2010-2011 Scarpa Mobe alpine touring boot

2010-2011 Scarpa Mobe alpine touring boot, Blister Gear Review

Boots: Scarpa Mobe, size 27.5, 104mm last

Skier: 6’2”, 210lbs, athletic, technically proficient, fast and fluid skier.

Foot: size 10.5 / 11 street shoe, c+ width (105mm width, static/weighted), high instep, low volume ankle and lower calf.

My regular ski boots: Nordica Jah Love, 98mm last, 130 flex with no grinding or punches.

Conditions tested: Backcountry powder, sun effect, wind effect, inbounds soft, chalk, firm. Basically everything.

Duration of test: 30 days.

The Scarpa Mobe boot was lust-worthy when it arrived. It is quite well made, and a lot of attention has gone into designing a boot with a fair amount of lateral stiffness and a nice, progressive forward flex. It also felt light in my hand out of the box. I was excited to test this boot and I quickly developed high hopes for it – to the point that I was dreaming of getting rid of my alpine boots and just skiing the Mobe every day. For me, that is saying something, since I’ve never been impressed enough by any touring boot to consider skiing in one all the time.

Touring around my living room in the Mobe, the walk mode certainly seemed adequate. The boot has significantly more articulation than the Black Diamond Factor or the Salomon Quest, but it offers slightly less range of motion than the Dyanfit Titan. I found myself walking at only a slightly diminished stride in this boot compared to a true backcountry boot.

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2013-2014 Rossignol Experience 98, 188cm

Ski: 2013-2014 Rossignol Experience 98, 188cm

Dimensions (mm): 139-98-128

Turn Radius: 22 meters

Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 186cm

Boots / Bindings: Lange RX 130 / Look demo bindings (DIN at 10)

Mount Location: 2cm back from manufacturer’s mark

Test Location: Taos Ski Valley

Days Skied: 4

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 11/12 Experience 98, which is unchanged for 12/13 & 13/14, except for the graphics.]

I first got on this ski at the SIA on snow demo at Taos Ski Valley, and it was one of the more impressive skis I tried during those three days. The Rossignol Experience 98 comes from a racing pedigree with an all mountain target audience. It has a wood core, metal sandwich construction, a side cut that extends all the way through the tip, and what Rossi is calling their “all mountain rocker.” Rossignol describes the Experience 98 this way:

“With the heart of a high-performance carving machine and a freeride touch and feel, it is one of the strongest do-it-all skis on the market. Traditional camber underfoot delivers power, energy and edge grip with rockered tip and tail that dramatically improves the turn initiation and flotation in any condition.”

Nice description, except for the fact that the Experience 98 has ZERO tail rocker, which is something that potential buyers ought to know before pulling the trigger. (See the photograph below.) However, while “rocker” is all the rage – so much so that many manufacturers are slapping some form of reverse camber on just about everything they make – the absence of tail rocker on this ski is a good thing, given that it is intended to be an exceptional carver.

My first impressions of the Experience 98 were good. The ski turned easily on groomers – quick edge-to-edge and silky smooth. That impression soon disappeared, however, when I took it into more difficult terrain. The ski became hooky and unpredictable, and was unstable at speed. I took the skis back to the Rossignol rep, Tyler, and told him what I thought. Tyler said, “come back and try it again tomorrow and I’ll set the binding back a little bit.” I did just that, and sure enough the ski performed much better: everything became smooth and stable, and speed and bumps were no longer an issue.

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Lib Tech Lando 157 C2 BTX WIDE

Lib Tech Lando 157 C2 BTX WIDE, Blister Gear Review

Boots: K2 Thraxis

Bindings: K2 Auto Uprise

First things first: any board named after a ridiculous rider is going to get some attention. This is Mark Landvik’s pro model, a board for a guy who started heli-boarding at 16 and now spends his time cruising the world (Alaska and Patagonia anyone?) while trying to avoid avalanches (he was swept off a fifty-foot cliff by one this season).

The Lando is billed as an “All Mountain” plank, and it is packed full of the features that have driven snowboard innovation across the industry. This board has many features that are similar to those offered by competing manufacturers, but Lib Tech has themed their technology with consistency and artistry, not to mention pushing the development of the “strange.”

