Welcome to another installment of Editor’s Review from FREESKIER. Each week our editorial staff provides in-depth, honest reviews about the gear they’re testing on a weekly basis. Our goal? To point you towards the best brands and products on Earth so you can trust your equipment whole-heartedly and have as much fun in the mountains as possible. Read up on the Black Diamond and Fritschi products, below, then visit us again tomorrow for more awesome gear coverage.
Independence Pass, a 32-mile stretch of Highway 82 linking Aspen and Twin Lakes, Colorado—opened for the season last week, providing an incredible playground for product testing. With an almost endless expanse of high-alpine terrain at my disposal, I tried out the updated Black Diamond Boundary Pro ski, equipped with the new Fritschi Tecton 12 binding, along with the Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody.
Our objectives were Geissler Mountain East (13,380 feet) and Geissler Mountain Middle (13,301 feet), which entailed about six miles of roundtrip travel and about 2,700 feet of elevation gain—an ideal scenario to experiment with a touring set-up and outerwear.
The Boundary Pro and Tecton 12 combine together for a weight of 2,405 grams per ski (about 5.3 pounds). The Boundary Pro is designed to be a freeride-centric ski—powerful and responsive on the downhill with as much weight-savings as possible for the uphill—while the Tecton and its alpine-inspired heel and pre-defined lateral safety release in the toe was created to appeal to charging skiers still skeptical of the retention and safety capabilities of tech bindings. In short, if you’re looking to shave as much weight as possible with an über-minimalist set-up, look elsewhere. If you want a lightweight set-up that doesn’t skimp on downhill performance, this is your jam.
At no point during the two-hour-plus tour did I notice myself becoming less efficient due to weight issues. The skis and bindings were light enough to ensure comfortable travel and I particularly enjoyed the intuitive design of the Tecton’s heel, which is flipped upright in walk mode, allowing for easy access to its heel risers.
Now for the descents. To begin, when you snap your foot into the binding in ski mode, your heel just feels ultra-secure, due in large part to its alpine “heel cup” design influence, as well as two vertical rails within the cup that integrate with heel tech inserts to help reduce side-to-side sliding during aggressive skiing.
Conditions on the south face of Geissler Mountain East were perfect corn-snow, which allowed me to rip both long, arching and short, snappy turns for upwards of 1,000 feet to the basin below. The Boundary Pro skied like a dream, providing a smooth platform for aggressive turns—where, admittedly, I have found past iterations of the ski to be a bit soft and chattery at higher speeds. The updated Boundary Pro 107 utilizes pre-preg fiberglass to complement the poplar wood core, which yields the improved stiffness and leveled-out ride.
Below, I found another beneficial characteristic of the Tecton to be that you could disengage it using the heel-piece, rather than pressing down on the toe. This is particularly advantageous in the event that your toe “pincers” freeze or have a build-up of hardened snow, which can make popping out a real pain in the ass.
The second descent, from Geissler Mountain Middle, featured a bit sloppier, rotten snow. The ski warranted quick, deliberate hop-turns through muck and sun-affected slush, and the ski’s torsional strength allowed me to hang on through each turn, while the poplar wood core still provided enough energy and responsiveness to pivot and maneuver down the line.
As for Black Diamond’s new Alpine Start Hoody, its biggest highlight is that its treated with Polygiene. This anti-microbial silver wash is made with recycled silver sourced from photographic and industrial applications, and prevents odorous bacteria from growing on fabrics. This results in a garment that’ll stay fresh for long periods of time without the need for washing. I only used it for one morning, but I’ll be sure to report back on how it performs in the war on stink.
The Alpine Start can be used as both a mid-layer or lightweight outer-layer on warmer days—like the one I experienced. I appreciated how thin and light it was while skinning under the hot sun in the basin, but also coveted the bit of warmth it could provide on the summit of Geissler Mountain East when the winds picked up and turned my sweat into ice water. Additionally, a short snow squall engulfed us while working for the summit of Geissler Mountain Middle, and the Alpine Start’s wind and moisture-resistance kept me protected on the exposed ridgeline.
All-in-all, if you find yourself sending lines on mountain passes into the summer, look for the new Boundary Pro 107, Tecton 12 and Alpine Start Hoody when they hit shelves this fall. Until then, keep earning those late-season turns, friends.