Saturday, 21 February 2015

Whitedot Director Carbonlite review

This winter I have been spending a lot of time on a pair of Whitedot Director Carbonlite skis:

Having skied and toured the Ranger Carbonlite last year (and this winter...) and been very impressed with it I was after a ski to replace my long-loved Gotamas as a go-anywhere off-piste charger with a lift-served slant.

Me: Height 6'2" (~190cm), weight 80Kg, skiing style - reasonably aggressive, 20 years as a professional ski coach. Favourite skis of recent years - Volkl Gotama, Whitedot Ranger Carbonlite, Volkl Mantra.

The ski:
Length: 191cm, Dimensions: 136-107-126, Radius: 25m
Profile: Traditional camber for approx 110cm of the ski, with progressively more pronounced rocker to tip and tail. (note: this is my 'eyeball' version - the official stats may vary.
Mounting: Marker Baron EPF binding mounted at -60mm from ski centre mark (note: recommended mounting point is -50mm)

Taking the Director Carbonlites for a spin in some deep Courchevel powder:

I have now skied the skis on good piste, icy piste & off piste, chopped up crud, good powder, even better powder, spring snow.
First impressions of this ski were of an easy playful ski with plenty of guts and this is still my feeling some weeks later. On firm snow at speed they are stable and solid underfoot, in short turns on firm snow they are surprisingly manoeuvrable and very easy to work in a tighter carved arc (I think the reduced weight of the Carbonlite construction helps a lot here as it reduces the 'swing weight' of the ski for tighter turns). In soft snow these skis are just so much fun - plenty of float and easy to smear for tight tree lines. In heavier snow the pronounced rocker helps to stay afloat and riding the top layers and the 25m sidecut allows for easy charging through chopped up snow.

From a visual aspect these skis have the distinctive Whitedot graphics (black on white) and squared off tip and tail - very pleasing on the eye...

Taking the Director Carbonlites for a walk above Serre Chevalier:

Having had a day on a pair of the regular Directors last winter which were too centrally mounted for my taste (I spent the day hanging off my heels to try and work the middle of the ski...) I was slightly apprehensive regarding mounting point, but in my opinion somewhere around the -60mm mark is bang on if you want to be able to ski 'properly' and work the full length of the skis with the middle of your foot over the sweet spot...
Compared to the Gotamas the skis are much lighter which makes a huge difference whether it is skinning, carrying the skis, or (as above) in shorter turns. For a carbon-based construction the damping is excellent, the skis never feel too twitchy or nervous as some lightweight constructions can.
The squared off tip is a bit of a pain for skin mounting as extra large tip loops are needed (apparently G3 tip clips work well but I am currently a die-hard BD STS mix fan), and as with any rockered ski contact length for skinning on steep firm snow is reduced.

I have only skied the skis for about 6 weeks so far so longevity remains to be seen, however the skis have survived rocky conditions on the La Grave return traverses and a tree-root-tastic descent in Italy with barely a scratch, so the bases & edges certainly seem to be made of stern stuff. Top sheets and sidewalls currently holding up really well too...

As a do-anything, playful but powerful double-rockered ski the Director Carbonlite is hard to beat. Light enough for uphilling, wide enough for deep snow fun and carvy and stiff enough for hard snow ripping this really is a ski for all conditions.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Italian Job

With another rare day off, inconclusive conditions for bigger objectives and a hunger for good coffee and pizza meant a day in La Rosière and La Thuile with Chipie.
Not only did the coffee and pizza live up to expectations, the snow was OK too...:

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Half-term mayhem?

Not for everyone... As per previous years I have scheduled the busiest week of the winter as a good (great!) week to catch up on paperwork and look after some bits and pieces for my 'other' work (not to mention the kids...).

This morning I escaped for a quick blast up a line I have looked up at many times but never got around to skiing, either through lack of time, or conditions. No names mentioned to avoid the 'skitour' effect (hordes of lycra-clad Grenoblois sideslipping everything in sight on their Pierra Menta Carbon Pros), suffice to say it isn't very far away from Bozel and today gave 700m vertical of great 'old' powder - happy days!

Monday, 16 February 2015

evoc Pro Team 20L zip-on backpack review

Having bought the ABS 18L Ultralight volume at the same time as my upgrade to a Vario base unit 2 years ago I have been distinctly unimpressed with it - the fabric is relatively easy to damage (a slightly burred shovel blade put a couple of small tears in it within 2 days!), and even with a DIY compression strap on the back (none provided on the bag) anything inside tends to fall towards the bottom, so the bag sits like a sack of spuds on your back - not ideal if like me you prefer keeping any extra weight as close to the body as possible...

I had looked at the evoc Pro Team 20L volume last year and decided to splash out pre-season this year and frankly this has been worth every Euro spent already.

