Originally published in The Aspen Daily News on January 10, 2014

For all of you supposed expert skiers out there, I have a challenge: Ski Highland Bowl in Dynafit bindings.

That’s what I did on a recent bluebird day when I decided on a whim to extend my morning skin to the Merry-Go-Round on Aspen Highlands. The sky was clear, the weather warm and I was on a Black Diamond ski setup with Dynafit TLT Radical ST bindings. There’s only one way to go and that’s up, I thought. So I made my way to Loge Lift and started hiking up the bowl.

At the summit, a local wearing a purple Aspen Skiing Co. jacket spotted my bindings.

“Aren’t you scared to ski down on those things?” he asked.

“Heh ya,” I said, only then realizing that I was about to drop in on a 42-degree vertical pitch with less than two pounds of metal locking me onto my skis. “I’m just going to take it slow.”

Dynafit’s Radical ST bindings have no frame — meaning the heel and toe pieces are separate — and the heel rotates offering three climbing modes. What could be considered the best (and in my particular situation, the most worrisome) feature of the bindings are the two seemingly weightless stainless steel pins, dubbed the “power towers,” that pinch the toe of your boots.

The towers are what make the binding light and easy to mount, but despite the name it doesn’t necessarily sing stability. Intellectually I know that if technology can put men on the moon, there’s probably a way to lock a 140-pound person to skis with two pins the size of eraserheads. But as I stepped into the setup, my instincts kicked in and I started to think it might be a better idea to walk down the mountain.

Dynafit bindings are made to ensure a quick release on the downhill, almost to a fault. That feature is particularly troublesome, because the weightlessness of the setup makes it easier to jump turn and ski faster than you might on an Alpine setup. That was, at least, my experience.

Questions about the durability of my gear quickly disappeared as I got into a groove skiing down G8. But the thrill of a good powder run came to an abrupt halt at the bottom of South Fork when my left boot released from the binding for no identifiable reason. There was no powder, no random debris that caused the release. Just a small lip on the runout. With a bruised shin and ego, I remounted my skis and, like a Powder Panda on Buttermilk, snowplowed to the catwalk.

The whole experience gave me a newfound respect for the ski mountaineering pros who dominate the Battle of the Bowls each year. It’s one thing to race up a mountain, but it takes a whole other form of insanity to want to ski down on gear that weighs less than a gallon of milk.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the binding. Its weightlessness and easy accessibility makes skinning up not feel like work, but unless you’re as skilled as one of the Gaston brothers or maybe Max Taam, I would stay out of the steep and deep on the Radicals.

Get Your Own
$499.95 Dynafit Radical ST
Ute Mountaineer in Aspen

Originally published in The Aspen Daily News on February 1, 2013

I have never been in a situation where I needed to pee so badly while skiing that I didn’t have time to make it to a bathroom or behind a tree to pop a proverbial squat. But maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I’m not gnarly or open minded enough to try a simple solution — investing in a pair of my own pee pants.

The hands-free pee pants, made by medical professionals, look pretty much like what you would expect if women were to come up with their own solution to relieving themselves without sitting down. The pants are tight nylon shorts with a rubber funnel and a long tube attached to the crotch. Wearing them is probably the closest I’ll ever be to knowing what it feels like to be a man. I wouldn’t say it’s comfortable. The hose hangs awkwardly in between your legs and the rubber funnel bunches around sensitive parts. Still, if you’re in a bind and need to pee quickly it can do the job.

The egress is aligned ergonomically to minimize the amount of waste that comes in contact with skin and the slippery rubber material makes sure that most of the urine does in fact make it out of the funnel. The pants were designed for women with active lifestyles, according to the product’s website, and the company offers portable bags in a range of prints including a hot-pink zebra pattern so you can carry around your own waste in style.

Although the product seems excessive and brutish, the more I think about the pee pants, the more I warm to the idea.

I’ve had many hikes up Highland Bowl with male friends who whip it out — almost ceremoniously — to relieve themselves at the top before heading down. Sometimes I think they do it just to prove that they can or, like a dog marking its territory, to stake claim to the mountain. I’ve never had that urge, but with pee pants I wonder if I could. Despite it’s silly nature, I wonder if pee pants could be the final chapter in feminist’s attempt to level the playing field between men and women. Although we are able to vote and are now outperforming men in the workforce, at the very base of it, women are still limited to dominating mountains by our junk — or lack thereof.

In order truly to be equal, we need to come at things with the mindset of a man. The mindset that we can own things, simply by standing and peeing on them.

With pee pants, I can one day stand at 12,392 feet peeing myself while taking in the view and assert that the mountain is mine. Then, for the first time ever, Highland Bowl will be owned by a woman.

Let the revolution begin.