Winter Camping-Skis or Snowshoes?

2:43 a.m. on October 4, 2003 (EDT)
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This is kind of a spin off of the Winter Hiking thread. I'm planning a winter camping trip to Yosemite. Skis or snowshoes? (Jim S,you seem to know both so your advice is greatly appreciated.) I am a beginning downhiller, no cross-country experience;I'll be wearing an Arcteryx Bora 80 with enough gear for a week. I'm thinking MSR Ascents with tails if I go with snowshoes. I've got a pair of Asolo AFS 101's. Could those work with snowshoes (they are fully rigid double plastic boots w/ no ankle flex)?. If you think I could handle skis, any recommendations? I've seen some short wide skis with what look like snowboard bindings on them (LL Bean Boreal/Karhu Morph)-anyone tried them? Thanks

12:34 p.m. on October 4, 2003 (EDT)
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Tom- For what's it worth. I have done both, on and off, since the 70's. My experiences have been in the Cascades in Oregon.
I much prefer being on skis with an overnight pack. Snowshoes are slow. Also, I would rather take on some new deep snow in skis than on snowshoes. A ski with a metal edge is a plus in the backcountry if you may encounter hard snow or a little ice. If you use snowshoes the MSR Denali with tails have look to me to be a good idea.

2:18 p.m. on October 4, 2003 (EDT)
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I have had a lot of experience with winter camping and long winter backpacks, both on skis and snowshoes, plus teaching courses to people on winter camping. Jim S and I generally do our annual backcountry snow trip together on skis. But when I take beginning snowcampers out for their first snow camping experience, we only allow snowshoes.

Some immediate clues are in your request.

1. beginning downhiller, no cross-country experience

2. wearing an Arcteryx Bora 80 with enough gear for a week

Based on observation of a couple hundred beginning winter backpackers, the answer is obvious - start on snowshoes. As a beginning downhill skier, trying to transition to XC skis in off-trail conditions is hard enough. Add the task of carrying a pack with a weeks worth of gear and food makes the skiing that much harder. Before you head into the backcountry on skis with a pack, do the following:

First, take your pack to your neighborhood lift-served resort and try skiing intermediate runs. Ah, yes, you said you are a beginning downhill skier, so you probably have avoided blue runs. Well, when you get into the backcountry, you have little choice of the slopes, and you may well be trying to ski a narrow trail through the trees. So you better try the blue runs. You may have a bit of problem with the lift operators about carrying a pack on the lift, but a 20 or 25 pound pack whould be allowed (there is a technique to getting on and off a lift with a pack, by the way, without getting hung up or crashing immediately). You will find that skiing with a pack is very different.

Second, get some lessons in off-trail skiing and experience on XC skis. The easiest transition for a downhiller is to use AT skis. With these, you unlock the heel on the level or uphills, then lock the heel for the downhill runs. With the right binding (Silvrettas, or a couple of the Diamirs), your Asolos will work just fine. If you go with a tele setup (much more fun in the long run), you will need a lot of lessons to transition and get comfortable.

Third, *after* you try the downhill with a pack *and* get skill on the off-trail skiing, then try short day trips with the combination. Don't just launch off into a week-long trip on your first backcountry skis and full pack.

An easy way to start in Yosemite is to go out the Glacier Point Road from Badger Pass on the prepared tracks. Bridalveil campground (a summer drive-in campground) is 3.2 miles out and the road is fairly level. Still, your first few times on skis with a pack will find you falling a lot (in my observation, seems to happen a lot to downhillers who are transitioning). Getting up from such a fall is really hard, especially if the snow is soft. But Glacier Point Road is kept prepared as a track, which helps a lot. Alternatively, you can book for the lodge at Glacier Point, which means you carry only a day pack to get there and back - food and lodging provided, and a guide too, if you think you need one to follow the prepared track.

With snowshoes, on the other hand, it's just like walking. You will be pretty expert after a couple hundred yards. That is, if you use modern snowshoes. I do not really favor the MSRs for a number of reasons (I've seen a lot of problems with them on the trail, and they are pretty noisy, compared to hypalon-decked ones), but they are much better than some of the more popular aluminum framed ones, and certainly than the traditional wooden ones. I have found Atlas to be excellent over the years and many hundreds of miles of use (one of my pairs has been up Denali 4 times, although I upgraded the bindings for the 3rd and 4th trips). I worry a bit, since Atlas is now owned by another big name manufacturer, though. Tubbs and Sherpa seem to be good, although their bindings seem to give more trouble on the trail. Redfeathers seem to have a lot of trouble, relatively, on the trail. Now, "a lot of trouble" is pretty trouble-free, compared to the old traditional snowshoes, but I consider having to make more than one adjustment to the bindings per 5 miles to be a lot.

Modern snowshoes are narrower and have better flotation than the traditional ones. If you size them for your weight (with pack) you don't sink far in even soft snow. Too many people buy the tiny dayhike-on-a-prepared trail size and then try to backpack on them - doesn't work well. On the level and uphill, snowshoes are as fast as skis. On rolling terrain and downhill, skis are faster, sometimes much faster. But downhill on BC skis with a heavy pack results in lots of falls. In soft snow, it is incredibly hard to get up when you have to deal with a pack. In the trees, things become even more dicey on skis. People rarely fall with snowshoes.

So, the short version is - if you are experienced in off-piste on backcountry skis, with a pack, skis have a tremendous speed advantage. You must be able to stay upright, however, in variable snow conditions, without a groomed track. If you are inexperienced on skis off prepared slopes carrying a heavy pack, snowshoes are faster and more comfortable to deal with.

My advice, based on what you presented, is this winter follow the following program -

1. develop your backcountry winter camping skills by packing in with snowshoes (your Asolos are just fine for any modern snowshoes.

2. at the same time, start taking lessons in "crud" and powder skiing, using AT skis. Then next winter, or perhaps this coming spring, try a short BC trip on skis with an experienced mentor (or take a course).

3. alternatively, in parallel with the snowshoe trips, start taking tele lessons and learn to really ski properly. Then next year, try some short BC overnighters on skis.

-- The Old GreyBearded One

4:27 p.m. on October 4, 2003 (EDT)
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Jim S and I generally do our annual backcountry snow trip together on skis.

So when are we going Bill? - are you actually gonna find time for me this year? (;->) Lets see who can put together the lightest full winter pack... say one good for -5 and 50 mph winds. Since we have nearly identical packs, bags and tents it will be interesting - but I'm taking my foam pillow anyway...


Bill gives great well thought out advice and has taught far more people than I - and he can easily out ski me too. That said:

I personally prefer backcountry skis with NNNBC step in bindings and modern lightweight foam ski boots that come above the ankle. I hate to have to bend over with a full pack to fuss with bindings so I use the autmatic ones that release when you press down on the red spot with your ski pole. Bill is a traditionalist and probably has more three pin bindings than any modern ski shop.

I agree with Bill that you should be using snowshoes, especially if you go it alone as its a drag to lay in the snow with a broken leg and skis twisted under yer body. I wouldn't use the Asolos though, I'd wear felt PAC boots because they are more comfortable, warmer, and you won't need another pair of camp boots - a definite weight savings.

Most of the guys that I take out winter camping have huge packs and find the stability of snowshoes reassuring. They may carry skis and ski boots to puy on at camp and ski near by, or they may borrow mine to practice a bit while I wear their PAC boots - which are generally my PAC boots anyway.

Often with beginners I ski with my mountainsmith sled and tie a spare pair of skis for their use on top. The sled is nice for a beginner to pull on snoeshoes but don't try it on skis until yer more experienced. Often if I ski with the sled, a beginner may ski in with me with no pack at all or only a small light day pack as the sled is quite large.

I do not agree with Bill about the AT skis - while they are quite similar to downhill gear, they are very heavy and expensive and if yer only a beginner downhiller, AT skis will be out of yer class anyway. Always go for the lightest gear that will work for you as you will be less fatigued at the end of the trail.

As for falling on snowshoes. It CAN be very hard to get up in soft snow - you may have to remove yer pack first and in the worst case you may be head down in the snow and small ski pole baskets will not be enough to help you get up. In soft snow you want rigid poles with large baskets on the end for snowshoeing. The collapsable variety may just do that - collapse when you need em.

As for snowshoe type. I use green mountain modified bear paws that I made 30 years ago - they have simple Alaskan Indian thong bindings made of ELK skin and I have no trouble with them. However Just about any modern snowshow will be easier to use. Get the pair with the easiest binding to get on and off. Nothing is worse than bending over with a winter pack on to mess with snowshoe bindings. Also snowshoes with a lot of criss cross webbing just press through the snow and hold a lot of heavy snow on top of them - get snowshoes with solid fill and some teeth around the edges or atlest teeth under the ball of yer foot.
Jim S (:->)

2:55 a.m. on October 5, 2003 (EDT)
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Thanks everyone for taking the time to give me such detailed advice. I'm going to check out all the alternatives, but given all the variables, I think snowshoes sound like a prudent choice for a first trip. I don't expect to be doing any serious climbing or going all that far either so slow is okay. I just want to get away from the city (I'm in the LA area)for a few days and enjoy something different.

10:03 a.m. on October 6, 2003 (EDT)
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climbing skin, toy sled, sled brakes

If you are skiing, bring a pair of climbing skin for your ski, and use a sled with puling poles. Cross the poles (vs. parallel poles) so you can make your turn easlier.

If you're snowshoeing, almost any toy sled (including sheet sled, esp if you're flying there) will do (email me for jpegs, just click on my name with blue highlight). Put your stuff in a duffle and lash it onto your sled. You don't really need to use pulling poles for a sled if you're snowshoeing.

You can improvise a braking system for you sled by tying knots on a rope. Downhill breaking: tie this rope across (left-right) the front of your sled. As the sled "overrun" the rope, the knots will be under the sled and acts as breakes. Uphill breaking: use this system on the rear of the sled, it will stop the sled from sliding backward.

Have fun. LesM

10:58 a.m. on October 6, 2003 (EDT)
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Re: climbing skin, toy sled, sled brakes

Good comments, Les.

Tom - as Les indicates, if you have a big load, as most do in winter, a sled or drag bag has a lot of advantages over carrying everything in your pack. A kiddie sled (bathtub shape) works as well as a full-fledged professionally made pulk for most of what you might do. I made one a number of years ago that is still serving well. "Made" means I took the kid sled and added a couple things to it - poles to pull it and "runners" to give it some sideways stability when crossing slopes. On my various trips up Denali, I have also used professionally made sleds (Mountainsmith, mostly, which I think may no longer be made, but cost something like $300-400) and kid sleds that we just used rope (but then we were roped, so the sled was tied into the climbing rope so it would not overrun you on the downhills).

There is a big argument when using poles on whether to use them straight (the way most commercial pulks are set up) or crossed. I prefer crossed, after trying both setups for many miles. I prefer poles to a haul rope. I find the poles to make the sled more manageable on level ground, uphill, and, of course, downhill, where it keeps the sled from over-running. Poles also make the downhill ski runs a bit more stable, and skiing downhill with a sled is a lot easier than with everything in your pack.

Look at Les' pages for construction ideas. The basic idea is to use either PVC or aluminum conduit for the poles (PVC is ok at moderate winter temperatures, but gets brittle at sub-zero temperatures), attach the poles with a swivel setup (lots of variations here) to the front of the sled, and attach the poles to some sort of waist belt. Pole length should be long enough to keep the sled behind your skis or showshoes when going downhill (it's really a pain to have the sled over-run your ski or snowshoe tails). I have found that it is actually better to attach the waist belt to my pack, rather than pile up the pack's waist belt and sled waist belt over one another (even worse if you have a climbing harness on as well). The runners are just aluminum angle, pop-riveted to the bottom of the sled, not so much as runners on a sled for sliding down the hill as directional guides.

Proper loading of the sled is very important. The load should be low in the sled to prevent upset. It is tempting to pile everything up high, but don't. Also, put more weight in the sled and less in your pack. For an expedition where you have a hundred pounds or so of food and gear for a couple weeks, it should be something like 30-35 pounds in the pack and the rest in the sled. But most people shift things around a bit for uphill vs downhill - more in the pack for uphill where the sled isn't doing that much good (ya gotta haul the weight up the hill anyway, where on level or downhill, the surface of the snow is taking the weight).

For your first trip, though, keep the weight way down. You should be able to keep the weight under 40 pounds for a weekend of very cold snow camping.

Comment on Jim's comment on AT skis - tele skis are much lighter and more satisfactory for backcountry skiing. However, because of the need for building skills for tele, a beginner or intermediate skier will find AT skis easier to deal with, despite being much heavier. The heavy weight of AT setups can be very tiring for long treks, but is tolerable for something only a few miles long. But mostly, keep in mind that BC snow is not at all like groomed resort runs. You will encounter deep powder, breakable crust (Tibetan Hell is filled with breakable crust), icey sticky stuff under drippy trees, beautiful stuff that gives heavenly runs intermingled with sticky stuff that stops you cold (like hitting a wall). Learning to deal with the variations is what BC skiing is all about.

Les's comment about skins for your skis is something I overlooked. Extremely important. You can learn to use waxes for a very wide range of conditions, but that is an art that takes years to learn. And besides which, most of us who ski the Sierra backcountry have concluded that there is no even moderately close wax for a Sierra trek of over an hour (including people who can wax in their sleep in most other mountain ranges).

-- Bill S

11:44 a.m. on October 7, 2003 (EDT)
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Quote:

So when are we going Bill? - are you actually gonna find time for me this year? (;->)

Somehow, I ended up getting overbooked for this next 6 months. But there is a block of space in mid-January, early March, and early April. Early March would be good if we do the first half of the Echo-Kirkwood race course. There are some really nice campsites from about a mile out to about 6 miles out. After the 7 mile mark, it gets pretty open.

Hey, maybe some of the RBU and RCU folks would like to have a "gathering" there. Probably couldn't get Ed to leave hot, humid Florida, but maybe some folks toward the Left Coast. The route goes south from the Echo Summit SnoPark, eventually winding up at Kirkwood XC resort after about 14 miles. But the good camping and best scenery are in the first half. The E2K race is usually the 3rd weekend in March, so the course is marked and maybe even tracked by the first week in March and followed by enough folks to keep it nice from then to the end of the season. Anywhere from a mile out, you can do side treks to quiet places with no crowds.

Quote:


...
I personally prefer backcountry skis with NNNBC step in bindings and modern lightweight foam ski boots that come above the ankle. I hate to have to bend over with a full pack to fuss with bindings so I use the autmatic ones that release when you press down on the red spot with your ski pole.

Got some of those, too.

Quote:

...Bill is a traditionalist and probably has more three pin bindings than any modern ski shop.

Actually, no. I don't have any 3-pin these days, just a pair of cables and a pair of ATs, plus track skis and the racing skis.

Quote:

...snowshoes, especially if you go it alone as its a drag to lay in the snow with a broken leg and skis twisted under yer body.

Jim knows about broken legs. Only person I know who broke a leg on an orienteering course - intermediate level at that. At least you didn't break an ankle on a hiking trail, like a certain person we know who styles himself as the world's greatest backcountry expert (did you know he still teaches courses in not only backpacking, but backcountry trip leadership?).

Quote:

...I wouldn't use the Asolos though, I'd wear felt PAC boots because they are more comfortable, warmer, and you won't need another pair of camp boots - a definite weight savings.

I agree that pac boots are more comfortable, but he already has the Asolos, and they do work well. I actually use my Scarpa Invernos on snowshoes more than my pac boots, partly because the plastic is totally waterproof, and they are certainly as warm as my pac boots, which are rated at -50F (what does that mean, stand in -50 weather with nothing but your boots on?)

Quote:

Often with beginners I ski with my mountainsmith sled and tie a spare pair of skis for their use on top. The sled is nice for a beginner to pull on snoeshoes but don't try it on skis until yer more experienced. Often if I ski with the sled, a beginner may ski in with me with no pack at all or only a small light day pack as the sled is quite large.

There is a good idea - snowshoe in with skis on the sled. Then you have the skis to play around during the day without the pack. I sometimes take a pair of skis when I take Scouts on a snow backpack - snowshoe in with them, but have fast transportation out in case of emergency (you always have other adults along on Scout trips to supervise if someone has to go back out).

Quote:

I do not agree with Bill about the AT skis - while they are quite similar to downhill gear, they are very heavy and expensive and if yer only a beginner downhiller, AT skis will be out of yer class anyway. Always go for the lightest gear that will work for you as you will be less fatigued at the end of the trail.

The point here was that AT skis are close enough to your downhill that there is no real transition in skiing style (provided you can ski in variable conditions). I will strongly disagree tat AT skis would be out of your class as a beginner. When the heel is locked, AT skis are just the same as downhill skis. For the past 8 years or so, I haven't used a regular downhill setup. I use my ATs for all the downhill stuff I do at resorts, which is up to double diamond runs (no, I don't do extreme skiing, don't jump cliffs, don't jump cornices - fell off a cornice once in my Rossi GS skis once, though. But I use the ATs with Scarpa Denalis, which are basically downhill racing boots - high, stiff, don't walk at all, but sort of climb water ice with crampons. Climbing boots like your Asolos ski adequately in some AT bindings (Silvrettas, some Diamirs), but not like a purpose-made AT boot.

Quote:

...In soft snow you want rigid poles with large baskets on the end for snowshoeing. The collapsable variety may just do that - collapse when you need em.

Especially the twist-lock poles. Flick-locks are much better (but more expensive).

Mainly, just get out there and do it. Winter camping in the Sierra is the best time of year and the most fun. Be careful, and learn about avalanche awareness, though.

4:12 p.m. on October 7, 2003 (EDT)
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RBU RBC winter trip

Quote:

Somehow, I ended up getting overbooked for this next 6 months. But there is a block of space in mid-January, early March, and early April. Early March would be good if we do the first half of the Echo-Kirkwood race course. There are some really nice campsites from about a mile out to about 6 miles out.

Hey, maybe some of the RBU and RCU folks would like to have a "gathering" there. Probably couldn't get Ed to leave hot, humid Florida, but maybe some folks toward the Left Coast...

I have no plans that far ahead, but January 22 is my birthday and its as cold and wintery as we get in the Sierras - I like COLD weather so I'd vote for Jan, but March is nice too - need sunglasses though. Anyway it would be fun to get some of the people from this group to join us at Echo Summit (Above South Lake Tahoe) for a winter camping trip. Maybe theres some good rock near there? Everybody bring crampons... but don't wear them in yer snowshoes (;->)

I'm sure Ed wouldn't come due to his fear of the "four species of deadly freeway snakes"... (;->)

12:01 a.m. on October 8, 2003 (EDT)
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Re: Snowshoes v. skis

Thanks again for the info. My limited experience was in New Zealand in the Mt. Cook National Park (I highly recommend it)and we were using crampons for glacier travel and climbing (I was taking a course). We were roped together most of the time due to all the concealed crevasses on the glacier. That shouldn't be a problem in Yosemite (hehe), but I am aware of the need for avalanche awareness. I plan on sticking to the area around Badger Pass or maybe Mariposa Grove so I won't be getting too adventurous at first.

10:51 a.m. on October 8, 2003 (EDT)
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Dewey point

Quote:

I plan on sticking to the area around Badger Pass or maybe Mariposa Grove so I won't be getting too adventurous at first.

If you do go to Badger pass try going over to Dewey Point. Its about 5-6 miles each way and I've seen people ski it their first day on skis - a bit slower on snowshoes but safer. At Dewey Point you will be directly above the Leaning Tower and BridalVeil Falls and be looking right across the Valley at El Capitan from above. If you can hike that far with a pack, camp a ways up the hill in the trees - it may be the most memorable camping spot of your life - be sure to bring a camera.

Also if you're going alone - email me and I might go with you as I haven't been there in several years - I might even snowshoe with you.
Jim S

12:04 a.m. on October 9, 2003 (EDT)
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Re: Dewey point

Jim,Thanks for the info and the offer. I will definitely keep that in mind. I always bring a camera on long trips.
I've got a Yosemite map so I'm going to start checking out the route you suggested (I've also looked at the Yosemite website).

Quote:

I plan on sticking to the area around Badger Pass or maybe Mariposa Grove so I won't be getting too adventurous at first.

If you do go to Badger pass try going over to Dewey Point. Its about 5-6 miles each way and I've seen people ski it their first day on skis - a bit slower on snowshoes but safer. At Dewey Point you will be directly above the Leaning Tower and BridalVeil Falls and be looking right across the Valley at El Capitan from above. If you can hike that far with a pack, camp a ways up the hill in the trees - it may be the most memorable camping spot of your life - be sure to bring a camera.

Also if you're going alone - email me and I might go with you as I haven't been there in several years - I might even snowshoe with you.
Jim S

6:11 p.m. on October 14, 2003 (EDT)
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Kifaru Sleds

Mountainsmith sleds are now made by Kifaru. They have a website.
jim S

7:06 p.m. on October 14, 2003 (EDT)
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The site is...
10:38 p.m. on October 14, 2003 (EDT)
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Re: The site is...

Thanks, I think a Kifaru is out of my price range. Les sent me pics of his and boy,was the price right-he paid next to nothing for them before the mods. Les suggested rope instead of poles for pulling a sled when using snowshoes-I can see the benefits of both-any comments?

2:59 p.m. on October 15, 2003 (EDT)
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Sled - rope - turtle style

Quote:

Thanks, I think a Kifaru is out of my price range. Les sent me pics of his and boy,was the price right-he paid next to nothing for them before the mods. Les suggested rope instead of poles for pulling a sled when using snowshoes-I can see the benefits of both-any comments?


Bill commented on this at length, but then Bill always has a lengthy comment and maybe you fell asleep before you finished it...
If you use a rope the sled will try to run over you when you are going down hill. That said - if you do use a light weight el cheapo kids sled - just tie it to the back of your pack and pull it with a rope, then when you come to a tricky spot, pick it up and put it on yer back sled and all.
Jim S

3:09 p.m. on October 15, 2003 (EDT)
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Re: Sled - rope - turtle style

Arrgh! You are right Jim, I need to go back and re-read the whole thread again. Sorry Bill, didn't mean to ignore you-you guys just know too much for me to absorb all at once-hehehe.

Quote:

Thanks, I think a Kifaru is out of my price range. Les sent me pics of his and boy,was the price right-he paid next to nothing for them before the mods. Les suggested rope instead of poles for pulling a sled when using snowshoes-I can see the benefits of both-any comments?


Bill commented on this at length, but then Bill always has a lengthy comment and maybe you fell asleep before you finished it...
If you use a rope the sled will try to run over you when you are going down hill. That said - if you do use a light weight el cheapo kids sled - just tie it to the back of your pack and pull it with a rope, then when you come to a tricky spot, pick it up and put it on yer back sled and all.
Jim S

7:23 p.m. on October 15, 2003 (EDT)
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sled brakes - hmmm - good idea

Quote:

If you're snowshoeing, almost any toy sled (including sheet sled, esp if you're flying there) will do

Les,
The last time I used the toy sled I discovered a major flaw. There is no cover to keep things in. The gal I was camping with said "Hey Jim theres something reddish in the snow over here". I told her it was probably algae but she insisted that it wasn't. I looked where she was pointing and reached about two to three feet into soft new snow and pulled out my XGK stove with red fuel bottle! Also those cheap sleds bend and twist and are always dumping out the contents or flipping over. I do have a great photo of me pulling my mountainsmith sled with a bright red kids sled full of gear tied behind it - sort of a wilderness "road train" as the Aussies say.
I understand wanting to save money, but after spilling the contents of my sled one too many times I found an outfitter where I could rent a mountainsmith for a weekend for $15. I think my mountainsmith set me back $300 but then I have a Kelty Cloud backpack that cost twice as much...
I've never really needed sled brakes but I'll keep your idea in mind. The times that I have skied downhill with the mountainsmith I though it was actually easier to ski with the mass of the sled pushing me (about 60 pounds loaded up). I felt like the extra weight (skiing down Mt Shasta) pushed me through the crud more easily than if I was skiing without it.
Jim S

10:21 p.m. on October 15, 2003 (EDT)
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sled brakes, covers, and all that

We used a simple "sled brake" on the kiddie sleds we used on Denali in 2002. We had used Mountainsmith sleds the previous times, with rigid poles and an accessory aluminum brake flap. But in 2002, we pulled kiddie sleds with ropes. Since we were roped (for the crevasses), we had the back of the sled tied to the climbing rope behind each person (don't even think of asking what the last one in line did). For a brake, we tied a short piece of rope in a loop around the bottom of the sled, with a couple of overhand knots in the line. When we went downhill and needed braking, this rope was slung under the sled, and for level and uphill, it was just pulled out and tucked into the back of the sled - simple but effective.

As for the covers, we put all our gear in large duffles, which were tied into the sleds. On my home-made modified kiddie sled (which has poles), I have grommets at several points along the sides. These serve as lashing points to tie a diamond hitch across the top of the duffle (having grown up in the Arizona desert using horses and burros, I can quickly tie a diamond hitch - excellent system). When carrying a shovel (needs to be easily available for avalanche rescue) or the snowshoes or skis when not wearing them, such items are tucked under the cords of the diamond hitch, with a safety tie-off to not lose things.

As I mentioned before, the poles on the sled add some extra stability when skiing downhill, which ropes do not. I suspect this is what Jim is benefitting from going through the crud, more than the extra weight pushing him along.

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