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Final Turns and Sportiva GTR Review

Ptarmigan Peak, "S" CouloirTalk about procrastination. I’ve been putting off finishing this post for a month now. Guess I’ve gotten lazy after the ski season. Well, here it is finally.

That’s probably it. My ski season likely ended on Solstice weekend with a couple of fun trips up and down the S Couloir on Ptarmigan Peak in the Chugach Front Range above Anchorage. It’s one of the first things I skied when I moved here and continues to be a favorite of mine due to the ease of access and scope of the line. Never ceases to amaze me that this big north face is 45 minutes from the car.

I wanted to celebrate the Solstice on skis but the weather was crappy that evening so I rescheduled to the next day. Conditions were perfect for a mid day go. I originally had my partner Marc on board but the weather and his scheduled nixed that.

Of course, this time of year, the approach is only 20 minutes from the car by mountain bike. I engaged in this late season ritual last year on nearly the same weekend. This year, with less snow, the approach was even more casual. Saturday’s outing, with two laps, also served as test event for an experiment I’m conducting on binding placement on my Sportiva GTR skis. More on that later.

About two weeks earlier, I bought something I haven’t owned for over 20 years – a mountain bike.  With a dodgy hip, I’m trying to ride more and run less these days. Anchorage really doesn’t have much road riding terrain but the ample ski trails around town provide plenty of off-road options. Owning a MTB has really opened some doors for me.

The approach vehicle - Cannondale Scalpel 1 29erThe first of two days up there involved the usual drive to Glen Alps trailhead. Unlike last year where I rode in my ski boots, I decided this time to use my cleats and put the boots in the pack with my skis. The ride was easy and, with crampons on, the climb up to the summit ridge was casual. With a slightly diagonal trajectory near the bottom there was just enough snow to link turns all the way down.Typical cross dressing. No wonder no one will ski with me.

Conditions were smooth summer snow with some wet slough to manage in the steep narrows. Certainly good enough for a second lap. I needed to confirm my suspicions about binding position anyway. The second time up I ran into Marc who managed to reschedule successfully. It was good sharing a fun run with him. Better to have pictures of him ripping than the usual fare common on these solo missions.

One way from my houseMarc joining me for the second go.

Malted recovery beverage....mmmm.

On Sunday I decided I needed a longer outing and opted to ride from my house to the peak. A combination of trails and road brought me to the main, steep 2,000’ road climb to the parking lot. This thing is a bitch in the heat and the skis and pack on my back didn’t make it any easier. I certainly got some curious looks riding the single track in the woods with skis on my back.

Marc headed home

I took race gear for obvious reasons and the perfect snow skied great on the little sticks. Always amazes me how fun those skis are when the snow is good.

Sportiva GTR

My go-to spring ski has been the Dynafit Broad Peak for a few seasons now. It’s one of the best skis I’ve been on for firmer conditions and steep lines. But a compressed edge had me looking for other alternatives this spring and I thought a little more girth and modern shape would be fun to try. I also decided that, although short is nice on the back, longer is better when conditions are funky. As a result, I decided a 178cm would be a nice compromise.

I’ve been interested in Sportiva and their entry into the sport a couple of years ago. I’ve raced on the RSR race ski for two seasons now and it has performed well. I tried out the Lo5 this winter and, although I liked how they skied, their weight was a deal breaker for me. This is an issue flogged to death at Wild Snow if you care to read more about it.

The ski that fit the characteristics I was seeking is the GTR (114-82-104 with a 25 meter radius cut). Mounted with a 165 gram Plum Race 165, a single ski weighs in at 1477 grams. Compare that to my Dynafit Manaslu in the same length/same binding at 1650 grams. Now, granted, the Manaslu is more ski at 95mm underfoot but it’s another choice this time of year.


If you read the discussion on Wildsnow about the Lo5 you’ll find much banter regarding boot sole center and binding mount positions. The first thing I noticed when I took the GTR out was that the tip dove under the snow while skinning and breaking trail. I found it odd and annoying. Led me to believe I was mounted too far back. I can’t say I had a big problem skiing them, however. They seemed lively. In hindsight this liveliness was due to the lack of tail behind me and as I finished a turn and got back at all I was jettisoned immediately into the next, airborne at times. I kind of liked it when the terrain was chill but it turned into a liability when things were critical.

