My heart’s in the backcountry, but I know well enough it’s too soon–at least on the Front Range. Maybe our buddies down south have been touring, but I’ve trashed enough skis early season to know better ’round these parts. The solution: to Loveland we go.

The Dynafit Zzero, carbon. In the background, Luca decides the box is more interesting. Poor lad.

Dynafit sent us a pair of the kryptonite-green Zzeros to test. These are affectionately known as the “Green Machine” and for good reason–they’re supposed to be a bombshell freeride boot that still tours well. I had the chance to get some vertical in them–but no touring. Unless Dynafit’s willing to sport me a pair of rock skis and health insurance for shoulder/face/knee reconstruction, then I’m not gunning for turns just yet. But stay tuned.

Anyway, last week your only options for getting turns were A-Basin or Loveland–I love both those hills, mostly because they’re low key and in 35 years of skiing in Colorado I’ve never seen a fur coat in either lodge and I’m not sure, but I don’t think I’ve seen a Hummer either. A taste of the good old days, but with great skiing. Loveland in particular is my go-to alpine hill. You can rally up there pre-dawn, get your vert, and be back in Boulder before 1 p.m. My schedule as a millionaire blogger demands I’m in the office at the crack of midday, folks.

Anyway–the skiing. Awesome coverage for the handful of runs the Loveland gang had open. Calm weather, sun’s out, chair 6 is open–yes! I started with a couple runs on my brand-spanking-new race set-up: Dynafit Race Performance skis, with Low-tech Lite bindings, and of course my BELOVED TLT 5s.

Dynafit’s “Race Performance” ski–surprisingly good on the down, too!

The skis are under 800g each (for the 161cm length), and with the sub-400g binding (“Low-tech Lite” which I believe is now discontinued) and TLT 5s (2400g for the set), the whole gig is under 10 pounds. (Please note these are the published weights; I did not put my set-up on a home scale. Once my garage remodel is done, I’ll get dialed with a scale, but until then we’re at the mercy for the Dynafit folks–but I always double-check at WildSnow.com. Thanks, Lou!) I haven’t run the skins on them yet, but they’re crazy light and if they’re anything like the Speedskins for my Manaslus or Mustaghs, then I will be psyched after a few thousand vert and some new BD Glue on ’em.

I did four runs on these, skiing a combo of man-made and Mother Nature snow, with a few inches of fresh on top. Some patches of skied-off ice gave them a little test on the hard stuff, but for the most part it was pretty forgiving. I was pleasantly surprised–for a 161cm, super-lightweight ski, these things ripped. I was tentative at first, more because I’ve never skied a Dynafit “race” binding than the ski, but after a couple laps I let them run a bit. I gotta say, they carve well, have (what feels like) zero swing weight, and though they chatter a bit, they weren’t nearly the freakshow death-sticks I mistakenly assumed they’d be. Pete Swenson–Dynafit rep, COSMIC series organizer, and uber-rando-god–told me last year he spring skis these things all the time. I scoffed. I must now, as usual, eat crow and then some.

I don’t know that I’d recommend these as a spring ski, but if you’re the ultra-marathon type and want a ridiculously light ski for huge days or ski mountaineering, this thing won’t disappoint. For a 350g weight penalty (approximate difference, based on published weight) you could jump to the Broad Peak–a substantially stiffer ski. I haven’t skied it, but I hear it’s a good mountaineering tool. You might also consider the Mustagh Ata for about the same weight penalty, which is a softer version and probably a better touring/soft snow ski.

Point is, the Race Performance was a nice surprise and I’m double-psyched to race the thing this year. As for the up–I’ll write a bit more on that when I start getting out.

Midway through my day I went down to the lodge and swapped out for the Green Machines. Rest assured I didn’t unleash these things on the race skis, but rather dialed them in on my Black Diamond Verdicts (the 2010 version, non-rockered tip, 180cm, stiff, and heavy!). I skied them in the stock liner, which seems like a true step-down in quality from an Intuition liner. The foam isn’t as stiff and compared to the “Alpine” model I use, thinner, too. This is a significant caveat in testing a boot, as I had my TLT/Intuition set-up custom fit and by god–they are absolutely unbeatable.

Green Machines and the older-model Verdicts–pretty good combo in bounds or out.

I need to say up front I am a fully converted TLT fanatic. In my opinion they ski far better than the four-buckle, Italian-made, highest-quality boot I skied 2008-spring 2011. They shave at least a pound off each foot from my previous boot (more if you’re skiing a heavier model), they tour infinitely better (the walk mode is ridiculously free), and with an Intuition liner they’re just as warm. Some of this is genius design and I think some of it is luck: the last perfectly fits my low-volume high-arch foot. I love the TLTs and always will. Do NOT change them, Dynafit!

So, it’s with this blissed-out relationship that I try other boots now. The Green Machine is certainly stiffer than my TLT, laterally and forward. Railing harder snow I definitely felt the advantage. Edge to edge they are powerful, precise, and were relatively comfortable with the stock liner. The enlarged carbon cuff (way beefed-up from previous iterations, some of which are still in production on other models in the Dynafit line-up) yields nothing in terms of play or slop. Put something into the boot and it delivers it to the ski, period.

Hardware on the boot seems impeccably crafted–buckles, power-strap (a nylon job which would be cooler like a cammed SCARPA version), walk mechanism. Though I did not tour the boot (a big failing in a “review”, so apologies), the walk mechanism doesn’t seem overly generous. Again–take this with a grain of salt, because after you’ve spent a day in a TLT, you’re going to think your hiking boots walk like shyte. Just the new standard, friends!

I could see pairing the Green Machines with a beefier ski, especially if you’re spending plenty of time in-bounds. Riding my Verdicts was somewhere between the Greens and my TLT–a little big for the lighter boot and just about right for the heavier one. Out of bounds, though, I’ll take the softer TLT and the weight savings over the charger Green Machine and heftiness. Just my preference. For soft-snow climates, though, I’m not sure one needs a thuggishly strong boot like the Green Machine. Am I wrong? Feel free to write in and tell me I’m a softie and don’t go hard enough–you’re probably right!

Anyway. There’s my two cents on some new gear and my first day on skis at Loveland. Thanks to the gangs at Dynafit and Loveland. I’ll drop by for some more gear (wouldn’t mind trying some Broad Peaks) and another couple days on-piste before the backcountry comes in!