Actually, I’m not sure if this is the perfect women’s touring setup because, well, I’m not a woman. But to find out, I employed the mother of my children—we’ll call her Jenelle—to help me. And she knows cause she’s been through every generation of painful, heavy backcountry ski equipment from bulbous binding applications like alpine trekkers (remember those monsters?) to early 2000’s Damirs (still beefy but getting there) to the newer, ultra-light versions from Dynafit. So she’s suffered and earned her right to an opinion.
Plus we wanted an adventure like the old days when we would hire planes to drop us off on New Zealand’s Tasman Glacier for hut trips or when we’d road trip from Boise to Banff to Bozeman (ah, nostalgia). Those days don’t come around as often as we’d like anymore (mainly cause we’re raising groms together). And not to sound cheesy, but when we do get out, it’s pretty epic. Cause we make sure the conditions are as close to pristine as possible. And we pawn our spawn off on the family. We disappear into the woods, then hit the nearest hot springs and follow it up with an evening at our favorite sushi spot. Call it a ‘date day.’
And the real moral of the story? You don’t have to get all gnarly to go in the backcountry. Or to enjoy it. There’s so many ridgelines in this world with incredible fall lines that are covered in trees with limited open exposure to allow for blower powder turns in a remote setting (i.e. nobody within 100 miles). We accessed one of our all-time favs for this test: south facing, only good when it’s storming. Next to zero exposure to open, extended terrain that’s dangerous. With a pitch that meanders perfectly between 37 and 27 degrees. Rippable in snow up to 24 inches (otherwise it’s too much snow). Admittedly, these safe places are like sacred surf breaks that no one talks about. Only difference is there’s thousands of crowd-less, undiscovered lines out there just waiting to be skinned.
So ladies, here’s a perfect set up to go find them with. Lead all of us brutes to glory.
Zelda 106 Tour1
DPS Skis are kind of like a Fletcher Chinourd, Hamish Graham or Tim Stamps surfboard: they’re built with care and thought, and often designed while experimenting with materials to improve performance. And I think that’s why the Zelda 106 in Tour 1 Carbon with a balsa core works so well as a touring ski. It’s super light (a couple pounds each with bindings). That svelte weight is as close as you can get to cross country skis, an incredible advantage in the backcountry when you’re shredding a ski designed to go down, but climbing with one that feels like it belongs on a flat, groomed skate track. The wide shovel and flex pattern are perfectly engineered for a relaxed, stylish turn. And that carbon flexes with fantastic pop—literally lifting the rider into said turn. Laying down massive carves in open pow is obviously incredibly easy as well.
This light construction is exceptional for touring, or riding the resort on a powder day. Ladies, if you are into grinding rails, pounding bumps or hitting hard-packed park kickers day in and day out, you might look at a more traditional ski that’s stiffer and heavier. But obviously, that’s a disclaimer. You won’t find a better—more well thought out—touring ski on the market.
Dynafit Chugach Softshell Windstopper, Pants
Dynafit’s Chugach Softshell Windstopper (along with the Chugach Pants) was one of my tester’s favorite parts of the package. Light, breathable and bright, it blocked the wind, and surprisingly, damp snow, as it was absolutely dumping all day (hence the bad light). Plus it’s a multi-use gem in the world of women’s outwear: touring the backcountry, skate- or cross-country skiing, or easily stuffable in a CamelBak for a bike ride in the spring, the Chugach is gold. Dynafit offers the Beast jacket for more intense conditions, like high alpine ascents or sitting through a big storm on a chairlift.
The Chugach Pants “are like wearing pajama pants.” Yeah, that was really said. And in an age where comfy yoga pants are now acceptable dinner attire for the female species, isn’t that one of the best compliments of all? These pants aren’t Goretex, so maybe on a chairlift you’d feel moisture on a damp day, but not in this technical situation for our tester. And the Chugach are techy, but in all the right ways: a minimal zipper in the pant leg allows for easy boot adjustments, a velcro do-hicky in the waste makes waste adjustment a cinch (even with belt loops). In short, these pants are form cut to the female body, but are still as functional as you’ll find.
Dynafit Beast Women’s Boot
Formerly known as the Khion, the Beast Women’s boot isn’t as beastly as they make it out. And it’s extremely versatile. The inserts were very comfortable, with a “form-fit” feel without having to have them heat molded to her feet at a ski shop (still, along with the new name, according to Dynafit, the brand is improving the liner for next year’s model and adding a power strap among other changes). Not sure if it needs much. If you’re in the backcountry, this extremely lightweight piece of gear allows for charging the gnar in most any conditions you run into, while still leaving one comfortable on the climb thanks to four different adjustment points on the boot.
TLT Radical ST 2.0 Binding
All right, we admit, Dynafit is totally scoring on this test but the gear is pretty spot on. The TLT Radical ST 2.0 speaks to that implicitly. You may need a quick tech. clinic to figure them out but the system is ingeniously engineered. Everything is controlled at the toe. Push the heel plate down and lock it in with a twist of the binding. Then lock your toe in by pushing the toe lever forward. Lift it up to lock it for climbing, then on the downhill lift it once more to activate the pivoting toe piece so your boot is releasable. Simple. Burly. Versatile. And hopefully, light as the powder you’ll be skiing.
Editor’s Note: Need climbing skins for your skis? Try here, or here. Stay tuned this week as we prep you for spring touring season with a split board review and a safety kit set up including pack, avalanche beacon and shovel. Winter isn’t going anywhere.