Sunday, 22 December 2013

Review - Dynafit Mercury boots

Recently I took the plunge and splashed out on some new touring boots - the intention being to get a pair in the 1.5 - 1.7 Kg bracket which increasingly offers boots which will drive a big ski really well while not being too heavy for the uphill/climbing.

Last winter I was mostly skiing Dynafit Titans (big and beefy, but heavy), Head alpine boots (Raptor 120), and also spent some time in Dynafit's TLT5 Performance boot (super light, but a bit narrow for my foot even with some shell-stretching, and in my opinion missing a third buckle for good heel hold - full review here).
Seb at Sole Boot Lab in Chamonix took care of boot selection and fitting and I have now skied a pair of Dynafit Mercurys for a week so can offer some first opinions...

Weight. No matter what the manufacturer's blurb tells you, there is no substitute for getting the scales out - the results are as follows (for one size 28.0 boot):

TLT5 - stock liner + superfeet 'green' footbed: 1.253 Kg

Titan - Palau liner + Superfeet cork footbed: 2.087 Kg

Mercury - stock liner + Sidas footbed: 1.734 Kg

- just slipping outside the 1.7 Kg upper limit I had set, but still feel relatively light on the foot - only a big uphill day will tell though!

The Mercury is a 3 buckle boot - though the 40mm booster strap more than happily doubles for a 4th buckle on the cuff. The buckles remain low profile when closed - should be fine for climbing/boot-packing. In the open position the cuff buckle has a hinge point to enable it to sit closer to the boot shell - one of the downsides of the TLT5 was the buckle which stuck out a long way in 'open' position - check out the photo below to see the difference between the two:

Fit-wise I have a narrow ankle, high arch, and wide forefoot. The Mercury's fit out of the box is not bad for me, though I will need to widen the toe box a little for maximum comfort. For comparison they feel narrower than a Titan, but substantially wider than the TLT5

Conditions in the French Alps are a little scratchy at the moment, and most of my work last week was on piste (for once) so I haven't tried these out with any fat skis yet - last week I was skiing some Fischer Watea 88s and the boots were quite happy to really crank it out on piste. Good support, great heel hold, and a progressive flex pattern. The cuff height is similar to a Titan (see photo below - from left - TLT5, Mercury, Titan):

The boot sole length of 314 mm (for a 28.0) is only 8 mm down on the Titan (as opposed to 307 mm for the TLT5 !), so if you are swapping down from a bigger boot this should fall within the adjustment range of most tech bindings (eg Dynafit Vertical/Radical or Plum)

Downsides? During thermo-forming one of the liners developed a crease just above the heel on the instep - manageable this week as my heel has been locked down in ski mode, but could be an issue on the uphill and I will be heading back to the shop for a re-form or new inner. Apparently this has been a regular problem with the stock Dynafit liners!
Just like the TLTs, the lock mechanism for ski mode is integrated into the cuff buckle so a cover of some sort will have to be DIY-ed to enable light closure of the cuff without locking the boot for more technical climbing

So far I am really happy with these boots and can't wait to get out on some bigger skis and see how they perform...

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Creativity and lateral thinking

Not skiing, but these three videos are great inspiration for lateral thinking and creativity:

The unfortunate footnote to this is that Martyn Ashton injured himself during a demo show just before finishing the shooting of RBP2 and is now paraplegic... thoughts are with him for his new challenges and adventures.
For the full story have a look here:

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Conditions update 12 Dec 2013

A quick update on conditions as of 12 Dec 2013:

In a word: thin.

With no snowfall for a good while now, and nothing forecast, not to mention mild temperatures, it is fair to say that conditions are currently a little thin. I had a slide around up in Courchevel today, and while the pistes were firm and grippy (and good fun on GS skis) this will soon become very hard packed once more people start arriving... Off piste didn't look particularly appealing, certainly if you want to keep your skis or body in good condition. Still, its very early days yet and at least there is some base down compared to the disastrous season starts of the late 00's.
The scenery is OK too:

For anyone heading out to the 3 Valleys currently only the 1850 sector is open, along with links over to Meribel, though some further lifts may open this coming weekend depending on the state of the pistes.

Big news in the Courchevel diary is the Ski Alpinism (sorry, I can't bring myself to use the 'SkiMo' term - far too trendy and reminds me of dodgy moustaches grown for charity) World Cup being held in Courchevel on the 25/26 January 2014 - hopefully I can free up some time to go and cheer on any UK lycra louts who may be partaking of the suffering...

Monday, 2 December 2013

Touring skis 2014 - the quiver

Its that time of year again - the first big autumn snowfalls have hit the Alps, I have already had my first week of ski work, and now its time to dust off the rest of the kit which has been sitting unused all summer. So, I hear you ask, what will I be skiing on this winter?

My main weapons of choice from last winter, the 191 Volkl Gotamas will be back in action again for lift-served offpiste and shorter tours. With double-rocker and a solid 107mm underfoot these skis have really won a place in my heart. Fantastic float in soft snow, they are equally good in chopped up or cruddy snow, and have surprised me no end on hard snow they are not a GS ski, and will never carve or feel like one, but when you tip them over enough, the curve created by the rocker shape gives a great high-speed ride! Currently mounted with Marker Barons, this is not a set-up for big days (though I have done 1000m + on them...), so for days when weight is a little more critical, the go-to ski will be the Volkl Mantra, paired with Dynafit Radical FT bindings. Another legendarily (is that a word?) beefy ski, the Mantra offers a good compromise between float and ease of edging on hardpack, along with a hint of tip rocker to make smearing a short turn easier in those tight spots.

This winter I will also be sporting a pair of Ranger Carbonlites, courtesy of those very nice folks at Whitedot Skis - roughly the same dimensions as the Gotama but with just the tiniest hint of traditional camber... Stay tuned for a review as soon as I can get them mounted and make some turns - it should be interesting to compare and contrast with the Gotamas.

Just waiting for me to decide which bindings will be gracing them: Dynafit or Plum...?

...and finally for the really big days there is still no seeing past the Dynastar Mythic Light - with Dynafit bindings this is the perfect lightweight set-up for me (I don't hang with the balsawood & carbon toothpick brigade much...). Combined with my modified TLT5 boots this feels like having feathers on my feet on the way uphill, and skis pretty damn well on the way down (though I still reckon a 3rd strap/buckle on the TLT5s would be the way to go...).