UPDATE: MTN Approach System

MTN Approach System, Blister Gear ReviewUPDATE: MTN Approach Backcountry Snowboard System

System includes:

  • Two skis, 138cm, with permanently affixed Nylon-based climbing skins
  • Backpack designed to carry folded skis

Ski Length: 138cm

Ski Dimensions (mm): 140-110-130

Folded Ski Dimensions:
5.5 x 2 x 21 in.
14 x 5 x 53 cm

Weight per ski: 4.5 lbs. / 2.4 kg

Pack size: 2,135 cu. in. / 35L

Days Tested: 5

Locations Tested: Crested Butte, Red Mountain Pass, Telluride

MSRP: $795

I reported on the MTN Approach System last summer after some experience in slushy conditions, but I left off by saying that I was excited to test the system where it belonged: in powder.

This season, I was lucky enough to tour around Crested Butte, Silverton, and Red Mountain pass, each after snowstorms. After more time touring in a variety conditions, the MTN Approach System has continued to impress me. In short, this system is a must-have for snowboarders who want to ride different boards in the backcountry without sacrificing uphill performance.

Maneuverability / Flotation

Using the MTN Approach System in winter conditions has confirmed the positive impressions I had with this system last spring, and at this point I have little to complain about. The maneuverability, low swing weight, and per-step weight of the small 138cm skis has been a highlight through varied snow conditions.

The small size makes each step easier than it would be on a 160-plus-centimeter ski, and turning while switchbacking is simple, fast, and far from cumbersome. And yet, while the skis are short, they offered ample flotation in deeper snow.

MTN Approach System, Blister Gear Review
Jed Doane on the MTN Approach System.

Skinning through 8-12 inches of snow around Telluride was a good test, and the MTN Approach performed well. The soft tip-to-tail flex of the skis allowed for continued smooth motion, even if the underfoot section sunk a few inches. In sun-crusted areas, the shorter skis didn’t always stay above the 1-2cm crust, but in general I had little trouble navigating crusty areas.

Other areas where the small length could potentially be of concern were the grip of the shorter skins at steeper angles, and edge grip on icy traverses, both of which I was able to put to the test.

Ascending / Side-Hilling

I was impressed with the traction of the MTN Approach skis while ascending straight up the fall line, even in deeper or sugary snow or on icy crust. I haven’t had an issue with slipping yet.

When traversing in unstable snow and depending on the edge to hold, I admittedly slipped a few times. However, I have no reason to suspect that a splitboard would have granted me more security on edge, or that my technique couldn’t be improved. Simply put, the full-wrap edges on the MTN Approach offer more edge than a homemade split, which has no outside edges at all, or the ~25-30cm edge inserts that can be added by higher-end split shops (at a hefty price).

Overall, any possible flaws I could have anticipated in the system’s uphill capabilities were non-issues, and, even if they had been, I think that the light weight and maneuverability of the skis would far outweigh any such flaws.

Pack Weight

I expressed some concern in my previous review about the weight of the pack while riding downhill, thanks to the added weight of two 4.5-pound skis. After significantly more time descending with the pack, however, I’ve become completely comfortable riding with the additional weight, and don’t feel any limitations.

MTN Approach System, Blister Gear Review
Jed Doane with the MTN Approach System, Telluride Backcountry.

I feel fine navigating tight chutes, traversing in sketchy snow, and snapping 360s off cliffs, cornices, and windlips.

Basically, if you’re comfortable riding and throwing your bag of tricks with a pack on, then you’re good to go.


8 comments on “UPDATE: MTN Approach System”

  1. Well, main question: would you take this over traditional splitboard?
    Does the lower per-step weight better then having your board on the back?

    • Victor,
      That’s a tough question with no short answer. For someone who might like to swap out boards from one day to the next, it’s far superior to a split setup. Would I prefer MTNapproach for a multi-day tour? No. But I can say that the per-step weight makes a noticeable difference over the course of a day trip, and I don’t mind having a board on my back too much. I’d say it comes down to personal preference, there are pros and cons for each setup. For what it’s worth, I use my MTNapproach more than my split.


      • Well, still hard decision. For example I have a some solid boards(swallowtails and freeride sticks), and I don’t really want to go for split because of it. MTN Approach might be a nice idea, because I can ride all my boards, and don’t need to get much stuff.
        For me main question, does it worth trying mtnapproach? And doesn’t it perforn much worse then regular split ot not? I know that splitboard will probably be better then this.
        I cannot decide what I’d like: lower per-step weight or having my board on a back.
        Again, I’m kinda heavy guy(6″3 and 210+lbs), how does it perform in powder? I hope it will work ok with company of splitboarders though.
        I gonna use it on a single day trips mostly.

  2. just pure humor that in the modern era of aerospace tech they can’t make them like 1/2 that weight
    i have mini skis the weight 3 lbs for the pair… now theres where they need to be …since my board is 6 thats less then 10 … all together… mt approach are truly lagging in technology!

  3. Jed!

    I appreciate the time you have taken for your review. I feel like I am a more aggressive rider so a split may take away from some of my style. However, as I lean toward mountain approach I wonder if it is worth the investment this season or will their technology develop into a lighter weight ski in the near future? When do you think mountain approach will release a lighter more improved model?


    • Chase,

      Thanks for the kind words. Your concerns are totally valid- investing $800 in a MTNapproach setup means you’ll want to use it for years to come. Their recent updates have included bolstering the joints with metal for more durability, but I haven’t seen or heard about an ultralight upgrade in the near future. It’s a tough call, but I think the system is totally capable as is. Hope this helps.


  4. I purchased a mountain approach setup from the source snowboards calgary, used it four times then the hinge broke on one of the skis and one of the poles seized up and won’t extend, I believe the product is inferior and to be honest dangerous, taking something with plastic hinges into backcountry avalanche terrain is not a smart move, i would suggest spending the extra money on a splitboard and do it properly.

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