismiss sleds quite so fast. They work really well under certain conditions. They don't work so well if you have to go sideways on hills. They don't work so well if you have a narrow, twisty trail. They work really, really well if you are traveling over mostly flat ground like a frozen lake. They work well even for significant hills if you have wide trails. Even at 30 lbs or under, I'd rather have a properly packed sled for those conditions than a pack. I can go much farther with less exertion. Keep the weight low and centered and the sled won't tip.
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If I wouldn't eat it at home, why would I want to eat it on the trail?

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#129283 - 02/22/10 12:14 AM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: thecook]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Cook said
"Jim, don't dismiss sleds quite so fast. They work really well under certain conditions. They don't work so well if you have to go sideways on hills. They don't work so well if you have a narrow, twisty trail. They work really, really well if you are traveling over mostly flat ground like a frozen lake. They work well even for significant hills if you have wide trails. Even at 30 lbs or under, I'd rather have a properly packed sled for those conditions than a pack. I can go much farther with less exertion. Keep the weight low and centered and the sled won't tip."

My friend and I ski camp in the mountains of the west, which was clearly stated. I was completely diss'd by the trekkers group to even write about mountain ski camping with a light weight pack. Why do you northern flatland sled campers travel on frozen water and level snow? Because its the only way you can get into the back country and you are limited to those frozen highways. Did you ever try draging your sled cross country up and down hills? No - because it wouldn't work and would take too much energy. Your method works in your area, it is not universally applicable. Did you ever try to drag your sled through deep fresh snow? Carrying a lightweight pack on skis gives you the ability to get into where you want, and to get back out, regardless of the snow conditions. I have dragged sleds and dragged sled wearing a pack, and skiing with a light pack allows you to "ski" rather than being a draft animal. On snowshoes it is also different.

So the methods you use in Minnesota are not really too useful in the western mountains where we NEVER travel on frozen water. We also do not use hot tents.
Jim



Edited by Jimshaw (02/22/10 01:05 AM)
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#129320 - 02/22/10 02:18 PM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: Jimshaw]
thecook Offline


Registered: 10/03/08
Posts: 541
Loc: Minnesota
Easy there Jim. I'm not one of the trekkers group who diss'ed you. I know you have a method of winter camping that works really well for you in your local. I'd love to be able to come visit you some winter and learn from you because you have experiences and knowledge I don't. However, I have dragged a sled up and down hills and would happily do it again. High mountains can mean flat open areas with many easy slopes. Yes, there are places that are a real pain to drag a sled. There are places that are a real pain to ski too. HYOH
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If I wouldn't eat it at home, why would I want to eat it on the trail?

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#129345 - 02/22/10 06:22 PM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: thecook]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
That's me that Jim is talking about.

As he said, I just came back from a short trip with my sled and it was not a pleasant experience. The sled kept flipping over and each time I had to unbuckle everything, take my skis off and right the thing. It worked okay on the wide, flat road at Glacier Point the past couple of years, but this time, I was in much more hilly territory and higher altitude.

How well the sled does depends on the sled-mine was a small kid's sled. I just gave it away to friends with a kid. Maybe something like a Paris Expedition would have worked better since that sled has a flat bottom. Jim has an old Mountainsmith that we used in Yosemite a few years ago.

I like the sled idea, but now I know it is really dependent on flat ground or wide trails with no side angle to cause rollovers. I will still consider a sled for future trips, depending on where they are, but not that sled and not that place (Mt. San Jacinto, above Palm Springs).

The other problems I had were fairly accurately laid out by Jim, but at the same time, in spite of my equipment problems and the fact I was alone, I wasn't really in any danger because I had plenty of gear, fuel and food to last me a long time, if I had gotten stuck somewhere. I was more annoyed than anything else. My gear package was the same one I have used in Yosemite for 4 years and it worked fine there. The advantage I had in Yosemite was knowing where I was (no GPS needed) and flatter terrain. The boot problem is really an issue. Not sure what the solution to that is at the moment.

The thing that everyone could learn from my little escapade is that as long as you have enough of everything, even multiple problems like I had can be managed. I wasn't cold, was out in stellar weather and could easily have done another few nights if need be since I had originally planned to be out a few more days.

One point I disagree on with Jim-I don't go anywhere into the backcountry in winter without my shovel. If there is snow on the ground, my shovel comes with me, always, no exceptions. I needed it and used it on this trip, just like I did last year and the year before. I have a Voile Mini and it is one of better gear investments I have made.

As Yogi Berra supposedly said, "In theory, theory and practice are the same, in practice, they aren't."


