My Kit: Nine Tools for Ski Mountaineering in Montana’s Tobacco Roots

Later this week, I’m heading into Montana’s Tobacco Root Mountains for a ski mountaineering course offered by Bell Lake Yurt and Montana Alpine Adventures. Most of my steep-skiing experience is limited to following others, so I see this course as an opportunity to learn, practice and hone skills in a focused setting among other likeminded skiers. I also see it as a perfect chance for extended testing of a few things that really stood out at this year’s Powder Mountain Gear Test Week. Here’s what I’m bringing and why. —Tyler Cohen, Editor in Chief

This week’s lineup. [Photo] Tyler Cohen

Voilé Ultra Vector Skis

Voilé might have an Editors’ Choice Award for almost ever year that I’ve been an editor, and I’m still skiing on their 2010 EC-winning Charger. But their skis aren’t just favorites of mine—our testers perennially appreciate Voilé’s approachable and versatile flexes and shapes, notably light weights and affordable costs. Next year’s Ultra Vector stood out at our March ski test for exactly those traits. It’s based on the footprint of their 2011 Editors’ Choice-winning Vector but with wider dimensions, a turnier radius and rounder flex that I expect will be well suited to couloir skiing and variable conditions. 130/96/114, 7 lbs., $695

Salomon S/LAB X-Alp Boots

I’ve already logged a dozen days in Salomon’s new X-Alp and can’t get over the walking comfort. That’s thanks to what Salomon calls a “3D rotating cuff.” In walk mode, a vertical split up the back of the cuff allows for lateral ankle mobility and makes for a more natural walking stride, particularly while sidehilling. It works—really well—and I haven’t noticed the feature (which locks in place while skiing) detracting from downhill performance while skinning laps inbounds or on a handful of all-day, soft-snow tours. But we’ll see how it fairs in steeper, more demanding situations. 98mm last, 5.1 lbs., $1,099

Dynafit ST Rotation 10 Bindings

When Dynafit introduced their Radical 2.0 bindings two seasons ago, the rotating toepiece netted mixed reviews from our testers. On one hand, it enabled the bindings’ DIN-certifiable release, a measure I can solidly get behind. On the other, it was a pain to click into. Dynafit aimed to fix that issue with the toepiece of the new Rotation 10, which automatically centers thanks to internal bearings. The heelpiece is overhauled, too, using what Dynafit calls a “bayonet lock,” which basically means the heel post is integrated into the baseplate with a more robust interface. The Rotation 10 wasn’t at Powder Mountain, so this will be Backcountry’s first crack at testing this new offering. 4-10 DIN, 2.2 lbs., $650

The Descensionist pack up close. [Photo] Tyler Cohen

Patagonia Decensionist Pack

This new pack is Patagonia’s ski-focused spinoff of their Ascensionist climbing pack with a large-volume safety-gear pocket and A-frame and diagonal ski carry. 40 L, $199

Black Diamond Fixed Length Carbon Poles

I realized three years ago that I almost never shorten or lengthen my poles while touring. Or ever. So I switched to this pair of fixed-length carbon sticks that have held up to every abuse I’ve put them through. 1 lb. $199

Salomon MTN Lab Helmet

This is my go-to backcountry helmet, and, in addition to weighing nearly nothing, is doubly certified for skiing and climbing-related impacts, so both my gray matter and my wife are kept happy. 8.8 oz., $200

A few safety items. [Photo] Tyler Cohen

Black Diamond Couloir Harness

Black Diamond has since released a slimmed-down version of this harness, and both the original and updated models are designed to easily put on or take off while wearing skis or crampons. This is ideal for mountaineering or for when you have to poop. 7.5 oz., $65

Camp XCL Nanotech Crampons and Corsa Nanotech Ice Tool

The weather forecast is calling for snow in the Tobacco Roots over the next several days, so I plan to forgo the heavy-duty, heavy-metal sharps for Camp’s steel-tipped, aluminum-bodied crampons and ice tool. 21.1 oz., $200 (crampons), 8.8 oz., $160 (ice tool)

Snow Shed Wax

What’s the point of carrying around a light setup if each ski is covered in 10 lbs. of snow? This anti-stick spray is a water-based lubricant designed to keep snow from glomming onto topsheets. I’ve found it works particularly well on matte or textured topsheets like Voilé’s. 4 fl. oz., $14

The skis, boots, bindings and pack mentioned here won’t be available until this fall. Want to know how it tested? Subscribe now to get the Gear Guide, available in late summer.


  1. Quit advertising Montana. You are what is wrong with MT.

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