Tag Archive for: skiing

Plum Binding Review – Why I’ll Never Buy Them Again

Plum is a ski product manufacturer out of Europe that, about a decade ago, was one of the few companies other than Dynafit that made tech bindings. Since then a number of other companies have gotten into the tech binding manufacturing market, such as G3 and Salomon, and I would highly recommend purchasing any of those other offerings and staying away from Plum.

The reason for my opinion stems from the fact I’ve been skiing on Plum bindings (specifically the Guide M’s) for the past four years. On the upside, the bindings are incredibly light — the lightest on the market in fact at 670g a pair. But as with all lightweight gear, there is a cost. And it’s a cost that is too high for anyone to pay, in my opinion. I’m referring to the fact the bindings are prone to breaking and when you’re in the middle of the backcountry, that could spell disaster.

Last year I snapped one of the pins on one of the toe pieces of my Plum binding, rendering it useless. I was just coming off a slackcountry run near Whitewater Ski Resort, and had entered inbounds on a groomer when it happened. I chalked it up to the fact maybe I was turning with too much force on the groomer. I asked about a warranty but the company just said I’d have to buy a replacement. I was offered a discount of 153 Euros (close to $300 Cdn) for two toe pieces, which I thought expensive because I only needed the one and so I purchased a toe piece on the SkiMo website for just over $100.

This is the second toe piece to have snapped in as many years.

It needs to be said Plum bindings now come with a three-year warranty – but in my opinion that doesn’t mean much if, in the fourth year, your binding breaks and you’re left stranded somewhere.

Sure enough, this year while skiing near Crusader Cabin in the Kootenays, the exact same thing happened on the other toe piece. The pin broke while I was skiing light powder and it was definitely not a forceful turn. This last experience had me trudging up a logging road in ski boots to get back to the cabin. Thankfully a snowmobiler picked me up after about a kilometre and saved me the majority of the distance. However, what if this had happened on a steep run on nearby Arlington Peak? I could’ve been seriously hurt or at the very least would’ve had to posthole many kilometres back to the cabin.

I’m now questioning the quality of the alloy used in the production. According to the company it has been greatly improved in recent years but too little too late in my opinion. Some of my friends have Dynafit bindings that are a decade old and they haven’t snapped in the middle of any of their backcountry runs.

I cannot stress enough that, for safety issues, I cannot recommended Plum bindings and would seriously stress that you avoid them and chose a more reliable tech binding manufacturer such as Dynafit.

Chasing Avalanches

A friend of mine was caught in an avalanche three days ago but luckily managed to escape it by grabbing onto a tree. Another friend avoided being launched off a cliff a few months ago during an avalanche. He also grabbed onto a tree and saved himself. This seems to be happening with more frequency lately and I don’t know if it’s because more of us are getting into the backcountry or if we’re taking greater chances. What I do know is a lot of us aren’t qualified to be back there.

The story I did for Mountain Culture Group about my AST 2 course at the Lequereux Outpost in the Valhallas taught me that the majority of people in the backcountry don’t have their AST 2 training. Essentially they know how to use their beacon, shovel and probe and that’s it.

This is how my story starts:

WHEN I SAW THE CRACK splinter out from the tip of my ski like a bolt of grey lightning ripping through a perfect white canvas, I was elated. I had trained the past five days for this moment and now, finally, I had caused an avalanche.

Conditions were ripe. It had snowed about a half metre in the past week and the temperature had suddenly warmed from a constant -15°C to near zero overnight. We were being cautious but my classmate and I still wanted to see what it was like to kick off a surface slab layer. We chose a 30-metre-high steep convex roll with a well-defined escape route and a wide runout path that was clear of any trees or obstacles. I made sure he had his eyes on me and then dropped in, ski cutting the top of the slope. Within seconds a 20-centimetre-deep slab sheared off under my downhill ski and shot left while I escaped right to safe terrain. The crown made a perfect heart-shaped pattern down and around an exposed rock for 20 metres and the debris ran for 25 metres. I turned back from the safe zone to look at my handiwork and then whooped with happiness.

