Threading through tight spots, then blasting out of the apron. Welcome to Vital Season! Wasatch Range, UT. FOW: Matt Sterbenz and Harrison Brickman // Video: Matt Sterbenz (@mattsterbenz)
It’s that time of year again! Some would say it’s a transition period. A time when temps are increasing and conditions are changing. Just when your attention may begin to wander to bikes or climbing, the mountains only get more inviting.
For us, this part of the season is Vital to our core. Welcome to Vital Season!
This is when we begin to conquer the lines we’ve been plotting for months on end - first by waiting for them to fill in, then by waiting for them to finally settle and become safe to ski. Patience has been key throughout the season, and now it’s finally time to reap some gratification from being conservative for so long.
For many geographies, Vital Season is already here. Our snowpack in the Wasatch is finally healing, with that formidable persistent weak layer becoming less of a glaring threat.
Scoping and planning our line before we drop. Wasatch Range, UT. FOW: Pep Fujas (@pepfujas) // Photo: Jack Stauss (@jackstauss)
Our Approach to Spring Skiing
As we extend our season late into the Spring, our approach is freeride-minded and thoughtful. We still ski fast and aggressively, though we’re now doing it at higher elevations with greater exposure on a variety of aspects. The polar northern aspects sometimes harbor cold snow as the souths bring us corn chowder... and we want to enjoy it all!
The variety of conditions Vital Season presents are diverse, which requires a tool capable of handling anything that’s thrown at you.
FOW and ski guide Harrison Brickman ventures into the alpine. Wasatch Range, UT. Photo: Matt Sterbenz (@mattsterbenz)
And naturally, Vital Season is not without its own hazards. While our risk of slab avalanches is finally going down, season change comes with new concerns. Exposed rocks, wet slides, and overhead danger from debris released as the snowpack warms are all nothing to shake a stick at. So we begin to venture into the alpine thoughtfully and intentionally, checking off lines as they gradually become welcoming enough for a brief visit.
On behalf of the entire WNDR Alpine team, we encourage you to join us in the joys of high alpine exploration this spring.
What We Bring
Our weapon of choice: the Vital 100 Reverse Camber.
This ski is our collective favorite for human-powered spring missions. The Reverse Camber profile enables us to thread the needle between obstacles effortlessly, and prevents the tails from hooking when skiing hard over variable snow surfaces. The materials composition pairs perfectly with the geometry, resulting in a ski that’s stable when you’re straightlining through firm stuff, yet flickable when you need it to be. Those of us that want a bit of extra stability for rocketing out of the apron of a couloir may even choose to go up a size.
With the right skillset and equipment, there's still plenty of surfing to be had. Wasatch Range, UT. FOW: Pep Fujas (@pepfujas) // Photo: Matt Sterbenz (@mattsterbenz)
Our crew skis for the descent, and excessively light skimo bindings aren’t in our vocabulary. All of us have our own personal preferences on bindings, which generally is dependent on our height, weight, and skiing style.
On the lightest end of the spectrum, the Salomon MTN provides an excellent platform for steep skin tracks, and offers excellent power transfer for its weight. The low weight also makes it a great choice for accessing couloirs via long bootpacks - the less weight on the outside of your pack, the better.
The Marker Kingpin is the binding choice for the vast majority of us. With incredible power transfer provided by an alpine-style heel piece, the touring capability of a tech binding, and a wide range of heel risers, the Kingpin is a tried and true choice that checks all the boxes. This binding can charge hard with confidence through variable conditions, and even put up with the occasional resort lap if it needs to.
Reserved for heavier, bigger, or extremely aggressive skiers, the Marker Duke PT is at the upper end of the spectrum. With full DIN adjustability that goes up to 16, it makes no compromises when it comes to backcountry descents, while still touring as a pin binding. This is a binding that tends to be for the most powerful of our ski population - people that don’t mind bringing a more substantial binding on the way up if it translates to supreme downhill performance.
We're serious, don't forget this stuff! FOW: Pep Fujas // Photo: Carson Meyer (@carsonmeyerphoto)
As temps heat up, lower elevation skin tracks can get quite sticky. Get ahead of the globbing by applying skin wax before touring and always having some on hand in your pack. We’re preferential to skin wax from our pals at MountainFLOW eco-wax, who offer a before-you-go skin wax spray and a traditional rub-on solid skin wax. All of MountainFLOW’s products are nonflourinated and 100% biobased.
Warmer snowpack can also mean firmer snowpack, especially when early morning ascents are involved. The Black Diamond Neve crampons are optimized for backcountry skiing and unlock steep terrain that would otherwise be too sketchy to access.
Don’t forget, a ski kit is the best way to get the most valuable possible. Check out the Too Fast, Too Furious; Do It All; and Duke of All Trades for our recommended binding pairings and accessories at 15% off!