2/15/2021 Staff Picks: Midseason Gear Review

By Skimo Staff

For most backcountry skiers, February is about the halfway point of the season. It’s still full-on winter with cold temps and soft snow, but the days are getting longer and corn season is just around the corner. Also by this time, our staff has had enough time to thoroughly test their new gear purchases of the season. What was once new and shiny is now smelly and dinged up. Several Skimo Co employees weigh in on which of the new gear lived up to the marketing hype.

Eric Bunce: Karpos Express 200 Evo Pant

“It just works. You’re never hot, you’re never cold.”

Going on my sixth season at Skimo Co, I have tested more than a few pairs of pants during my tenure here. So it should say a lot when the Karpos Express 200 impressed me this year as a phenomenal quiver-of-one, everyday ski pant.

Just this past weekend, I skied them all day long and never got overheated. Later in the day when the temps started to drop into the single digits, I had to throw on overmitts and a puffy jacket to stay comfortable. Meanwhile the Karpos held their own and were plenty warm for the occasion. Oh, and my legs stayed dry despite being a full day of deep, powder skiing. I think they’re perfect for anyone coming from Goretex garments that is looking for a more breathable option while not being too sporty or baggy.

I also have nothing but good things to say about Kohla’s new Smart Glue that’s featured on their Alpinist and Freeride skins. Easy to pull apart and off skis, but stays attached to your skis while skinning. Great glide and good grip makes for an all around solid skin. And perhaps even more telling, I've been getting great feedback from customers.

Julieana Rusnak: Dynafit ST Rotation 12

”I’ve skied them exactly like I would with an alpine binding and they haven’t released on me. I’ve been very impressed.”

As our resident freerider, I have been trying to beat up my Dynafit Rotation 12s but they just keep taking the abuse in stride. Paired with the Atomic Backland 107s, I've put the Rotations through spicy cliff drops, park laps, and icy moguls. They even stayed glued to my feet during a small crash. I credit their burliness to their rotating toe combined with a zerogap heel piece. Clearly, they’re willing and able to take big impacts that make other tech bindings flinch.

At this point, I've used them both in bounds and out, which means they are in the same category as the Salomon Shifts but are much better for touring. Freeriders double dipping on either side of the resort boundary oughta give the Rotations strong consideration.

Love at first lap

Jason Borro: DPS Pagoda Tour 87

"A new quiver slot for me - the skinny beef ski."

Heavier than I would normally choose, the Pagoda Tour is essentially a lightweight alpine ski. I targeted it for skiing in bad conditions, which luckily has been the norm this season. It’s very damp and feels smooth when skiing crusts and refrozen tracks. Perfect for shorter days, such as quick hits up Suicide chute which has been one of the few steepish lines with decent stability, if just due to the skier compaction. Moguls and tracks are no problem when paired with a reasonably high-performance boot such as the Alien RS or La Sportiva Skorpius.

Tristan McCutcheon: Mammut Barryvox Beacon

“Professional features in an intuitive package.”

This season, I updated my old Ortovox beacon to the tried-and-true Mammut Barryvox and found it lived up to its reputation. On the market for several years now, the Barryvox has impressed many users with its ease of use, simplicity, reliability, and whopping 70m strip search. When it comes to beacons, main functions like search, transmit, and flagging should be as dummy-proof as possible. The Barryvox does all of these well but still features advanced features for experienced skiers, such as group check. Thankfully I haven’t used it in a real-life scenario but I've been impressed enough during practice drills to convince my partners to also buy the Mammut Barryvox.

Will McKay: Scarpa F1 LT

“Probably the most powerful of the light touring boots I've used so far.”

Succumbing to Scarpa’s marketing push around the new F1 LT, I pulled the trigger on new lightweight boots in hopes of more power on the down. Turns out Scarpa got it right. During a day of chopped snow, the boots kept me from getting bucked around. And another time in whiteout conditions, it wasn't as worrisome knowing that the boots could navigate whatever I skied onto. In other words, the F1 LT is perfect for skiers coming from the original F1 or Tecnica who want a lighter boot without sacrificing too much downhill performance.

Blacklight Poles are great for all conditions, including low tide skinning. Photo by Will McKay

Zak Munro: Dynafit Blacklight Pro Pole

”Everything I want in a full carbon fixed length pole while having some extra features that are useful for ski mountaineering.”

Despite this year’s craze around Les Batons D’Alain, I'm preaching the gospel of the Dynafit Blacklight Pro Poles. They may not have the same amount of grippable area as the Batons, but an extended grip length affords plenty of versatility. The Blacklight Pros are crazy lightweight and stiff thanks to full carbon construction, while featuring low profile straps and ergonomic handles. They’re ideal for skiers wanting a lightweight pole without giving up on any features.

Lenny Wright: Ortovox Col Becchei Jacket

“It’s really great for fast and light touring… and also for people who like to meander on the skintrack.”

Despite a lot of use, I'm happy to report that the Ortovox Col Becchei is holding up juuuuust fine. The jacket is designed to keep the core warm with merino wool insulation and wind resistant panels. During one particularly nasty, sloppy, sleety outting, I stayed comfy and didn’t have to cut things short. But should it heat up too much, the insanely long pit zips allow you to quickly dump heat and moderate your temps, depending on how much you unzip. In fact, the zipper pulls are so easy to use, I didn’t have to break pace at all to vent. Now that’s the kind of efficiency we can get behind!

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