I took the skis down to Washington for my week with Dane Burns from Cold Thistle. He made two turns on them and proclaimed without reservation that the mount was way back. That night we took a hard look at things, looking at the radius of the side cut, measuring the running length and all that sort of thing and decided that the boot center mark could be as much as 6 cm off. What?? Yep, 6 cm.

In order to drive the point home, we spent some time side-slipping a steep slope with various skis. The ones with the “best” mount were the ones with most even and predictable feel front to back doing this maneuver.  When steep skiing, this sensation is paramount, in my opinion.

Now, 6 cm seemed like a lot. Dane suggested I move the bindings forward 3 cm and see how that felt. I felt like a wimp doing that, like I lacked conviction for what I believed. In the end, I decided on 4 cm (less wimpy). When I got back, I took the skis into AMH. Sure enough, my ski tech, who knows me well at this point, called me and was, like, “…you sure you want to do this?” I said I was and he mounted them up.

4 cm forward of the recommended mount - much better.When I went to pick them up he said at first he thought it was crazy but after he lined things up he said it looked pretty normal. I hoped it would ski normal, whatever that was. When I got home and eyeballed them closer with a tape measure, I noticed that there was essentially the same amount of running surface in front of the boot as behind. That’s kind of what I was looking for.

Now, I’m no ski tech wizard. Some of you may be laughing at my thought process here. I’m simply following my instincts on this and my first impressions after skiing them is a positive one. My first turns down Ptarmigan produced a much less exciting but very predictable sensation. I could get into the back seat slightly without any consequence. I like that. I’ll have to wait until next season to see how they perform in other conditions but for now, forward is better.  

I wrote the guys at Sportiva and presented my issue and solution. They were understandably circumspect in their response, pointing out that binding position is very personal and the suggested mounting point only a starting point. Hmmm. Seems like a starting point that is several centimeters off is more of a mistake, in my opinion. Besides, remounting skis several times just feels wrong. I know Lou at Wildsnow doubts that repeated drilling really weakens a ski but it’s still hard to swallow sometimes. And at $45 a pop, it hurts the wallet, too.

In general, the GTR is a fine ski for steep lines and spring conditions. It has a very slight early rise, which I favor for variable conditions. The added width and length gives it more versatility while still being plenty light on the ups. The low swing weight is welcomed during aggressive jump turns in tight, steep terrain. Classic flat tails make for easy plunging at transitions. 

For several seasons in Jackson, being the hard-core skimo guy that I was, I used a Trab or Dynafit mountaineering ski, 75mm underfoot as my powder ski. I know that sounds funny but it was fine for what I was doing. With that fact in mind, I suspect that the GTR will perform even better in soft snow. This will afford lightening fast long tours in most conditions.

I know little of how Sportiva’s skin attachment system works but I understand it’s similar to the one used by K2. Being a skimo racer at heart, I didn’t hesitate carving a slot into the tips of the skis in order to use a race-style bungee tip on my skins. This is faster and easier than any of the back-of-the-ski-based systems out there. It’s also light.Dremel happy. Yeah, those are $1,200 carbon DPS I cut. It's illegal in Utah.

This also allows for race skin use in low angle terrain that speeds up skinning nicely.

Hopefully, my experiment and results inspire others to test similar ideas with their quivers.

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Reader Comments (5)

Nice to hear about the GTR. I've been on a pair of Karhu Spire BC and while I like them, I'm looking to lighten the load with a new mid 80 touring ski in the next few years.

If you've had the chance to ski the Dynafit Cho Oyo or the Hagan Wai Flow or others on the lighter end of the spectrum I'd love to know what you think about the edgehold and ski worthyness compared to the Sportiva

July 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTim Z


A bunch of folks I know skied the Cho last season and liked it. I have not been so lucky but I did get to heft a pair a few weeks ago. Ridiculously light. It's going to be hard for other companies to compete with that ski in that range unless they really up their game.

