PACKING WITH THE PROS:
SKI TOURING (ERIC HJORLEIFSON)
Words and Images by Abby Cooper
As backcountry touring rises in popularity, the sport’s gear is proliferating left, right and centre. So, how do you choose the best gear? What’s been tried, tested and true? We turn to pro freeskier, Eric Hjorleifson, for his rundown on what he puts into his pack for a day out ski touring. Here are his favs (and some sweet hacks, too!).
Eric Hjorleifson (or Hoji, as you may know him) hails from our backyard. A Canmore native, Hoji grew up ski racing at Mount Norquay. This discipline of skiing didn’t exactly fulfill what he wanted to do on the mountain, so his coach Guy Mowbray started what may possibly be the first free-skiing program in North America. And that was exactly what Eric was after. Hoji’s family lived and breathed the ski culture and he started ski touring at age 17 because it was the best way to get to a pillow line. It didn’t take long for sponsors to realize that this guy was impressive with his big mountain moves. Well-known for his appearances in Match Stick Production’s ski movies over the years, Hoji is still inspiring shredders of all ages to get after it on skis. His main sponsors, Arc’teryx and 4Front, love his zest for the backcountry, smooth style and seemingly endless tinkering ability to make every bit of gear better. We could all learn a thing or two from this extremely experienced and equally humble guy. Let’s take a peek in Hoji’s pack to see what he thinks is worth bringing along on a ski touring day trip.
PACK ITEMS: SKI TOURING
Pack: KHAMSKI 38L – ARC’TERYX
Shovel: EVAC 7 – BLACK DIAMOND
Any shovel recommendation should come from a guy who is willing to admit, “I shovel a lot.” Winter camping involves a lot of shoveling, and Hoji does a ton of it. What makes this shovel his weapon of choice? The bend in the neck of the shovel makes your digging efforts as productive as possible (important in an avalanche response). The blade doesn’t have a neck that sticks out, so it fits nicely in a variety of packs and the flat blade helps for making clean walled snow pits. Best of all, when you flip the blade it acts as dredging tool, which is ideal for moving lots of loose snow.
Probe: Stealth 300 Carbon – BCA
“I replace my probe every 3 years. I always look at length (to make sure it is always 300cm) and make sure the sleeves have a lot of overlap for strength.” Probes are often left in your pack and with a continual bend/pressure on the wire. The wire is also often exposed to moisture and loses strength over time. “It’s something you don’t think to replace often, but should!”
Transceiver: PULSE BARRYVOX – MAMMUT
The Pulse is now the Canadian guide standard. Hoji has been able to learn a lot from guides by practicing with them and asking them questions because they are most familiar with this transceiver. The set up is easy to navigate and customizable.
Pomoca makes a skin with less drag, less weight and one that takes up way less space in your pack. Pomoca is a really popular in Europe and is making its way our direction. Hoji tells us just how much more efficient you can be while touring with less drag and weight from your skins. This is his number one choice after putting other brands through the wringer.
Saw: 330-7.5 – SILLEY ZUBAT
Hoji calls this saw “best in the world” (it’s hard to question a guy who has used his saw for everything in the book!) It actually cuts wood with ease, works well for snow pits and is light-weight. Be warned, it’s sharp! Make sure your sheath is on or say goodbye to nearby valuables.
Binoculars: 8XUCFR – PENTAX
“Skiing is all about terrain analysis and management,” Hoji says. These compact, powerful and tough binoculars’ are Hoji’s ultimate tool for checking in on his approach.
Skis: HOJI – 4FRONT
Okay, so maybe they are never in his pack, but sometimes they’re strapped to the outside of it. Hoji’s pro-model skis made by 4Front are backcountry specific. This year they are a boosting 200g lighter per ski with an added rubber dampening for the smoothest ride. A full rocker pow ski that will keep you stable in all conditions, even when it’s not so prime.
Multitool: CHARGE TTI – LEATHERMAN
This beefy Leatherman is worth the space. It has needle nose pliers, regular pliers, hard wire cutters, wire cutters, crimper, wire stripper, S30V knife, 420HC Serrated Knife, saw, spring-action scissors, cutting hook, ruler, can opener, bottle opener, wood/metal file, diamond-coated file, larger bit driver, small bit driver and a medium screw driving. The best part about it, according to Hoji, is that there is a bit adapter that can give you length and leverage. Ski and binding repairs require an arsenal of bits, adapters and specialty tools, but apparently the Charge TTI has everything you need and more.
Thermos: VACUUM BOTTLE 0.75L – PRIMUS
This one is hard to get your hands on, but you can snag one of these at Higher Ground in Golden, B.C. The enamel coating of this vacuum bottle doesn’t get covered in snow and keeps things toasty all day long. Hoji starts his mornings with hot water and throughout the day adds snow to his thermos so it continues to melt and keeps his water supply full.
Eric’s condensed backcountry first aid kit started from a standard kit purchased at MEC, which he raids supplies from and has since added a few of his own to complete it. Climber’s Tape replaced the typical medical tape (it has proven to be easier to use in backcountry scenarios, especially in the cold). He’s also added a Sam Splint, bivy, wire, six ski straps and gauze. The ski straps could help stabilize or demobilize an injury, or could be used for gear repair – always a good thing to have lots of in your pack. The bivy could be used for an overnight emergency shelter, help create a rescue toboggan, or simply provide break from the wind for lunch. It’s always nice to have gear that can double up on its purpose!
PACK ITEMS: SKI TOURING
Cap: STOCKMAN CAP – CROWN CAP
These hats are handmade in Manitoba. Hoji claims it is the best touring hat he has ever owned. In true Hoji fashion, he has sewn in a head warmer to create a solid seal for his face when he pairs his hat with goggles.
Jacket: ATOM SL – ARC’TERYX – ATOM SL
The atom is warm, compatible and repels water while still breathing. It’s perfect for uphill travel.
A lover of all things outdoors, Abby Cooper is a splitboarder, climber, hiker, adventurer, photographer and writer. She’s living life one adventure to the next with her dog by her side.
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