Here's Jeff, our trusty ski technician, in his natural habitat. Oh wait - that would be out in the snow, with skis on. When he isn't mounting bindings or tarring skis, Jeff takes off on the road less travelled and into the woods less skied. Here is his angle on backcountry skiing.
Q: Where do you like to go backcountry skiing?
Jeff: Close to Saskatoon, I like to go to Cranberry Flats, Beaver Creek - there's nice up and down there and some flats by the river (careful of the river ice but then again, we used to drive cars across there in the 30's, didn't we?). Out of town, Eb's Trails is nice before they track it. Now that they don't track Prince Albert National Park there's all those trails to explore too.
Usually the backcountry skis are the first ones I have on every season before there's trails anywhere. First ski of the season is usually up in the park along the Elk Trail, around the November 11th long weekend - has been for about ten years, I think. And then there's the mountains...
Q: Waxless or waxable skis?
Jeff: I like waxless skis for backcountry. Backcountry skis are softer so they tend to lose their wax faster. In the mountains, you're either going up or you're going down. With waxable you get a bit more glide but since you have to stop and wax, it takes about the same amount of time to just go waxless. And if it's really steep you'll just use skins anyway.
Q: What is your favourite pair of skis?
Jeff: Does this include the ones I lost? (sad faraway look)
I do like my Salomon XADV 69's. 69mm wide at the tip - an awesome width for general touring. In powder, on any ski, you're either going to sink or stay on top. 69mm width is enough to keep you from sinking too much and with a wider ski you're pushing more snow.
Q: Other than skis, what piece of equipment can you not do without?
Jeff: Three kayaks, four canoes.... oh, skiing?? A skijoring harness for my dog. Keeps him from chasing down wolves and getting eaten.
Q: What kind of clothing do you wear while skiing?
Jeff: I wear the Swix Powder Pant, Salomon Active Softshell, and layer underneath as temperature demands.
Q: What's your favourite ski snack?
Jeff: Home made hot chocolate from my Thermos.
Q: Is this hot chocolate enhanced with something?
Jeff: Not when I'm skiing! Later on, maybe...
Q: What is the craziest thing that has happened to you while out skiing?
Jeff: Well, I saw eight wolves the other day, and they didn't eat me, I thought that was pretty crazy.
There was this time I was skiing down Red Earth Creek with my son. At the top of the trail there was 4.5km downhill. We were looking at the mountain range to the east of us and you could see the pink light from the sunset starting. I warned him "when those mountains turn purple we're in trouble because we won't be able to see the trail". It was a very fast descent. Sadly the mountains did turn purple before we got down and Dagan did have a great wipe-out. We cheated death!
Oh - and then there was the time I was descending the Moraine Lake Road and it was really icy so I had to snowplow out of control the whole way...
Oh there was another time at Red Earth Creek when it was so warm I had to strip down to my underwear and happened across a very attractive lady... (ok, on to the next question).
Q: What is one tip you like to pass on to people interested in backcountry skiing?
Jeff: Go waxless, it's awesome.