Thursday, November 14, 2013

Backcountry Ski Gear on the Cheap, Fall 2013

I'm not planing on buying any new ski gear this winter but I can't help watching for deals so I thought I'd compile a list of some of the best deals I've seen this fall and some of the tricks we used to gear up on a budget in past years. The links in this post are affiliate links so if you buy something through them you are helping us fund hillmap.

Use Coupons and Sales

I've found some great deals using coupons from the Sierra Trading Post deal flyer. They send out a coupon most days. The best one is a coupon for 35% off your entire order that comes out ever two weeks or so. I filter these and all emails from retailers to a "deal offers" folder in gmail so I can ignore them except when I'm looking for something.

For the rest of the day (11/14) you can get an extra 25% off snowsports equipment from REI outlet using the code SAVE25OFF.

Lots of retailers including REI, and have 20% off coupons throughout the year. There should be plenty of these around Thanksgiving and before Christmas.

Don't skimp on Safety

Your friends lives depend on your beacon probe and shovel. This is not the place to skimp on safety or save weight.

You can still save money though as there are sales and your local shop may have a package deal where you can get a discount for buying beacon, shovel and probe at the same time.

Best Deals


You should only consider buying a modern 3 antenna beacon that gets five stars on If a partner shows up with a cheap one antenna Pieps Free Ride I am not going to want to ski with them. The Zoom+ is simple but well reviewed.

Sierra Trading Post also has a few other quality beacons at the moment though coupons don't seem to work on them.

In past years, 20% off REI member coupons have worked on beacons. They stock a lot of them. There should be a coupon around Christmas or Thanksgiving if you can wait that long.


G3 AviTECH Shovel

You should only consider shovels made from high quality 6061 T6 aluminum. Shovels made from cheaper aluminum or plastic won't stand up as this study shows.

Fortunately, both the top rated shovels in that study can be had affordably. I prefer the G3 Avitech which packs much easier and can be found in this discounted version. The Voile Telepro T6 is also a great choice that isn't that expensive to start with but is slightly harder to pack due to the neck of the shovel blade.


Here is a test of avalanche probes that stresses ease of deployment and sufficient diameter.


The Scarpa Maestrali are light on the feet or after you take them off and strap them to your pack.


Boots play the biggest roll in determining the performance, comfort and ease of touring of your new setup. Different brands and models fit differently so it may be worth buying from a store that can help you find the right fit. Some stores like Second Ascent in Seattle carry last seasons models at discounts as good as you can find online and have knowledgeable staff who can help you get the right fit and mold your heat moldable liners.

Many touring boots also come in several versions a high end carbon version, a stiff and light Grilamid or Pebex (or PX) version and a more affordable but heavier Polyurethane (PU) version in addition to Men's and Women's versions and 3 or 4 buckle versions. Make sure you know what version you are looking at before you decide if it is a good deal.

There are lots of great deals around on previous years' models. I've seen various versions of the Dynafit Zzero which fits narrow feet and the Black Diamond Quadrant Prime and Slant which fit wider feet.

The latest generation of boot are lighter and offer more range of motion for touring if you have a bit more money to spend. The Scarpa Maestrali (similar to the gea/blink/rush/pegasus) started a trend towards $500-600 boots that ski and tour really well. The Pegasus is the most affordable of the line made from PU, with the more expensive versions being stiffer and lighter. I have the orange Maestrali and love them. If you decide to go this way take a look at the Scott Cosmos (last years Garmont branded version had tech fitting issues) and La Sportiva Specter as well. stocks most of these and some are on sale. 


Dynafit Speed Radical
Dynafit Radical ST
Fritchi Bindings from Sierra Trading Post

It is worth splurging for dynafit bindings as they tour better and weigh less then frame bindings. They rarely go on sale but, if you don't need brakes you can save some money by going with the light and simple Speed Radical. I prefer a binding with ski brakes like the Radical ST for use in avalanche terrain or in bounds where brakes or leashes are required.

If you can't afford Dynafits, sierra trading post has some deals on older Fritschis (use an email list coupon to save even more).


I thoroughly enjoy my BD Justices 

BD, G3 or Dynafit Skis from Gearx
Black Diamond or G3 Skis From Sierra Trading Post

Black Diamond has been continually revamping their ski line for the past few years and there are some great deals around on older models that still ski well. There are also some past season G3s and Dynafits around. I wouldn't recommend anything narrower then 88 underfoot for your only backcountry ski.

My top picks are:

BD Carbon Justice for a powder oriented ski (my review).
BD Drift or Starlet for an all around fat turny ski (Jen's review).
BD Aspect for a ski mountaineering ski

Voile skis are also reasonably priced to start with.


Black Diamond Ascension Climbing Skins from Sierra Trading Post
Cosmetic 2nd G3 or BD Skins from Gearx

Black diamond and G3 both make solid skins that can be found on sale. It used to be G3's had more glide and BD's climbed better but the latest versions from both companies are pretty similar. I recommend nylon skins for your first pair.


You can use your existing 30-40 liter pack but if you have some extra money there are some deals to be had on Black Diamond avalung packs which offer dedicated "wet room" pockets for shovel and skins as well as the avalung safety device which may let you breath in an avalanche burial or tree well.

Adjustable Poles

Black Diamond Adjustable Poles from Sierra Trading Post

If you have them, you can use non adjustable poles or get powder baskets for some trekking poles. A pair of adjustable poles is nice for long tours so you can extend them out to cross country ski lengths for kicking and gliding through long sections of flat.

Puffy Coat

Eddie Bauer also has some sales throughout the year on the super warm Peak XV

Brooks Range from Rei Outlet (act today and use the extra 25% off code).
Bergans Down Parka From The Clymb

If you don't already have one, a nice warm puffy coat is an essential piece of gear for rest stops and for safety should you need to spend the night out. I would use a synthetic for a warmer wet climate, a light down for dry climate and a full on baffled down parka for a very cold climate. 


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