It was refreshing to hear that perspective, not as a way to temper the achievement that is usually being touted, but as the dominant perspective, especially in light of being present on Manaslu when an avalanche took 14 lives.
Greg’s explanation of the situation made it soberingly real and he readily admitted that attempting such feats leaves you exposed to those dangers, and if you play the game long enough, or bold enough, it can get you. He admits to having played that game, but in this incident, despite choosing a safe campsite, he decided the team he was on was taking more risk than he was comfortable with and he bowed out. As they say, there are old climbers and bold climbers, but no old bold climbers.
I was fortunate to run into Greg at that event and he teased me with the possibility that Salomon was flirting with a tech system binding. The rumor mill says an OEM version from Plum with Salomon’s name on it will be available as early as next year.
After talking with him a bit further, it appears that is less likely. Here are the highlights from that conversation.Dostie: Tell me about your relationship with Salomon.
Greg Hill: That was a big step, and it took awhile to warm up to the idea. I’d been with Dynafit a long time and I really like them, even went to Manaslu with some of them after I started working with Salomon. I’m amazed at how seriously they’re taking my input and I’m really impressed with their willingness to develop something new. Oh, and my skiing has gotten better – not because I’m a better skier, but because the equipment I’m using is so much better.
D: Like how?
GH: Like, with tech bindings you lose some power in the heel and you just can’t push ‘em too hard. When I step into one of their alpine bindings, or the Guardian, it’s just whole different level of confidence and power. And the skis. Light weight skis have their place in the backcountry, but my fave right now is the Salomon 108 Rocker 2.
D: From outside it looks like Salomon hired you to help them develop a tech binding. Any validity to that?
GH: Well it’s true I certainly made my reputation using Dynafit and I don’t think I could have done 2-million vertical feet with heavy gear but as you can understand I can’t really comment on exactly what we’re working on. Dynafit has done an exceptional job with the tech system but we don’t necessarily want to do a Salomon tech system and in some ways we’re not even sure where we’re going. It would sure be nice to develop something that could improve the release values of the tech system so you could ski it harder.
D: Won’t that increase the weight?
GH: Yeah, a little more weight is okay, but a lot is not. 300 grams (~10.6 oz.) more per foot is realistic, but not much more.
D: Why is Salomon finally focusing on the backcountry?
GH: It seems like we’re reaching a tipping point for interest in backcountry skiing. At least it sure does in Revelstoke. The transition time from going sidecountry to backcountry is getting a lot shorter. It used to take a lot longer, now it seems like after half a season people are just heading out and going further. I see a lot more people up at Rogers Pass every year and they’re not just doing the classic routes. I’m blown away at how many are charging couloirs and going deeper – a lot more.
D: You did a million vertical feet in one year, then 2-million in 2010. What’s next for Greg Hill?
GH: Oh there’s an endless list of mountains I still want to ski. I’m kind of chipping away at doing all the 3,000 meter peaks in the Selkirks. There’s 70 peaks and I’ve done about 20 or so. It’s kind of like Dawson’s fourteener project and it’s going to take a long time to do them all and each one’s its own adventure so there’s lots of skiing to look forward to.
Indeed. Check out Greg’s blog here.