At one point in time I wondered if I would ever really use these things. In the Alps, the Andes, sure. In the Sierra? Yes! With our recent lack of precipitation and plentiful sun I’ve used ski crampons more than I ever thought I would and they are definitely a worthy addition to any backcountry skier’s quiver.
Since my main backcountry setup uses Dynafit bindings, I have Dynafit compatible ski crampons. If you don’t rock Dynafits there are several other models of ski crampons you can use. I recommended the company B and D (not to be confused with Black Diamond) if you can find a model that works with your AT setup.
To understand ski crampon use imagine skinning on a slope that’s slick. When it’s flat you can usually get by just fine. But increase the slope angle ever so slightly and depending on how slick the conditions are you go from thinking about the objective you’re hoping to shred to swearing that this is the worst idea you’ve ever had. We’ve all been there. Skinning in the dark to try and time up a perfect corn run and before the sun even shows its brilliant rays you’re slipping back the thirty feet you just gained. Couple that with your elbow pain from all the stress you’ve put on them to overcompensate for your skis slip sliding away and you’re not a happy hiker.
Enter ski crampons. By adding this small piece of equipment to your system you allow yourself the ability to climb frozen slopes when they’d otherwise be torture to ascend. On the Dynafit side expect to pay about $70 bucks for a pair of ski crampons and remember to size accordingly to how fat your skis are. They attach easily to the toe piece of your binding, they bite down into the snow with each step, and believe it or not they actually allow some glide as you skin by floating up with each step as you skin. They’re super light, coming in about 236 grams for the 110mm pair, and take up little space in your pack. You can even clip them to the outside of your pack relatively easily with a carabineer for easy access.
Big corn descents usually include long approaches on frozen snow and these make the approach that much easier. Pretty simple, but on a mission that you’re racing to time up the corn just right these will save you from a frustrating and slippery start from the car. And when the sun comes up finding a way to keep the sun off your face from the already intense reflection is also key. If you happen to be looking for a new hat why not promote a conscious company like World Minded out of Mammoth (http://www.worldminded.com). Good people, a good company to support and a simple product that combined with good sunscreen will pay off in the long run for any Sierra Nevada based snow slider. I got toasted the other day and figured now would be a good time to put the reminder out as we all forget sun care products from time-to-time, even in sunny California.