Edited by TomD (02/22/10 06:53 PM)
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#129352 - 02/22/10 08:47 PM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: TomD]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Cook,
I'm sorry I got so upset. Friends? blush As you say - where its hard and level sleds save carrying the weight on your back, but they do slow you down. If you go light, it takes less energy to carry it than to dreg it. I took my mountainsmith sled up glacier point "road" with Tom D, but I made him pull it on his snowshoes. goodjob

Tom,
Since your Yosemite trips have been on the Glacier Point road... As soon as you get off "road" it ain't level too much. You were OK in San Jacintha because you had plenty of everything, but you were not "at one with the snow" because you had too much and it was having to deal with all that stuff and the sled that was the main problem.

I no longer carry a shovel because I go alone mostly and it would be hard to dig my self out with it, and the only other thing I would use it for is to level a snow platform and I don't dig a platform, I stomp a platform on top of the snow. Any leveling can be done with a ski or a boot. Since my shovel is plastic and weighs 24 ounces it stays at home. At first it seemed wrong to leave it out, but like many new ideas that you try, they seem wrong till you see that they work just as well.
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#129357 - 02/23/10 02:08 AM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: Jimshaw]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Different philosophy-I go alone and carry my shovel because for me it's the best way to cut a platform into a hill, especially in hard snow like I had at Mt. San Jacinto. I used it last year to dig out my tent after fairly heavy snowfalls in Yosemite. I can stomp out a platform with skis in soft snow, but the shovel works a lot better in hard stuff.
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#129359 - 02/23/10 06:17 AM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: TomD]
DTape Offline
member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 654
Loc: Upstate NY
I don't bring a shovel, but that is about where my similarities with Jim end. In the winter (adirondacks) I have a pulk, hammock and alcohol stove. They all work for me because I have the experience to know how to use them. I have in the past used a tent, I now choose the hammock. In the past I have carried everything on my back, I now use a pulk when I can. I completely disagree with Jim that it uses more energy to pull a sled than carry the weight on ones back. Yes, I do go light. I guess my whole pointy is that there isn't a right way, it depends on the individual and their experience and what they intend on doing. It isn't the gear you carry on your back (or sled) that matters as much as what you carry between your ears.
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#129373 - 02/23/10 01:31 PM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: DTape]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
In my experience, it doesn't take more energy to pull a sled on flat ground or slight rolling hills. Where it becomes a problem is when it gets steeper and off angle where the sled can flip over or slide sideways. If I had a different sled that would have made a difference as well.
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#129377 - 02/23/10 04:16 PM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: TomD]
thecook Offline


Registered: 10/03/08
Posts: 541
Loc: Minnesota
No problems, Jim. We're all passionate about what we love.

Tom - Hope you had a good trip despite the problems. Yes, the Paris expedition sled works well. With terrain that is not flat, it works best if you have a tight link between you and the sled. Any slack and the darn thing keeps jerking at your hips.
_________________________
If I wouldn't eat it at home, why would I want to eat it on the trail?

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#129379 - 02/23/10 05:58 PM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: thecook]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Cook, My setup used pvc poles from the sled to my waistbelt, clipped with biners. One thing I found was the sled sliding sideways and causing problems. If I use one again, I'm going to put runners on it, a brake of some kind and maybe fins. I've got pictures of a setup like that done on a sled like my old one by someone who used to post here.

I may ditch the sled altogether, but that would entail spending a bunch of money on new gear-particularly a new pack, sleeping bag and shelter.
_________________________
Don't get me started, you know how I get.

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#129389 - 02/23/10 07:26 PM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: DTape]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Guys
There are certainly a lot of good ways to get from point A to point B. smile The trouble is there are an equal number of bad ways. mad I happen to have a really good pulk, Tom D doesn't. I was very frustrated trying to drag crummy sleds in the past and though I have a nice pulk, I like the freedom of a light pack on my back, maybe because I travel mostly off trail over hill and dale and like find places where I can actually ski with my gear on my back. I am also very at home off trail in snow, and I am powerful enough to climb/ski/trudge through most ski conditions. Tom D is not a big guy, doesn't have a great deal of practice and doesn't have really good winter gear. I think exhaustion and too much gear are his real enemies. A good pulk is not cheap, but they can be rented, and since mine has 12,000 cubic inches, I can put anything in it. Only I went from a crummy sled to a nice pulk (which I still use with other people especially beginners who don't have special gear - Tom D pulled my pulk in Yosemite) and from there to a 45 pound pack which I kept working on until now my winter ski pack is around 25 pounds. Its not heavy enough for me to justify the extra energy of dragging it in a sled off trail, and once I was way the heck in when we got a deep fluffy snow and dragging it was like pulling a sea anchor behind me. Tom needs a manageable load that he can get in and out of the wilderness with without trashing himself. He abandoned the last trip because the sled/gear combination didn't work too well and exhausted him so much that he didn't even feel like pitching his tent.

