Testing the Dynafit lineup through deep conditions in the Crested Butte backcountry

Testing the Dynafit lineup through deep conditions in the Crested Butte backcountry

A huge winter storm slammed into Colorado on the evening of January 30 and didn’t let up until Tuesday, February 2. Thanks to some fortunate scheduling, Dynafit arranged a gear test in the Crested Butte backcountry for February 2. I was one of eight invited to partake. There was upwards of 30 inches of snow awaiting our testing crew as we rode out of downtown Crested Butte on Tuesday morning, heading for the Kebler Pass Winter Trailhead, where our journey would begin.

The Terrain

Before diving into the actual gear, let’s outline the terrain upon which we conducted our testing: The zone is known as Red Coon Glades and it’s situated to the skier’s left side of Red Lady Bowl on 12,343-foot Mt. Emmons. The first 1,500-feet (or so) of climbing is done amid low angle aspen groves, which gives way to higher elevation pine forests. The snow level on February 2 was boot-deep.

Skin-lower

The first portion of our skin. Photo by Jamie Starr

The final 1,000 feet of the approach is a bit steeper, necessitating a switchback skin track to the final elevation of about 11,500-feet. There, we encountered deep snow. Luckily for us our leader for the day, Irwin guide and Dynafit ambassador Donny Roth, broke trail the entire way.

Skin-upper

The pitch steepened and snow levels were higher the further we pushed. Photo by Jamie Starr

Roth is a AIARE level III avalanche forecaster and level I course instructor. He has appeared in Sweetgrass Productions’ Valhalla and Solitaire and has led expeditions across the world, spending each summer since 2004 ski guiding in Chile. Roth is a badass and has a sense of humor, to boot. His banter on the skin track and incessant joke telling — “What’s red and smells like blue paint? Red paint.” — helped keep morale high during the multiple journeys uphill.

The Gear

I was outfitted from head-to-toe in Dynafit product. On my feet were the Khion Carbon boots. The first advantage of the Khion is its lightweight nature, due in large part to the combination of Pebax plastic and carbon fiber in its construction. The boot comes in at 1540g (27.5), and while it isn’t the lightest Dynafit boot (for reference, the new TLT 7 Performance boot weighs in at 999 grams) it still helped reduce effort on the uphill. Its Boa closure system, one-touch latch buckles and 90-degree maximum range of motion in hike mode all contributed to a comfortable uphill jaunt. On the flipside, when it came time to descend the boots were killer. The Precision Lock System, which completely locks the cuff to the lower shell, removed any play and the magnesium spoiler and carbon fiber exoskeleton provided rigidity. Furthermore, the streamlined, asymmetric shape was aerodynamic, reducing any boot drag in the deep snow. In fact, the only downside I encountered was slight difficulty putting it on and taking it off. This is something Dynafit will address in next year’s iteration of the Khion.

My ski for the day was the Chugach, mounted with the Radical 2.0 FT binding. While Dynafit has made major headway in the freeride world with the Beast series binding over the past few years, the Radical 2.0 FT is the cream of the crop. The frameless binding weighs 630 grams, as opposed to the Beast 16 and 14 which weigh 950 and 830 grams, respectively. Reduced energy exertion while touring was a highlight, yes, but the binding’s descending prowess was noteworthy, as well. Aluminum plates under the toe and heel increase the torsional rigidity, instilling confidence and power when shredding. Its release values of 5-12 helped combat prerelease but also ensure disengagement to prevent injury if your boot happens to torque in the wrong direction. This is something I found out firsthand after an awkward landing. Luckily, my heel popped right out and I avoided bodily harm. The easy-to-use brake system (a twist to the left puts the heel in ski mode) made transitions a breeze, too.

Skiing

The author engaging one of the deeper turns of the day. Photo by Jamie Starr

While a few others in the group were testing the all-new, 97-mm-waisted Meteorite ski, I was mounted up (as aforementioned) on the Chugach. Part of Dynafit’s growing freeride line (the Meteorite and women’s specific Sphynx are new for 2016-17), the Chugach was lightweight enough (1850 grams) for touring without sacrificing any downhill performance. Its combination of ash and poplar wood with a carbon tip kept it damp and stable. Its double ellipse rocker—an elliptical curve that runs from the waist to the tip taper point, producing varying effective edge lengths to cater to different terrain—is great for big descents where conditions change rapidly, but on this day, it was all about deep snow. While the 116-mm-waisted Hokkaido may have been a more applicable choice given the conditions, the Chugach more than held its own in powder.

2016-02-02 13.06.24-1

Louise Lintilhac plows through deep snow. Photo by Jamie Starr

To round out the kit, I sported the all-new men’s Beast Hoody and men’s Meteorite Jacket. I chose to tour in the Beast, as its nylon stretch fleece inserts in the body ensured optimal mobility and the Polartec Alpha insulation was ultra-breathable as my exertion levels increased. I threw on the Meteorite when it was time to descend. Its targeted toward resort-oriented skiers thanks to its Primaloft Gold fill insulation, designed to keep the user warm in the coldest conditions. While specifically meant for shredding the resort during cold weather, I could appreciate the insulation once my sweat had frozen during the transition phase and it was time to descend. Its Gore Thermium outer layer ups the breathability factor as the day goes on and the sun’s warmth increases, too. For those looking for an ultra-burly shell offering for longer ascents, take a gander at the Dynafit men’s and women’s (new for 2016-17) Yotei jacket and bibs.

Bottom Line

All in all, the selection of Dynafit products made a backcountry powder day that much better. Uphill movement was efficient and non-exhausting, ensuring no energy was lost for deep downhill turns, and the outerwear held its own during weather that varied from snow flurries, to overcast, to warmer afternoon temperatures. To see just how pleasant the turns were, take a look at the video below.

Dynafit Chugach ski: $799.95
Dynafit Radical 2.0 FT binding: $649.95
Dynafit Khion Carbon boot: $899.98

The Dynafit Beast Hoody and Meteorite Jacket will be available in Fall 2016.

Related: Here’s a sneak peek at loads of next year’s ski gear

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