It’s easy to get confused by the Lib Tech terminology.  For the purposes of this review, we are going to travel into the realm of, “What Can This Lunch Tray Do For You?” The Lando is certainly a board

that handles it all.  But what does it handle best, and why?

Lib Tech Lando C2 BTX WIDE

Riding up the lift with a stranger at Snowbird, I was told the boards was “Easy on the eyes.” This really is a gorgeous board with graphics that look like DNA on acid, or love making snakes.  Classic Lib Tech, at its best.

I was lucky to go to Snowbird to test this board and see how it handled the 3,000 ft per tram ride, with diverse terrain options available in every direction.

Day One:  Up The Tram

This was my first time at the Bird, end of January, 2011. It hadn’t snowed in a while and some rain layers were lurking. Of course, when it’s blower powder, pretty much any snowboard will suffice, so the test conditions were perfect. We weren’t just riding deep powder, but a mix of pretty much everything: steep, sun affected faces; dry, packed chutes; icy, skied-off groomers; chattery, choppy run-outs; and yes, even stashes of untouched powder.

We used the first run to get our bearings and get used to the mountain. The plan was to board down the west side of the hill back to the tram. We headed toward Regulator Johnson, eager to open it up on a steep, open run. First turns on the Lando from the tram down the ridge were quick, responsive, and damp. This board is pretty dang stiff and very solid feeling underfoot. The sidecut of the board could be compared to a serrated knife cutting ice: there’s a little grind to it, and it is apparent that these serrations (Lib Tech calls it, “Magne-Traction”) enhances speed control –  you don’t have to make as many checks or turns as you might on a board with traditional edges.

So what’s the Take Home Point with Magne-Traction? The serrated edge encourages tight radius turns and works to check speed – the rider definitely feels the grind. In my opinion, the Magne-Traction was too much. I’d rather have a smooth edge that allows me to go mach when I want to and check speed only when I have to. My style tends to be geared toward fast, big mountain tree and mogul charging, and the Magne-Traction seems a bit at odds with this type of riding. (Ok, now back to Regulator Johnson….)

Regulator Johnson was a slick slider slope and a wee bit sun affected already.  I opened up some wide, huge carves on a very steep open run. I’m impressed by the Lando’s edge hold! I notice off to the left some moguls and a gate with two diamonds on it. I didn’t know where I was going, but those diamonds usually point to areas where you can get loose! I chop through some crud, trying to dig and ride fall line edge at speed to gage the chatter. I did notice some heel edge chatter issues, as if the board was so stiff it wasn’t dampening the bumps.  This seemed somewhat contradictory because stiffer usually means more stable. However, snowboards have to be torsionally dynamic to accommodate heel-toe flexing changes. But I wasn’t reading too much into this since I’d only been on the board for a few minutes   and there are always stance issues to work out before getting it right.

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Preview: MFD ALLTIME AT Binding

Preview: MFD ALLTIME AT Binding, Blister Gear Review

The MFD ALLTIME: Trekker Slaughterer, Duke Killer?

A dilemma exists for alpine skiers who want to access the untouched expanses of backcountry terrain but don’t want to sacrifice the performance of a high-DIN alpine binding. Yes, the release of Marker’s Duke and Baron bindings several seasons ago presented an attractive option. Yet for those of us who either can’t drop the cash on a pair; have issues with their notoriously low elasticity; are concerned with weight; or are looking to adapt an existing resort setup for touring, the options are very slim.

Backcountry Access makes the Alpine Trekker, which are adaptors that click into regular alpine bindings, creating a free-heeled platform designed to fit any alpine boot. Granted, depending on your boot size, using them with bindings with a tall heelpiece (most new Marker and Look/Rossignol bindings) may not work so nicely. The heel of your boot will rest on the binding, not on the bottom trekker platform. Regardless of these minor compatibility issues, Trekkers (or “Day-rekkers” as they’ve sometimes been called), can get the job done. I have been on a number of tours using them with only the slightest inconvenience. And yet, given the Trekkers’ heavy weight, bulky construction, lack of torsional rigidity, awkward 3″ stand height, and a build-quality that doesn’t seem to justify the $180 price tag, they make for a less than ideal AT setup. Soon, however, there might be a better way.