Us experienced guys each have a method that we prefer that works great for us, but it doesn't help Tom for you and me to get to heavy into the advanced nuances when what we have is a guy whose gear is just not fine tuned for his own purposes. My intent was to suggest one method of improving his chances of success, based on my knowledge of the gear he has and his physical limitations. Coming from sea level once a year to drag an inefficient sled hasn't been fun for him..
Jim
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These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#129406 - 02/24/10 12:02 AM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: TomD]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada

Tom I always put a runner on my plastic sleds. otherwise you simply cant deal with them on any kind of side slope.

I find about 6-8 inches of aluminum angle iron put on each side at the bottom work pretty good. just get a couple washers and round head bolts and bolt it onto the bottom on each side near the rear of the sled on each side so you end up with about a 1 inch runner that will cut into the snow a bit and keep it from going sideways.
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#129420 - 02/24/10 02:41 AM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: phat]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Phat, That's what I planned to do, but never got around to it. Now I'm rethinking my whole gear package. I know what I want

I have to disagree with Jim to a certain extent. My gear is fine, it's getting it to my campsite that's the problem. Once I am there, no problem. This last trip was a bungle, but it was a confluence of small problems that added up to the point where I just gave up. Could have been worse, I suppose.

btw, I don't recommend doing what I do to anyone without some winter chops, or a rescue beacon.
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Don't get me started, you know how I get.

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#129433 - 02/24/10 10:45 AM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: TomD]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2123
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
In our small group, we go out all year round. A third winter trip is planned now into the Yosemite area, two weeks ago, a few went to the Mariposa Grove area, still a drive from down south. Navi who lives down south, did make the NY's Eve trip. We are a Yahoo group, NorthCA Hiking. Lots and lots of experience or stories in our group. Ages range from mid 20's or so to the mid 60's. We all get along and mix very well.

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#129459 - 02/24/10 04:48 PM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: TomD]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Tom D
if you think your gear is fine and you want to sled, why am I trying to get you to change? smile Go for it. There are a lot of people who here who drag sleds and they can most likely help you more than I can. I'm a light weight winter ski camper - essentially winter UL if you will and I hate dragging sleds, but I'm also a lot more accomplished skier than you. HYOH. smile
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#129477 - 02/24/10 09:37 PM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: Jimshaw]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada

I sled because I'm *NOT* an accomplished skiier smile snowshoes usually for me.
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Any fool can be uncomfortable...
My 3 season gear list
Winter list.
Browse my pictures


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#129480 - 02/24/10 10:13 PM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: phat]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
phat
I hate snowshoes almost as much as sleds. In fact I'v decided to get rid of my sled altogether since the last two times I took it, it was for someone else to use and I haven't used it myself for ten years. I'm researching down coats, mine is 30 years old and weighs 25 ounces and is stuffed with 550 down. I think I may trade my super groovisoid original mountainsmith pulk with harness and telescoping aluminum poles for an 800 down event coat with a hood. My pulk has a cordura cover with a zipper down the middle.
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#129483 - 02/24/10 11:12 PM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: TomD]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2123
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Winter chops? Are you talking about better false teeth or leather mittens?:) As my grandfather in Minnesota called them, choppers.

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#129491 - 02/25/10 01:45 AM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: TomD]
Paul Offline
member

Registered: 09/30/02
Posts: 778
Loc: California
Originally Posted By TomD
The boot problem is really an issue. Not sure what the solution to that is at the moment.


Tom, If you can elaborate on your boot problem we might be able to help. If I recall correctly from your posts here and on Ttips,you have Excursions, right? Are they the thermo-molded version?

So what was the issue?

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#129544 - 02/26/10 02:22 AM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: Paul]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Jim, as said, my gear is fine, it's just getting it there that is the problem. I may change my whole setup for next winter if I can swing it-new bag, new tent, bigger pack. I would like to go lighter, just have to figure out what to leave behind. I'm not really disagreeing with you about the sled, but for what I have now, pulling a sled seems the only way to carry my gear.

Paul, I have G-Fit thermoliners which I had cooked at a local ski shop. The problem is that the liners are really tight, but I got really bad toe bang on both feet. The TTippers thought they were too big, but I just don't know. Maybe I didn't have the boots cranked down enough to prevent my foot from moving around. However, if I crank them down, they really pinch my feet. I may switch to an Alpina or Rossi soft boot.
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#129578 - 02/26/10 03:57 PM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: TomD]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Tom
I always recommend the softest lightest ski boot that is warm enough and rigid enough to drive your ski where you want to go. Since you do not telemark and have a boot designed to drive a tele ski through the rough, it just about has to be too rigid to be comfortable for normal cross country skiing. I wore my teleskis on one trip to Yosemite, turned around and skied back to the truck and changed boots, never wore em again. Fortunately I bought them on sale. Its like trying to walk in downhill boots - not designed for that.
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#129599 - 02/26/10 07:03 PM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: TomD]
Paul Offline
member