The pack comprises one main compartment along with 5 additional zipped pockets or dividers and is a perfect size for day touring - even with some tech kit - on a recent day out skins, crampons, axe, harcheisen, water, food, extra layer, goggles and some bits and bobs all fitted in with seeming ease - not bad for a 20L pack!

Compression straps on the sides and back double as ski/board carry systems (side or diagonal carry possible for skis) and also help to keep a lightly loaded pack cinched down tight, keeping a narrow profile on your back. Attachments also allow 1 ice axe to be carried vertically in the middle of the back. The axe and diagonal ski carry loops both stow away when not in use - great for minimising the clutter of things flapping off the pack!

Looking into the main compartment - there are specific locations for shovel blade, handle and probe which help keep everything organised within the pack:

The map pocket is just large enough to accommodate a French IGN map:

The evoc Pro Team 20L out for a walk:

Worth noting that the side carry straps will only just accommodate a ski of the width of a Whitedot Director (approx 126mm at tail) - anything wider will need to be carried diagonally or using the snowboard straps across the back of the pack...

And enjoying some powder:

Photo courtesy of Andy Perkins Mountain Guide.

Other features:

Along with a 'goggle pocket', the pack comes with a clip-on helmet carrying cradle which attaches to loops on the pack, and has exit points for a hydration system hose - the bladder can be housed in a purpose-built pocket between the base unit and the volume (a bit fiddly to unzip each time you want to fill up!).

The offpisteskiing verdict based on experience so far: 10/10 !

Sunday, 15 February 2015

La Grave and more...

Sunny conditions last week for the Freeride La Grave week. With chalky, skied-out snow prevalent at La Grave, we ventured to Serre Chevalier and Montgenèvre to find some powder, diverted to ALpe D'Huez for some spring snow, and finished with a couple of days at La Grave skiing the classics! Great to be working alongside IFMGA guide Jerome Chancrin again.

Amanda getting some fresh tracks in the Tabuc valley, Serre Chevalier:

Freddie on some steep chalkiness:

Plenty of space for James to lay down some tracks off the Cucumelle, Serre Chevalier

Chas in sunshine powder in Montgenèvre:

Team descent to Vachette:

James ripping some steep corn in Alpe D'Huez:

Chas on the same pitch:

Freddie in couloir Patou, La Grave:

The team in the Vallon de la Selle, great spring snow after a firm start!

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Off Piste Perfection coaching course 2015

An interesting week this week with the Off Piste Perfection course (run in collaboration with Jagged Globe) in the Tarentaise. Our valley base in Bourg St Maurice gave us maximum flexibility to follow the weather and good snow. Despite a high level of avalanche risk earlier in the week we were able to ski great (and safer) snow off piste all week long with a bit of careful route choice.

The camera stayed in the bag mostly as temperatures were very cold (though there are some shots from our days in Les Arcs here), but here are a few shots from our last day in La Rosière/La Thuile. A bit windy, but still some good snow to be found (not to mention great food and coffee over in Italy :-) ) and a ski all the way down to the lower roundabout at Séez in great snow to cap it all off.
Thanks to Tanya, Ben, Jack, Ruan, Chas and Andrew for a great week!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015


Some days on the mountain you just have to shake your head, and yesterday was one of those days...

Les Arcs, risk level High (4), obvious signs of slab releases during avalanche control work and what happens?
A powder frenzy is what happens...

We headed towards the Grand Col chair for a lap or two of the unpisted pistes to warm up. On the way up the chair the slopes to the looker's right of the pistes on the steep shoulder dropping towards Combe de la Commune had 3 obvious slab releases. Half-jokingly I said to my group "I wonder how long it will be until the first tracks go in?", sure enough as we went back up the chair tracks were already appearing, and as always people start nibbling further across and further out...
We put skins on for a short climb up to a minor summit with a safe shoulder line to ski, with a grandstand view of the Grand Col slopes. One minute later, as skiers went ever further right, a skier triggered a slab and was taken for a good 70/80 metre ride, fortunately ending up on the surface, though from a distance appearing to limp and possibly minus a ski:

I called the incident in to the pisteurs just to make them aware, hung up the phone, and not 5 minutes after the first incident a second slab was triggered further over again, by an instructor (clad all in red...) leading his group:

Again, fortunately, nobody was buried.

3 minutes later, as the instructor was walking his group out, a 3rd slab was triggered inbetween the first two. Again the skier was lucky and managed to stay near the side of the slide, but the slab stepped down to a lower layer, and travelled further than the other two, stopping not far above the group from incident 2!:

And in the meantime more skiers appeared over the horizon...

So to paraphrase an acquaintance who knows a thing or two about avalanches - 'It's not f*ckin' rocket science!' (ideally said in an East End accent) - High avalanche risk, steep slopes, obvious recent avalanche activity on similar aspect, angle and elevation - what more information do you need?

In other news there has been great skiing to be had staying on safer (note safER not safe) sub-30º slopes and in tight tree lines:

Some pictures of this week's Off Piste Performance group: