Big Cottonwood Canyon, one of three iconic alpine valleys outside of Salt Lake City, was clouded in and utterly white. Deep snow, in the form of 10 inches of Utah fluff, was at my feet and sprawling downhill for a mile or more from the top of a peak at Solitude Mountain Resort. "Powder!" an enraptured skier screamed. He pointed his ski tips and disappeared into the fluff.
I was next. It was a day to test new gear and enjoy the airy white stuff Utah is famous for. Hand in hand with the smoky snow, my ski setup for the day was an ultra-light package made by Dynafit, a niche brand that specializes in backcountry ski gear.
On my feet, Dynafit's TLT 5 Performance boots felt supportive and strong as I pushed off and initiated a turn. But the boots, which are built mainly for ski touring and backcountry descents, are among the lightest commercial ski boots ever made.
At about 2.3 pounds per foot, the TLT 5s feel more like shoes than hard-shell ski boots. They weigh half what a typical alpine boot weighs. With a close fit, some flex in the shell, and a rockered sole, you can literally run across the snow in these boots when not clipped into bindings. They are that comfortable and light.
Accompanying the Dynafit boots, I was clipped into the company's (www.dynafit.us) Vertical FT12 bindings and riding the long and fat Stoke skis. The entire setup is made to handle nearly all type of downhill terrain. But its primary use is for ski touring, where you eschew chairlifts and skin uphill to earn your turns.
The heel on the FT12 bindings can be unlocked to allow for a hinged free-heel technique for striding and uphill travel. The boots have two modes -- one for ascending, and a locked-in mode for going down. The skis, powerful boards with a paulownia wood core, have a metal insert area at the tip to accommodate removable climbing skins on the base of the ski.
At Solitude Resort, where my focus was primarily on the downhill side of the equation, I leaned in on a steep pitch to push the Dynafit setup to its limit. The boots, which have just two buckles and a light carbon-fiber cuff, flexed and commandeered the big Stoke skis through a series of make-it-or-crash turns in a tight woods.
Out of the skis, or while striding free-heel on an uphill, the TLT 5s felt like Nordic boots. Clipped in, they performed akin to an alpine boot with four buckles and a stiff build. I was impressed.
Overall, the Dynafit package I tested makes for a sweet setup for backcountry skiers not wanting to compromise on the downhill but in need of a lightweight system for going back up. The setup was not designed for resort skiing, though an occasional day on the lifts is fine as the Dynafit package can do double duty.
I became enamored with the company's lightweight gear. But the good stuff here does not come cheap. My Dynafit package, skis, boots, and bindings together, retails for more than $2,300 complete.
The TLT5 boots alone go for about $1,000. With carbon fiber and top-quality design, they are indeed an elite boot. The skis are about $800. But if you can afford the setup, Dynafit offers a very sweet ride.
--Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com.