Registered: 09/30/02
Posts: 778
Loc: California
Tom - Was the shop you got them cooked at a regular alpine ski shop or a place the sells telemark gear? I ask because a shop that doesn't deal in tele gear may not have much experience in fitting backcountry ski boots - which you want to fit differently than a downhill boot. I have excursions, and I have feet that are hard to fit, and I got a great fit at the Marmot store in Berkeley, where they sell lots of tele gear. I have not only toured lots of miles in my excursions, but I've had to walk quite a few miles on dry ground as well, going to and from the trailhead and the skiable snow, and I never have a problem. The guy that did mine spent a lot of time building up a toecap so I had the right amount of space up there, and generally put a lot of work into it. It may be that your foot just isn't a Garmont foot, as they say, but it might be that you got a bad molding job. It has certainly happened before. I don't know whether there are any tele-specific shops in your area. A query on Ttips would be useful in that regard. You can definitely re-mold a few times with those liners, so if that is the issue then there is hope in that direction.
If you can get a good mold job, you won't have to crank down tight to keep things from moving around - to me that's a sign that the fit isn't right. Whether you can correct that with a re-mold is a question that only an expereinced tele boot fitter can answer for you.
One thing is for sure - light boots, heavy boots, in between - if they don't fit (and can't be molded to fit) they are the wrong boots.

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#129601 - 02/26/10 07:34 PM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: Paul]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Paul, Thanks for the insight. I had them done at an alpine shop. No one in LA sells tele gear. I'd have to drive to Mammoth or maybe San Diego to find a tele shop. The guy who fit them did use the toe cap like you're supposed to do.

I tried it myself after watching Mitch's video on TTips, but couldn't do it right on my own. I have plenty of room in the shell without the liner, maybe too much, I'm not sure. My feet measure 26.0 and 25.5 without a sock; the liners are 26. Maybe they are a half size too small. Any shorter and my toes would be jammed into the front of the boot. The shell is 25-26.5

Because no one in LA sells tele gear, everything I get is online and it's hit and miss on fit, not the ideal situation. I also tried a pair of T3's and Crispis. The Crispis were too big a boot for my skis and the T3's didn't fit right either.


Edited by TomD (02/26/10 07:37 PM)
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#129835 - 03/01/10 10:41 PM Re: A beginning winter trip [Re: TomD]
Paul Offline
member

Registered: 09/30/02
Posts: 778
Loc: California
Tom - Here's my experience getting boots that fit - maybe you can glean something useful from it. I started out looking to replace some old Asolo Glissades whose sole had peeled off. Looked at the NNN-BC boots: felt that they would be about like what I had had before, maybe a little less beefy. I wanted more beef, not less. Looked at a couple of Karhu 3-pin boots - Convert and Sirius, I think - found them to have a sole a little less stiff than what I had before, with uppers maybe stiffer, and the fit was not good - too high-volume for my low-volume foot (wide but flat is my affliction, and my toes are shorter than normal, which tends to confuse inexperienced boot fitters). Pretty much decided to go for the lightest plastic boots. So I went to Marmot. They had bot the Scarpa T3 and the Excursion, the two lightest. The scarpa was a little narrow for me in the forefoot, and just didn't feel right. The Garmont felt like it could work if this thermo-molding thing was for real - in other words, out of the box it would not have been right, but it wasn't way off. As I said earlier, the guy there worked hard to prep them. I'll try to describe the assembly: First, he built a custom toe cap, using a standard one as a starting point and building it up with some other stuff - moleskin, I think. Then he picked out a thin sock, and we put my orthotic inside the sock against my bare foot, and I think this was taped together so things would stay put when I stuck my foot into the liners: then he heated the liners, and stuck them into the shell, my feet went in, the boots were buckled, I stood with the toes of the boots propped up slightly so they would mold with the toes flexed a little, and I had to keep my knees bent a little as well while the magic happened. It all felt rather strange, and not really comfortable until the process was complete and I could get the whole build-up off and try them on with just a pair of socks. Seemed pretty good - definitely a change from the out-of the box fit. And time has shown that the fit is very good. I have plenty of room for my toes and a snug fit everywhere else, and my heels are held down really well.
I don't know how this compares with your experience of having your boots molded: if it's significantly different then maybe that is useful info. I also heard from the guy there that most people can't fit both Scarpa and Garmont - it's usually one or the other.
From my perspective, having had poorly fitting boots before, I would say it would be worth it to drive to Mammoth (or there may be shop in Bishop that knows their stuff) just to get a good fit. It just makes so much difference. Besides, once you're up there you've got great places to ski - or hike if you go in the summer.

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