Markus Pukonen is currently circumnavigating the earth without a motor for the next five years with his Routes of Change project. He is raising support for local non-profit organizations as he propels himself by as many modes of transport as possible, including canoe, pogo stick, hand cycle, and skateboard. Follow him @routesofchange and see his track at routesofchange.org.
What ski setup do you use to get from Canmore to Vancouver over several mountain ranges and across valleys that might not have snow?
I’ve heard it all now: alpine touring, BC cross country, telemark, long and narrow, wide and light, tech, NNN, 75mm, wax, waxless, skins, etc. and on and on.
Thankfully I’m in Canmore surrounded by a wealth of world class athletes and explorers to help me figure out what to do. Unfortunately, there are not many people who embark on this specific type of endurance trip so it has been very interesting trying to find the gear that makes the most sense for a journey of this kind.
On my planned route from Canmore to Vancouver there will be valleys without snow, so I will most likely need to walk long distances on the boots that I choose. This fact rules out an alpine touring (AT) setup as alpine boots are all made of rigid plastic (some are super light and comfy to walk in but for long distances and tons of abuse, it’s a bit risky). I considered going with a backcountry cross country setup with a NNN or SNS binding since the boots are light and comfortable to walk in, but then the bindings aren’t the most reliable option and walking on the pin in the front of the boot is just asking for problems.
Luckily for me, on this journey so far, I seem to have a way of stumbling upon the right people exactly when I need them. Soon after I arrived, I found myself at dinner with a few Olympian cross country skiers, their family, and friends. Between the group, we had some good discussion about which setup would be best for my purposes. When we came to no final agreement, they mentioned I should look up Don Gardner for his input, as he had skied across BC and to Disneyland (or something awesome like that).
A few days later I found myself having tea with the legend himself. Many folks may have never heard of Don Gardner or the epic trips he has taken. He tends to avoid the attention and publicity that most modern day explorers seek out in order to bring value to their sponsors or boost their egos. Among many other amazing things, Don has skied across BC twice. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to help me figure out what I was doing.
Unsurprisingly, Don is a big fan of travelling as light-weight as possible. He didn’t have to convince me; I was all ears. His stories about sleeping in tree wells and relying on fires to cook sounded like just the inspiration I needed. He showed me how to convert my skis into giant snowshoes if I were find myself in a bind and unable to make forward progress (the trick involves two big sticks bowed in an arc with a couple of cross sticks and some duck tape). He even gave me a saw for harvesting fire wood.
I searched Canmore for the ideal setup based on Don’s recommendations, but what I was looking for was nowhere to be found in town. However, Switching Gears, the sports consignment store in town, was super helpful and even hooked me up with some socks. Valhalla Pure was also very kind and donated a much needed merino mid-layer.
In the end, good old trustworthy MEC came through with some much-needed expedition support and I was able to find my ideal setup: Rossignol BC 110 Positrack waxless skis with Voile 3-pin telemark bindings and Alpina Alaska leather boots.
The skis are wide enough to give me some float while breaking trail in the early season snow and are perfect for the rolling terrain that I will cross. I will also carry skins as the fish scales can’t handle everything. The bindings are proven and if the 3-pin fails or breaks I will still be able to ski with the cables. The boots are stiff enough and high enough to power a turn or two but are also comfy enough to walk long distances with. Or so I hope!
Thanks to everyone who helped me out and I’ll catch you on the other side.