In most backcountry scenarios, causing an avalanche is something you want to avoid. In this case, however, I was nearing the end of an Avalanche Skills Training Level Two course and, because we were filled with knowledge and had monitored the conditions religiously, we wanted to experience practical application of the lessons we had learned.

To read the article in its entirety, and see the corresponding photos and video, visit: mountainculturegroup.com/avalanche-skills-training-2-backcountry-hut.

Review of the Julbo Classic Vermont Sunglasses

I had never even seen a glacier when I first donned a pair of Julbos in the 1980s. Sunglasses have come a long way since then but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that, for its 125th anniversary, the France-based company relaunched its classic Vermont mountaineering glasses. Founded by Jules Baud, who originally made goggles for masons, Julbo is now a brand name synonymous with adventure eyewear and they’ve outfitted such legendary mountaineers as Yannick Lord and Eric Escoffier. Today, the company makes over 50 different styles of sunglasses, mostly using plastic and various polymers, and they all have a styling that I would consider distinctly “Euro.”

To read more about the Julbo Classic Vermont sunglasses, including their highlights and shortcomings, check out my review on the Mountain Culture Group website.

Why You Should Love the Shoulder Season (and its dog turds)

The south-central BC weathermen are calling for flurries tonight and snow is forecasted to settle in the valley bottoms. This means we should wake up tomorrow to a beautiful world of grey skies and white and black streets bordered by brown yards pebbled with dog turds.

On second thought, that doesn’t sound so beautiful. In fact, it’s just a typical shoulder season scene in which the browns and blacks have yet to be buried under fields of virgin white. Rain interspersed with snow whips up brownie batter in the alleys and gutters and we’re left pining for real snow – the kind that allows you to ski the streets to work in the morning.

Do we really need that snow to see the beauty though?

Consider the chapter featuring JP Auclair in 2012′s All I Can film. It takes an overcast, dirty, rusty grey street scene and turns it into a joyous, yellow romp through the yards and alleys of two BC mountain towns: Trail and Nelson. (Was anyone else choked that Nelson didn’t get its due in the Chapter opener?)

It took director Dave Mossop of the Sherpas 14 days to film in the two cities (located about 70 kms apart) and in that time he said he shovelled almost as much dog poop as snow. He said that the grey skies were important for continuity and so it was probably the first time in history two skiers actually prayed for continuous rain clouds and not snow.

It was also one of the first times that a shoulder season shot usurped any footage of epic mountain powder turns. (When the Sherpas first posted Auclair’s street segment it hit 124,000 views on its first day and tipped the one million mark after a week.)

So while many of us stare out at the muddy landscape that is the typical shoulder season scene, remember there’s beauty to be found in the brown: get out there, pile up some poop, smear it with snow, and practice 360s over your neighbour’s laundry line. And rest assured in the knowledge that soon enough the world will once again go white.

JP Auclair Street Segment (from All.I.Can.) from Sherpas Cinema on Vimeo.

Review of the Voilé Charger and Voilé Charger BC Skis

Despite a name that incorporates an accent aigu, Voilé is not from France. In fact, they’re a small company based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and they’ve been making backcountry specific hard goods since 1980. Today, they manufacture five different kinds of skis and three splitboards and in this review, we’ll be looking at two of their offerings – the Voile Charger and the Voile Charger BC skis. A slimmer version of their award-winning Drifter design, the Voilé Charger adheres to the company’s ethic of light but strong. It has an aspen core with a cap construction, a traditional sidecut and camber underfoot. Its tip is tapered and rockered as is the tail, although less so. (The dimensions of the 181cm model are 137mm, 112mm, 126mm.) The only difference between the company’s Charger and Charger BC skis is the latter has an extruded fish-scale pattern on the base which allows you to ascend slight rises without the need of skins.

Read the full review on Backcountry Skiing Canada.