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Ski Crampons

 

For spring and summer skiing, ski crampons that attach under the ball of your foot to your specific, backcountry-skiing binding are extremely valuable. During the early morning hours of a ski ascent or when you're in the uphill portion of a high-country ski traverse, the spring/summer snows you are ascending or crossing are frequently firm from the night's freeze. Also as the morning progresses, there is often a period of time when a skin of warming corn snow on the surface of the snowpack slips easily on the firmer, frozen snows beneath as you traverse across a slope. In these conditions and more, there are frequently times when ski crampons make a huge difference in ease of travel as you ascend or traverse slopes.

For ski tourers using alpine-touring bindings (aka randonnee bindings)--which is now what most of the avid backcountry skiers in Central Washington are using-- both Dynafit and Fritschi make ski crampons that are specifically designed to work with their bindings. The teeth of the crampons can pivot up out of the snow when you're striding the ski forward and then are driven into the snow as you weight the ski. These dedicated crampons work well and your main concern is getting the model that's wide enough to work with the waist width of your ski. Having a crampons that's several millimeters too wide along each ski edge is much better than getting a crampon that just barely fits and is prone to gauging your sidewall if the crampon gets a tad off-center.

If you can't find or don't like the price of the dedicated crampons, there are crampons available from other parties to consider.  One such option is the universal Ski Crampon made by Voile. Chester Marler just applied a pair of these to one of his sets of backcountry skis and here's what he discovered:

I have a NAXO alpine-touring binding on one of my backcountry skis.  Because NAXO has gone out of business, the binding-specific ski crampon was not available. While researching alternatives on the internet I came across the Voile Universal ski crampon.  By chance I gave Leavenworth Mountain Sports a call and they had them available! The tech, Matt, quickly mounted them after a little grinding to accommodate the peculiarities of the NAXO, and I was ready to go. When we approached Panorama Point (on the approach to Camp Muir on Mt Rainier) Friday a.m. I put them on and started climbing. I thought they might be a bit inconvenient because they do not retract as you lift your foot, as a traditional binding-mounted crampon would, but it was not an issue. And because they were ski-mounted I could use the most elevated heel position as I climbed, and still retained the full bite of the crampon. They were great, and all-in-all superior to my Fritschi-specific crampons on my other skis.  I believe I would prefer them on just about any binding setup, and they are simple to use. 

 If you've used any of these ski crampons or others, please give your thoughts about them as a 'Comment' below.