In 1971, a team of Austrian skiers toured across the main divide of the Alps. Spanning 1,210 miles with 280,544 feet of elevation gain, it took the team 41 days to complete the journey. Their route and time to completion have yet to be successfully replicated. Using archaic telemark bindings and long, heavy skis worthy of a mountain lodge wall, it’s remarkable that their endeavor has stood the test of time. On March 17, though, an international team of seven ski mountaineers assembled by Red Bull will attempt to break it. The Der Lange Weg—German for Trans Alp Ski Crossing—will attempt this endeavor while simultaneously learning if modern gear, technology, and changes in the landscape is enough to best the 47-year-old record.
The team consists of some of the world’s best ski mountaineer racers and guides, including Mark and Janelle Smiley—Exum Guides and ski mountaineers based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. They will be supported by a van just as in 1971 when a VW Bus aided the crew with food including 15 tins of Ovaltine, an instant powder made from a sugar, egg, and malt, and 30 packages of muesli, sausages, and cheese. Outside recently connected with Mark to talk about the gear they’ll be using and how it will give them a leg up over the 1971 team.
Mammut BarryvoxS Transiever
The BarryvoxS is an easy-handling beacon in a small package. The Auto Guidance and Smart Search features prohibit signal overlap from other beacons during a multiple burial scenario, and optimizes the fine search process in a rescue. At 7.4 ounces it’s incredibly light and is a major improvement compared to the 1971 team, who didn't even have avalanche beacons.
Arc’teryx Alpha SK 32 Pack
While the original team carried old-school mountaineering rucksacks that featured leather buckles on the sides for A-Frame ski carry, Smiley will be utilizing Arc’teryx’s new Alpha SK 32—a lightweight, 32-liter waterproof bag that features patent-pending Arc’teryx straps which allow for diagonal, A-frame, or snowboard vertical carry setups. The top loader also has an easy access side zipper for access to quick necessities. The bag will be available to consumers this fall.
Arc’teryx Norvan Jacket
The importance of layering can never be overstated, especially when on the move. So while the 2018 team won’t be donning matching teal blue one-pieces like the 1971 crew, you can expect them to be wearing highly breathable layers that wick and dry as they climb and ski down the Alps at a blistering pace. The Norvan Jacket is actually designed for high-intensity trail running, but its Gore-Tex laminate sheds water and provides breathability for half the weight—just 7.6 ounces—of a ski shell.
Atomic Backland 65 Ski and Ultimate Boot
Perhaps the biggest upgrade in gear for the 2018 team is their skis, boots, and bindings. Smiley will be using Atomic’s Backland Ultimate AT boot—a 26-gram touring slipper that articulates 80 degrees yet locks in the cuff for secure skiing on the descent. Combined with the Backland 65, a carbon infused ski mountaineering world cup ski, the entire setup will weigh just over three pounds.
Ski Trab Gara Binding
During the 1971 expedition, the skiers wore Leder Bergschuhe leather boots that attached to a toe pin clip system, leaving the heel unfixed like a telemark binding. Luckily AT bindings have come a long way since then, and modern skimo race bindings can handle big skiing. The Gara from Ski Trab has a toe piece that weighs two ounces and is constantly pressed into the boot in the lock position—meaning the boot will never release unexpectedly. Its heelpiece is a basic U-Spring pin with a quick flap to adjust climbing heights.
As the original team worked their way across the Alps, resupplying with food at their VW Van stationed in key locations, the team also resupplied their arsenal of maps. The support vehicle held 200 map sheets to help the skiers navigate their route. Today the skiers will be using GAIA GPS, an intuitive smartphone-based navigation system that allows users to program travel plans and upload routes all overlaid on topographic scales.