Entering the last gully on the Grand Envers
Rant mode on here and at full volume!
Early this last Fall I was doing an instructors' clinic with the local ski guru's. As I bent over to hook up my safety straps my instructor for the day started in on using "touring gear" at a lift area. I mentioned this scene previous but here goes again anyway. Me being the only one in our group of 25 instructors doing a clinic that day while skiing any sort of "tech gear" you might actually use for touring.
Mind you in Europe there are a whole bunch of very skilled skiers all on tech gear..boots and bindings. There it is the norm not the exception for those in the know and actually out "doing it".
My choice for that days was a TLT6 Performance boot, Dynafit Speed Superlight bindings and a pair of Praxis Carbon GPOs to be exact. A rig I used to good effect @ Crystal Mtn in Washington, off Rainier and for 2 months in Chamonix this year.
But I digress from the topic at hand this morning. And that is should you use straps to retain your skis or trust the fickle finger of fate and a brake to fook you?
First off any one that tells you to use brakes in real mountains is an idiot.
I don't give a chit if they are a full cert UIAA Guide or a level 3 PSIA Instructor..they are wrong.
Examples from UIAA Guide's web sites on the Internet for Haute Route gear selection:
"Ski brakes - We recommend ski brakes as opposed to run-away straps. Brakes are quicker to use than straps, are somewhat safer in avalanche terrain, and reduce the odds of a ski getting away from you when putting them on or taking off on steep terrain. "
"Ski brakes recommend over safety straps"
Only once did I find this on a UIAA guide's site:
"Ski safety straps. necessary for glacier skiing"
And one suggested both:
"Ski Safety Straps ( Necessary for glacier skiing)
I know clients can be rather obtuse. But both? How about learning to actually use the gear we do have?
Loosing a ski in the real mountains is not an option for me. Or anyone I am going to ski with. Liability/risk is simply too high. Tie the damn thing (your ski) to your body. And do it securely.
More importantly learn how to use the leashes.....putting them on and taking them off.. both the ski and the leash.
Not to mention the fact that brakes up the ramp angle on any Dynafit binding and make them less capable as a pure ski binding because of it. Take a look here for some of those dirty little details.
Most people think safety straps are as dead as the Dodo Bird. I grew up using them so not a big deal for me to go back to using them. Yes they can make a fall more spectacular. Fall less is a good suggestion. Yes brakes are easier to use just no where near as secure if you actually need to retain your ski.
My experiences from just this winter? Three skis lost in bounds locally. Two owners walked down hill in knee deep to get a ski some one else below them was able to find or stop. Not a big deal since it wasn't me doing "the walk of shame". Third ski? Never did find it. Long walk (pitifully short by my standard in the hills) to the lift. They were using just brakes of course.
Prep day for the Haute Route this year. Two lost skis on piste @ Grand Montets in the fog. Could have been worse. But nothing pretty, simple or something I wanted to repeat during the up coming week. Everyone in my group bought or borrowed straps that night. It wasn't a suggestion. I saw one lost ski on the Haute Route..at an easy transition late one morning. Which had their guides scrambling to catch and return the client's skis. Momentary lack of mental awareness by the skier using brakes. Could have just as easily been a helicopter required to solve that one.
If nothing else leashes make you focus on the obvious.
This one needs some serious thought IMO. The picture below is one ski on and one ski off in a particularly insecure position. Some real advantages IMO of no brake to get in the way trying to stash the ski and eventually to get the ski back on. Damn glad I had a "handy leash" to easily clip the ski securely into as well. Lot going there in a tiny space. And walking home was not the best option.
One ski on and one off.....not by choice. Defined by the terrain @ that moment. And I wasn't pleased.
Not one of my better ideas dropping into this....but damn glad I was using straps and not brakes here.
Small loop of cord has held up well..but not the best for crampons use.
They will need to be replaced at least once a season if not more.
Ring on the right blew out in a slow speed fall on a flat glacier. Easy to use, bad idea. Ski stayed where I fell. Thankfully it really was flat terrain. Cords are new.
Dynafit system of nylon leash and a stout ring to snap into. Easy to use. Very secure on the boot cuff once you get it on and out of the way so no crampon snags.
A little hard to see clearly but Black Diamond wire leashes on a set of Dynafit Low Tech Race bindings. Latched to my my boot by the simple cord attachment pictured above. Good match up and secure in use if you are paying attention. Same set up I am using on all my skis right now.
rant mode off ;)
These are what I am currently using on most of my skis. Dynafit's version is good as well. But their easy disconnect avi feature worries me.
I want to retain my ski. Way, way less worried about avi terrain.
Not that shoe string boot attachment loops are going to take much strain.
What ever you use it needs to be more than what a key ring is capable of holding!