- Two skis, 138 cm, with permanently affixed Nylon based climbing skins
- Backpack designed to carry folded skis
Ski Length: 138 cm
Ski Dimensions (mm): 140-110-130
Folded Ski Dimensions:
5.5 x 2 x 21 in.
14 x 5 x 53 cm
Weight per ski: 4.5 lbs. / 2.4 kg
Pack size: 2,135 cu. in. / 35L
Don’t be confused by the skis: the MTN Approach System is a snowboarding system, just one with a different take on backcountry riding. The idea is to use foldable approach skis in place of the more traditional splitboard, which has its limitations.
First, there’s the startup cost, which can be hard to swallow once you add up the splitboard (or a regular board to split yourself, plus the ~$160 cost of a kit to do so), climbing skins, and hardware. Splitboards also tend to feel clunky, heavier with the added hardware, and less responsive. Additionally, they lose some of the integrity of their torsional (or side to side) flex compared to a regular board, and the two halves of a split are more independent in flex. My previous experiences on a splitboard have left me with less than a good impression of the response and quality of the ride.
So when I first heard about the MTN Approach System, I was definitely intrigued. The lightweight skis come with permanently attached skins, and included in the system is a backpack designed to carry the folded skis close to the body during the descent. This allows the rider to use his or her board of choice, which straps to the backpack during the skin/hike, and speeds up the transition from skinning to riding.
I received the system in late spring, with snow conditions rapidly deteriorating, but was able to get out on the MTN Approach System at Alta Ski Area, a favorite spot of mine for great pre- and post-season riding, after the lifts have stopped running. For my first ascent with the MTN Approach, I chose a mellow route following Collins lift to its angled mid station, then continued up to the Baldy Shoulder area.
When I first strapped into the aluminum/rubber bindings on the MTN Approach skis, I was definitely impressed. A collapsible heel loop and minimal rubber straps kept my boot secure and comfortable without adding significant weight to the ski. The toe strap and heelcup also adjust forward and backward independently, which allows the rider to alter the effective length of the footbed. My size 9.5 2013 Deeluxe ID boots fit perfectly in the bindings with minimal adjustments, and they were very comfortable throughout the tour.
The Salewa Mountain Trainer is a comfortable, well constructed approach shoe that falls closer a to low-cut hiker than a climbing shoe, and is ideally suited for long approaches or scrambling.
Airbag packs are a phenomenal piece of backcountry safety gear, but the problem's always been their substantial weight and price tag. BCA's Float 18 Airbag, however, reduces both. If you like to play beyond the ropes, you should certainly take a look.
The Osprey Kode 30 pack has a ton of great features. Even bettter? When skiing, the Kode 30 feels small, simple, and barely there.