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Auftriib Saucer Plates, medium pair, unisex

Review of Auftriib Saucers

“I’m headed to Utah for a week, anything you guys think I’ll need out there?”

“You’re definitely gonna need some ascent plates. No way you can boot up anything out there”

“Which plates are the best?”

“We should have you do a test - take the saucers!”

“Saucer? I hardly know her”

“You still haven't recovered from Last Skier Standing have you?”

“Not sure I ever will be...”

I took a look at the Saucers and examined the plates - they are a polypropylene plate - likely thermoformed or compression molded, and have a faux carbon fiber look on the external surfaces - this is definitely enough to convince people they are carbon fiber, but they definitely are not. They have a ski strap and elaborate cord that allows for quick attachment to and from your boots. You step on the X of cord with your front points and cinch the ski strap over your boot and you’re good to climb up that soft snow you’d normally wallow and tunnel through. I was super excited to try these the following week on something steep and deep.

It was my first time headed to Utah, and only my 4th time skiing out west - Third time backcountry skiing out west, and coming from the east coast it was sure to be epic - although perhaps too soft. Utah had been having an amazing season with record snowfall. There was no way I wasn’t going to need to use these plates to boot up something. The east coast had been a perpetually firm surface with long sliding fall potential essentially all winter until the weekend I left.

The first few days in Utah we stuck to low angle skiing, skinning to the top of everything. The skin tracks were a bit steep in spots, but set pretty much everywhere while there was untracked snow in every direction. Us east coast skiers skied powder lap upon powder lap. There were murmurs at the dinner table about corn being better than pow, in which case the locals scowled, or pow being too easy to ski compared to the good old firm stuff back home.

The skinning to skiing continued everywhere we went - even when I took the plates, we found ways to skin to the top of the line. On the last day I met up with SLC local Brody Levin to ski, and asked him if I needed to bring my crampons, plates, or an axe and he said all of those are almost never needed out there. We proceeded to ski an epic link up of Hogum 200 to Coal Pit with nothing but booting the ridge for a few hundred, followed by a precarious skis on entry down a beaten down section of cornice.

Turns out, Chris Wilke who is right about nearly all gear related things was wrong about needing the plates in Utah - at least for what I skied on the trip, but I can still confirm that he was right about the Norrona Falketind Flex1 pants - they were all I toured in this trip, and got me through 63 hours of last skier standing.

After a flight back to Boston, it had snowed a good bit on Mt. Washington, and was quickly followed by some rain. This led to a rain crust over powder. I had planned a King Ravine to Castle ravine linkup with Joe Santo, Jesse Norman, and Tyler McCormick. When I got to Appalachia, Jesse and Tyler were setting up their Ascent plates that they had bought after wallowing up Osceola slide the week before. Perfect I thought - I get to actually try out and compare these plastic plates to the aluminum version, if we decide to take them out. 

We skinned up to King Ravine noting the trail conditions - on the way up. The ski out probably wasn’t gonna be the most fun, but would definitely be an adventure with hot pow or ice on either side of the trail. Upon arriving in King, we skinned as far up Great Gully as we could, and then got ready to boot. We quickly realized that the 3mm of rain crust over powder could lead to some pretty intense wallowing so we put our ascent plates on, with Joe not having any as a control. I put the Saucers on over my Camp Skimo Pure Nanotech (full steel) crampons - this will be important later. Jesse and Tyler put their Ascent Plates on between their boots and crampons.

The first few steps in the Saucers were a bit strange - not sinking into the snow made each foot feel a bit less secure than the crampon digging into hard snow like I was used to, but after a few steps I realized the lack of sinking in was going to drastically reduce the amount of effort on the climb. The three of us setting the boot ladder ended up giving Joe a super solid platform where he didn’t have to wallow. During the climb, I did notice a good bit of deflection at the front of the Saucers when kicking through the crust layer - this was probably close to as bad of a crust as you can have without being able to stand on it. I was wondering if this would be bad for the plates, but decided to keep using them since this was a gear test after all - I couldn’t just use it in the best conditions. Tools not jewels - or something like that.

Upon reaching the top of Great Gully, it firmed up, and I decided it was time to take the plates off so I could prance around feeling secure in crampons - and because the plates do make walking on flats a bit awkward - although no more than a snowshoe would. The removal was very easy with the single voile-like strap coming off my F1 LTs (and yes it was orange for perfect color coordination).  The accent plate users left the ascent plates on for the booting at the ridgeline until we decided to skin again.

We found a way into Castle ravine and skied down some extremely firm crust, unbreakable to skis, to some breakable crust, to some hot pow. Some of everything, and not exactly snow you could ski well, but it would be a perfect way to put the plates to the test on the way back up.  We booted up and did some comparisons between us and Joe to see how much the plates helped. It wasn’t super obvious which plates were better for the way up, but we could definitely tell that having them made life a bit easier. I confirmed this by once again easily removing the saucers and booting some of the line with just crampons on. The ease to remove these really makes them a great tool in the toolbox for various snow conditions.

When we reached the top, Joe and I tagged Jefferson summit, skied down the beach and skinned back to King, eventually skiing East Gully while thinking we were skiing iced out. We then carefully descended the hiking trail - which was quite the adventure with hot pow on the sides of the skintrack making it very difficult to scrub speed without skiing into the woods for a bit. Upon arrival to the car just before sunset, I took a minute to inspect the plates after the long day. They were definitely a bit worn in a few places. The cord under my crampons frayed a bit - I think this was a product of my steel crampons, and aluminum crampons or less sharp steel ones probably would have been fine - and replacing cord is very easy. The front corners of the plates were bent upward a bit from booting and climbing - this probably isn’t ideal, but I don’t see this small amount of deformation leading to failure of the plastic or causing any issues with using the plates, so it’s probably cosmetic.

When Tyler and Jesse made it back to the car, they inspected their plates as well and found the aluminum bent in the same spots as the plastic - so this was likely really putting the plates through the wringer.

I personally think the saucers are the best of the plates - they allow for easy on and off, which is extra important out here on the east coast where we don’t just boot up endless couloir of powder, but they still feel secure. They are also light, which may not matter to everybody, but on a really long day grams do tend to matter a bit, and if something is light, you’re more likely to take it with you on a marginal day. I think the ascent plates are also a great tool, and if you’re ok with a bit more time to transition (although taking crampons off on steep terrain is a bit sketchy at times), then I think they are a good way to save some money.

-Danny Romano (Last Skier Standing '23)

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