MFD Inc., a Salt Lake City based company, has announced their plan to release a new AT binding system to retailers in fall, 2011. The MFD ALLTIME, the company’s flagship product, aims to satisfy alpine skiers looking toward the backcountry while minimizing the drawbacks of an adapter system. A machined aluminum channel with releasable heel is mounted to the ski. From here, almost any high-performance binding from Salomon, Rossignol, Look, Atomic, Marker, 4FRNT, Tyrolia, or Head can be used. The ALLTIME comes in four different models to accommodate different binding mount patterns.

The MFD ALLTIME (Salomon/Atomic System)

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2010-2011 Black Diamond Justice, 175cm

2010-2011 Black Diamond Justice, 175cm, Blister Gear Review
Kate Hourihan reviews the Black Diamond Justice, Blister Gear Review
10/11 Black Diamond Justice

Ski: 2010-2011 Black Diamond Justice, 175, cm

Dimensions (mm): 138-115-123

Turn Radius: 33m

I was a little skeptical of the Black Diamond Justice, despite the good things I’d heard about it. I had previously owned a pair of Black Diamond Verdicts that I’d never grown to love, and I was worried that I might find the Justice to be a stiff, unplayful ski that was hard to turn. I’m a smaller girl and a telemarker, so I like a ski that turns easily, floats well, and pops….

Day 1: It was chilly and partly-cloudy day at Alta. Six inches of snow had fallen a few days ago, and conditions were soft but pretty tracked out. Given Black diamond’s burly reputation, I thought I’d start with a gentle groomer to feel out the ski. The first run was smooth and my first turn was near perfect. After just three turns, I nodded and gave my friend a thumbs up of approval. The Justice skied fast and beautifully carved turns. They didn’t feel like a fat powder ski forced to negotiate a groomed run, nor were they as burly and stiff as I had feared.

I then ventured out to Devil’s Castle to explore, sidestepping only a little way. There looked to be some soft, nearly untracked snow below us. I watched a friend ski before me. It looked soft but a little grabby, and I watched him take deliberate, careful turns. Then I dropped in. The snow was smooth in places, but there were buried ice chunks and random patches of wind effect. The skis preformed well, but turning wasn’t effortless. The Justice need to be driven with confidence. When they are, they impress with how well they plowed through chop. Once a turn was initiated I could trust them. The only place I felt caught off guard was making a little playful alpine turn at the bottom of the run. My edge grabbed me by surprise. While I could make a quick but intentioned tele-turn, a mindless, playful maneuver didn’t seem possible, which can probably be attributed to the stiff, non-rockered tail.

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2010-2011 K2 Slayblade

2010-2011 K2 Slayblade, Blister Gear Review

Board: K2 Slayblade 155cm, Goofy

Boots: K2 Thraxis (stiff)

I’ve been on a bunch of boards over the years, and I am always looking to check out the best boards out there. I’d been hearing some buzz for a while now about the K2 Slayblade, and I decided that it was time to try one.

The first K2 I ever rode was an early 90’s super thick and super stiff directional board, appropriately named the “Gyrator.” K2 has made some updated versions of this board in the last few years, incorporating what they call, “powder rocker,” which is just their term to signify that a particular board has the greatest amount of tip and tail rocker in the K2 line up.

The Slayblade, however, caught my attention for exactly opposite reasons: SETBACK TWIN: it has no tip or tail rocker, ¾ stance shift, and no camber underfoot. They call it their “flatline” design. When I got my hands on one, I also noticed that the Slayblade was thin and near weightless. (Flatline. Get it?)

Admittedly, K2’s Powder Rocker shape had me dreaming of endless powder days spent bumping down super fluffy pillow lines. Then I remembered that I live and ride in Taos, where I need a board that is versatile enough for pretty much every snow condition and terrain type.  TAOS has been called a four-letter word for steep. Sometimes, it can be described as icy and rocky. It offers world class riding and numerous technical lines off the ridge in two directions. The Slayblade sounded like it could be a good fit for the place.

First Run: On any snowboard, the first thing you notice is how well it skates:  One foot in, pushing towards the lift line, or running it out towards another lift.  The two lifts are connected by a run called the 5 to 2, which is essentially a narrow blue catwalk traversing the mountain. It is a great chance to move with one foot in and saves time on the important days!

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