G3 FINDr 102 and Arc'teryx Procline Ski Touring Boot Review
By Marc Piche, ACMG Mountain Guide
I will start by clearly stating that I am an ambassador for both G3 and Arc'teryx. While there is no expectation by them that I sugarcoat any reviews, I'm keenly aware that this assumption can be made.
While working on the coast in mid February I received a pair of G3's "new for next year" all around touring ski, the finder 102 as well as the new Arc'teryx Procline ski touring boot. My job was to put them to the test prior to them becoming commercially available for the 2016/17 winter season. I managed to put about 55 days of ski touring on this set-up in all types of conditions ranging from knee-deep powder to knee-deep slush with a bit of great corn snow skiing in between.
It is also important to note that both the skis and boots were pre-production models and that although performance should be similar, numerous improvements have been made to both due to feedback from testers.
In recent years I have offered my services as a gear guinea pig quite frequently but never have I been compelled to write a review. I believe that both of these products represent significant steps forward in performance and functionality that will be greatly appreciated by people who spend a lot of time ski touring.
G3 FINDr 102 Ski
This is a fairly traditionally shaped ski with a little bit of early rise tip. The 102 mm waste is not very 'fat' by any modern standard but is certainly sufficient in most deep snow conditions. Where I felt this ski excelled was in variable conditions where all types of snow could be encountered. It was narrow enough at the waist to break trail on hard snow, stiff enough to deal with crud, light enough to walk all day for weeks in a row but not so light that they chattered on hard snow.
I'll admit to being a bit of a gear junkie and I surprised myself a couple of times this winter when I caught myself thinking that I'd be happy if this was my only ski for touring. Yes, it can be nice to have a slightly narrower ski for late spring conditions and a slightly wider ski for midwinter, but if you can only have one-this would be a good one.
I am 6'3" and about 185 pounds. I found these skis to be stiff enough to perform well even while carrying a heavy overnight pack. They turned easily in all conditions and the tips were only grabby in thin breakable crust.
The only downside I experienced with the skis was the fragile top sheet. It chipped easily along its edges and the skis quickly looked well used. I have spoken to the engineers at G3 and they told me that they have taken several steps to address this issue in the production model.
Skis are such a personal taste and I am always reluctant to recommend. All I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed these every day I had them on my feet.
Arc'teryx Procline Ski Boot
While I don't expect to see many guides using these for heli-skiing, nor will competitive freeride skiers be lining up to buy them, for most of the touring work I do, these boots make a lot of sense.
The designers focused on creating a boot that could be used for both skiing and climbing. Picture doing the approach to Nemesis, climbing it and skiing down. All while wearing one pair of boots that performed well at every stage. This might seem like more of an advantage in a place like Chamonix, but I found the weight and dexterity to be very appealing for more traditional touring and ski mountaineering as well.
In typical Arc'teryx style, these boots are like nothing else on the market, the upper boot is comprised of a few pieces of plastic and carbon fiber wrapped around the liner that only has a thin gaiter over it. I haven't explained it very well but what this creates is a very light boot with unbelievable ankle mobility. Walking in this boot, whether you have skis on or not is a dream. At one point I went back to my other, reasonably flexible boots for a day and I felt as though I was walking with cinder blocks attached to my feet!
I used these boots for a lot of skiing and classic mountaineering, a couple of nights of winter camping but due to the mild temps this winter, I never had them below -15 C. The liners were a bit on the thin side and I was concerned about cold feet but I think the freedom of movement they allowed my feet helped keep them warmer than expected.
In an age where touring boots are becoming stiffer and stiffer, the downhill performance of these boots is probably closer to the (relatively) old Scarpa Spirit 4. The flex does take a little getting used to because all of the stiffness comes from the back of the boot rather than the tongue.
The buckle system uses cables and pulleys so that only a few quick adjustments are necessary to switch from walk to ski mode and back.
Most testers found that the durability of the built-in gaiter and the gaiter zipper were a significant issue after only a few weeks of use. My zippers failed after about three weeks of use rendering the gaiter more or less useless. I managed to continue using them for several more weeks with a few modifications to help keep the gaiter closed. Although I expected to see some wear and tear on the buckle cables, they remained intact throughout. Finally, about 200 m from the end of my last run of the season, the metal hinge pin holding the cuff onto one of the boots either broke or fell out. Arc'teryx said this was the only case of this happening they had heard of and it would have been a relatively easy field fix with a bit of wire.
The design team has been working hard to address the issues found by testers this winter. As far as I know, the zippers have been upgraded and some changes have been made to the buckle system. Unfortunately, I was not able to get a detailed list of the changes they will be making before writing this. They definitely had some issues to resolve and hopefully they'll get them sorted before this coming season.
These boots will not be for everyone. Some people will definitely find them to be not stiff enough and the effectiveness of their durability upgrades has yet to be tested, but, I have a feeling these boots will become popular within the guiding community once the kinks have been ironed out.