How To Lighten Your Backcountry Setup

How To Lighten Your Backcountry Setup //
Photos by Caroline McCarty.

There comes a time in every backcountry skier’s life when it becomes time to stop picking the low hanging fruit within sight of the parking lot and venture over the next ridge. If the snow is safe. Getting there requires actual work, and for most people, a lot of sweat and practice.

But you’re different. You’re on the highway to the powder zone. You don’t have time to get in shape like a normal person. Learning how to glide or kick turn efficiently is for dweebs. You spent $2K on a 35 lb in-and-out-of-bounds ultra-burly-hybrid setup two months ago, so you can’t afford something new. But you’ll be damned if you’re the last one drinking a summit beer when you go on your fifth ever tour this weekend.

Don’t worry friend, we’ve got you. Using only tools found in an average garage, and less than $10 in supplies, we’ll have you laughing triumphantly at your friends’ inadequacies from every summit in the Rockies in no time.


It’s been scientifically proven that at least 30% of the material in a ski has no effect on it’s performance. In industry terms, we call it “Dead Weight.” A major ski manufacturer finally broke the secret this year, and their skis are flying off the shelves like gas masks on December 31, 1999. You don’t need a checkbook to take advantage of that little tidbit of technology. Give yourself a FREE upgrade.

Step 1: Grab drill.
Step 2: Grab drill bit. We found that around around 1 centimeter in diameter works best.
Step 3: Go to town. Make your own custom hole pattern on the tips and tails. You’ll literally be dropping grams at the same speed of your last beer shit.
Step 4: Plane the bases. You don’t need any shards of metal hanging down in your “Speed Zones.”

Now that you’ve reduced swing weight, and overall ski weight by a metric shitload, you’re well on your way to the front of the pack. But you’re not done yet.

Skins are the biggest sham in the backcountry. They get wet, cold, need to be taken on and off, and weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of a whole pound!  We need only to look to our Nordic brethren to realize that by adding scales to the bases, a simple, and efficient method for going up and downhill can be achieved. Don’t worry, we tried kick wax too, but that adds between 5-10 grams per ski, which is totally inefficient. Scales are also a FREE upgrade.

Step 1: Grab hammer.
Step 2: Grab chisel.
Step 3: Use hammer and chisel to carve notches in the base of your ski in the area underfoot. Be sure to hammer in the right direction, or you won’t slide.
Step 4: There is no right or wrong way to do this. Customize your pattern for weight and snow pack.

Your skis are now dialed. You’ve reduced at least 30% of the weight off of your skis, and dropped the skins and their problems entirely. But unlike your lazy, rich friends, innovation never stops. Crack a beer and move onto your next problem.

Ski boot weight has been disappearing like Marty McFly with an Oedipus Complex, but their liners have not. The “lightweight” liners that come stock in most boots weigh over 320 grams when they are soaking wet. The amount of bubble wrap and scotch tape to replace a liner weighs under 20. This much weight savings calls for an Egg McMuffin. Bubble wrap is a superior lining material because it’s light, doesn’t absorb water, and air acts as an insulator. To top it off, bubble wrap makes an incredible firecracker-esque noise when stomping landings.  Bubble wrap can be found in nearly any industrial trash can, making it a FREE upgrade.

Step 1: Remove old liner, toss it.
Step 2: Wrap foot in bubble wrap.
Step 3: Wrap bubble wrap in scotch tape. Neophytes might be tempted to use duct tape, but it’s much heavier.
Step 4: Stomp past your friends in audible awesomeness.

At this point you’ve lost enough weight on your setup to make up for the fact that you’ve been consuming nothing but nachos and beer for the last six months, but your cholesterol clogged heart is going to require one last bit of assistance to keep blood flowing. Those bindings you spent $4-900 on? Pointless.

Whether you have regular alpine boots, or  rubber soled AT boots, the bindings you’ve been using are simply too heavy. They’re too inefficient. They cost too much. You need freedom of motion for free, dammit. Thankfully, a simple cabinet hinge and a mousetrap can be used as an inexpensive solution weighing less than a tech-binding toe piece. If you don’t have any of these parts lying around, visit your local ACE Hardware, where you’ll spend less than $10 for your last upgrade.

Step 1: Acquire cabinet hinge. Door hinges are too wide and too heavy.
Step 2: Attach half of hinge to boot.
Step 3: Attach other half of hinge to ski.
Step 4: Get a mouse trap.
Step 5: Drill trap into ski behind boot so that the killing bar secures the heel lug down for down hill skiing. Trap should be able to rotate out of the way for touring mode.


The issue of binding release might come up, but everyone knows that badasses ski with their toes totally locked out and don’t want to release anyways. As far as heel release goes, rat traps, beaver traps, and bear traps are also possible, just slightly heavier.

Now go forth and conquer. With only a few hours of elbow grease and a desire for greatness, you’ve suddenly become the fastest skier in your group. Have yourself a beer and another mountain of nachos with extra cheese, extra beef, and extra sour cream. Fitness is for chumps. With gear this light, you’ll be climbing higher than the price of clean water in Darfur in no time. -Bomb Snow


One Response to “How To Lighten Your Backcountry Setup”

  1. maxmogren says:

    a new classic. great article.

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