Those of you familiar with the Alpha FL packs from Arc’teryx will be aware of the burly AC2 fabric, simple feature set and ease of use. With the Alpha SK, Arc’teryx have taken this philosophy to ski packs an area of the market, that in my opinion, suffers greatly from overcomplicating itself with in terms of features and weight. All of my previous ski touring packs weighed well over the 1kg mark when empty and most of them nearer to 2 kg. The Alpha SK 32 weighs 1kg (just!) so instantly I was interested!
Charging hard on the Toula glacier – carries brilliantly on the down!
This is the new Alpha SK 32, a pinnacle of use-driven design. We took our ultralight and highly durable Alpha FL alpinist pack, and inspired by your hacks and creativity, built something new. Weatherproof, lightweight, durable AC² construction and specifically created to carry the tools necessary for safe, comfortable travel across backcountry snow, the fast and light Alpha SK 32 is perfectly sized and equipped for an extended day of ski alpinism or freeride touring. Designed specifically to manage backcountry demands, it allows modular ski carry options, separate front pocket with organized storage for snow tools, skins and wet gear, a WaterTight™ side zipper for easy main compartment access, and a helmet compatible lid. A padded back panel and internally laminated HD80 foam frame sheet give a lightweight, comfortable carry and a forward pull waistbelt adjustment for easy use with gloves. Using Arc’teryx Alpha SK Straps, or other TPU ski straps, the pack can be set up for a diagonal or A-frame carry. Snowboards carry vertically. Simpler and lighter, the system reduces weight and minimizes potential snagging by eliminating excess straps.
I have used the Alpha SK pack for the whole of the ski season so far in both the European Alps and further afield skiing in Morocco’c High Atlas. Everything from lift accessed off piste runs where I’ve carried my shovel, probe, skins, food and water and a spare layer and not much else to full glacier tours and ski alpinism where, axe, crampons, helmet, harness, crevasse kit etc would also come into play. I’ve also used it for overnight hut trips. In short, I love the simplicity, lightweight, toughness and weather protection. I particularly like the way it carries when I ski downhill. The weight is evenly distributed, it sits flatter on my back and doesn’t feel like I’ve got a huge heavy lump pulling me around when I’m skiing. “Form fitting” is probably a good description.
Diagonal carry – simple and secure
In terms of ski carrying you can choose to diagonal carry across the front – 2 straps are provided for this and are simple and durable. However if you want to A-frame the skis then you need to buy extra straps from Arc’teryx which is a slight shame as at £240 this isn’t a cheap pack to start with! That’s my only gripe though as I’m generally a fan of less is more. Some people have mentioned that there is no ice axe attachment point on the outside too. Perhaps unusual for a ski alpinism pack but to be honest I quite like to keep my axe in the pack when I’m skiing down and generally I’ll have it slipped behind my back through the shoulder strap on the way up, in case I need it for track improvement etc.
Side zip access – don’t have to unpack everything to get to the bottom.
The pack basically features 3 compartments:
- The main compartment, accessible via a side zip or top drawstring – big items such as rope, crampons, water bottle, spare clothes etc can go in here
- The avvy kit compartment – shovel, probe, snowsaw, skins can all fit in here (I also like to fit my axe in here when I’m skiing down)
- The zipped lid pocket – this is handy for those bits and bobs that you need close to hand eg, suncream, bars, money, headlamp, sunglasses, keys etc.
In terms of space and organisation, if I have to compare it to my old Khamski 31 pack then I’d say that despite the 32 litre tag, the Alpha SK feels smaller. Day trips are no problem but when I’m doing hut trips it does take a bit of careful packing to make full use of the capacity and some things can be difficult together in and out when it’s completely full. But it carries incredibly well, a padded back panel with internally laminated HD80 foam frame sheet is amply comfortable, the shape is perfect and even full I notice it very little. Padded shoulder straps teamed with a standard webbing waist belt (with glove friendly forward pull adjustment) and chest strap give ample extra support and help to spread the load.
The lid allows a little bit of overpacking but if you do this then it is less weatherproof. On day tours I manage to store my helmet under the lid but on tours when I’m at full capacity I generally just have it clipped onto the back (not neat but not really a problem I suppose as if it’s climbing or I’m skiing down then I’ll have the helmet on my head).
Non glacial day tours!
All in all I’d have to say that this pack is awesome (nearly 5 stars). It’s not 100% perfect but any minor negatives are definitely outweighed by the positives. It carries like a dream, it’s tough and very light, ski carrying is simple and secure and capacity works even for overnight trips as long as you pack carefully. Arc’teryx have come up with the goods here for sure!
More information and buy from the Arc’teryx website.
Price: £240 or €280
Kevin Avery is an Aspirant IFMGA Mountain Guide. He is available for guiding in the Alps, UK and further afield. Contact him via the website: http://www.truenorthalpine.com
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