Gear for 2 Million Feet

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

Last time I checked, the live countdown clicker read “1,796,544.” That was the current readout on Backcountry.com’s “Greg Hill Skiometer,” a number that represents vertical feet skied in the backcountry this year by Greg Hill, a 34-year-old Revelstoke, B.C., man on a mission. Hill’s goal is to ski two million total vertical feet by his own power during the calendar year of 2010.

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Greg Hill in up-mountain mode; photo by Tommy Chandler/Backcountry.com

Essentially, this means Hill has to ascend and ski backcountry mountains nearly every day as his job. He does much of this “work” in and around the mountains above his home in Revelstoke. But he’s traveled as far as Alaska and South America this year as well in search of an endless winter and more and more mountains to climb and ski.

Hill said he skis 10,000 vertical feet on an average day. That’s ascending collectively 10,000 feet up and tearing a total of 10,000 feet back down in a day. His record is 50,000 feet in a 24-hour period, making Hill one of the speediest and sickest backcountry practitioners to ever clip into a pair of AT boards.

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Hill on the descent; photo by Tommy Chandler/Backcountry.com

The details of Hill’s descents are documented on his blog, GregHill.ca. I interviewed Hill last week not to talk high faces and powder turns but ski equipment and gear. Hill is a gear junkie, no doubt, and a consummate equipment expert as well. With years of trial and error through hundreds of days on the snow — and with the aid of sponsor companies like Backcountry.com, Arc’teryx, Dynafit and Polartec — Hill has assembled an arsenal of backcountry apparel and gear he says represents the current industry state of the art.

His favorite piece of gear all around? The Dynafit TLT 5 boot was a top mention. This alpine-touring (AT) boot is so light and agile Hill calls them his “Peter Pan boots.” “I can literally run in them,” he said. With a skimmed-down design, including two buckles and a Velcro strap, the TLT 5s weigh just over 2.5 pounds per foot. Hill says the boots’ light weight and comfortable fit are key to enabling him to climb and ski day after day.

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Dynafit TLT 5 alpine-touring (AT) ski boots

His ski situation, all from sponsor Dynafit, includes the TLT 5 boots as well as the company’s Stoke ski and the TLT vertical ST bindings. Depending on conditions and terrain type, he might pull Dynafit’s Manaslu or Seven Summits skis out of his quiver.

For base layers, Hill wore merino wool for years. He recently switched back to a synthetic base system made by Arc’teryx. The Phase base-layer pieces, tops and bottoms, have fibers encapsulated with a silver-ion material. Hill says they stay drier than merino and have the same kind of wear-‘em-five-days-straight odor resiliency as wool.

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