This past week I have had the good fortune to be able to get out and about on my touring skis .
Each day whilst I start out with minus degrees after about half an hour I am so warm that I am down to the short sleeved t shirt . My equipment is quite old compared to that used by the folks I have been meeting along the way . When I started to Telemark in 1996 I was using the soft shoe and the 3 pin locking arrangement . Whilst teaching on Kitzsteinhorn I bought another guys redundant telemark skis and later the boots when he replaced them also .
Telemarking started for me when I met a Norwegian guy who was doing all the on piste and off piste skiing that I was enjoying but with a great deal more panache . At that time I was also using a snowboard and whilst I still have three this is one discipline I have not used in recent years . Seeing a guy heading up the piste with a snowboard strapped to his pack has me considering whether I want to carry a board and the boots and make the change at the top for the 10 minute return journey . Since I need a little practice to get the snowboard technique nailed once more and having to carry telemark skis back down , I am somewhat reluctant to make the effort .
Wednesday on the climb I came across a lady , Linda who is a local school teacher , using a newer version of the ski bindings which I shall call generation 3 .
These bindings allow the wearer to have several size steps for the gradient but when you take the skins off , they lock up so that they are similar to normal bindings . When wearing “ skins ” on the skis you move the foot forward and the bristle of the “ skin ” grips the snow thus normally preventing any backward slippage . The effect is like when you stroke a cat’s fur , stroking with the grain is fine but as soon as you reverse the fur mats up .
My skis bindings are I guess generation 2 , in that they have a V shaped nose for the boot tip to slide into and a metal harness attached through a spring at the front that goes under the boot sole to the rear and then locks onto the back of the boot .
For the step I have cut out a block of wood , inserted a pin to slide into the front of the rear binding block and then I drop two nails through thus locking all in place . Thankfully I have yet to have the nails come out whilst the skis are in motion . One day I will further adapt this arrangement so that I can have a two stage step also . I know how I am going to be able to do this but finding the time to visit my friend’s workshop is the key to the solution .
Thursday I was able to walk up with another lady , Margaret , another local who enjoys ski Touring most days . Margaret has Generation 4 equipment . Last year she rented this equipment and found it more to her liking .
Essentially this is a dedicated boot and binding situation where the boot has indentations in the nose for the clips to lock fast and the rear has a multi purpose function allowing several steps as well as to lock the boot when you decide to use the skis for alpine skiing .
The great advantage of course is that the binding is more compact than even alpine ski bindings but to utilise this system means bindings and boots that cost in the range of a thousand euros . Those that enjoy the flexibility this system offers no doubt save a lot of energy with the lightness and ease of adjustment of the steps whilst on the trek .
Having to fit the wooden blocks at the start of a trek I am now finding that I can most times remove them at the top of the climb without having to unstrap from the skis . Most people are amused by my self built solution but then it cost little to make and serves the purpose required . My biggest problem with my equipment is that the boots are upwards of 20 years old and not being an exact fit tend to give the outside bone on the side of the foot a bit of grief after 3 hours or so of use . There are problems with the buckles also in that one of the toe ( front ) buckles has broken . Perhaps Gaumont might think they will gain favourable publicity by providing a replacement . Doubt that there would be any replacements in stock this stage of the game . Anyone with old boots with this style of buckle that can help out ?
After the climb today I took off across country in the “ Off Piste ” crossed a couple of roads following others' ski tracks and finished up at their home . Saw some tracks leading up from below so figured they had come in from the road so off I went down and down until I found I was amongst the trees on a narrow foot trail .
Normally you would walk the section in minutes but with fallen trees and branches overloaded with soft snow and drifted snow I took a few falls crawled under branches and eventually returned to civilisation intact but very weary from the effort . Suffice to say I won’t be following that route in the near future .
Tonight’s sunset is a joy to behold and I guess it will be pretty cold again in the morning .