Hagan has been making awesome skis for many decades. Haven't heard anything bad about any of their skis but have not skied anything recently. My first pair of BC skis were Titanals in the 90's. Rumor has it that they're putting an early rise on their race skis. Love that idea.

Funny you say you're thinking about upgrading in the next few years. Not even worth asking any of these questions until you're ready to pull the trigger since this stuff changes every 6 months, it seems.

July 26, 2013 | Registered CommenterBrian

Michael Hagen [sic] had a pair of the 2013-14 X-Race skis with us on Glacier Peak last month. And I had the 2013-14 Hagan Cirrus (w/ Plum 165 & Scarpa Alien 1.0), which is essentially the same as the 2013-14 X-Race but wider (and of course heavier, but about a pound per pair). Both have noticeable tip early rise. Comparing the Cirrus to my old Trab Duo Sint Aero, in addition to being several oz lighter and several mm wider (win win!), it also has much better performance in unconsolidated snow conditions, and in sun cups too, which I think is attributable to the tip early rise. I never thought that tip early rise would made sense in such a narrow skis (75mm), but apparently I thought wrong. I suspect that the race skier's early rise will significantly enhance its performance in unconsolidated snow, decreasing skimo race descents times and increasing its recreational backcountry applicability.

July 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan S. Shefftz

Hey Jonathan,

I'd heard from someone last year that Hagan was adding some early rise to the race stick. This is an exciting development for the reasons you stated. I believe that Killiian Jornet's Atomic skis have early rise but are not available in the US. Seems like Trab needs to move in this direction, as well.

The thing about Hagan, and this is a plug for Michael, is that they offer great skis at somewhere around half of what Trab costs for a similar race ski. There's no question about why Trab dominates the World Cup of skimo racing but Hagan offers a great ski for those interested in checking out the sport. The savings can then be spent on boots where the investment in carbon makes a world of difference on the up.

BTW, nice job getting into Glacier Peak. For you out of towners, you came a long way for quite the slog into the base. I've done that walk from the Kennedy Hot Springs side a couple of times. Beautiful forest through there but long way to go for sun cups, eh?

July 28, 2013 | Registered CommenterBrian

Yes, I think Dynastar was first with early rise for skimo race skis, then joined by Atomic - neither of which is available in the U.S. despite their strong alpine downhill ski distribution (go figure...).

For many years Hagan race skis cost way less than other brands, yet weighed a few more ounces more. Now they’re the same weight as everyone else, yet still way cheaper. I had been wondering why they aren’t more popular, but then when I took advantage of a Denver biz trip this year to enter the Breck Five Peaks race, wow! Overwhelming in so many ways (the level of competition compared to back East, the hypoxia-inducing elevation, the bitter cold and wind, the untracked powder), but also so many skiers on identical Hagan X-Race skis and in Hagan-branded Crazy Idea suits - I can’t remember the official rule for maximum proximity to your partner, but you had to stay close or else you might lose track of him among all the similarly outfitted racers!

The 2013-14 version of the X-Race, although still relatively inexpensive for a full-on skimo model, will also be joined by the even less expensive Hagan Ascent : different wood (Poplar instead of the X-Race’s Paulownia), slightly stiffer flex, and a few more ounces.

The Glacier Peak skiing (in late June) was actually quite good. (The sun cup evaluation was in late July on the Adams summit face and then around mid-way down on the SW Chutes, although other parts skied reasonably well.) To get to that skiing, I was prepared the prior afternoon for the seemingly endless flat river canyon hiking approach, then the brutally steep hiking trail switchbacks, and finally the long alpine hiking trail traverse across the slide paths to reach overnight camp at White Pass. But I didn’t fully comprehend beforehand from the map study and TR beta the extent of the long on-snow approach the next morning across the rolling basin and stagnant flat glaciers . . . then that afternoon after the “real” skiing was over, the return “skiing” took pretty much as long as the approach that morning, given the rolling and flat terrain combined with the sticky snow. (Kind of like that old joke about walking to school back in the old days being uphill in both directions.) But it was the last volcano left in our quest to ski from the summit of all the PNW volcanoes that are skiable from over 10k (well, except for Jefferson, which we skied from only ~9k, but, whatever), so we had no choice in the matter!

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan S. Shefftz

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