TMS Ambassador Mike Tebbutt breaks in Scarpa’s new Freedom SL boot at the Benson Hut

By Mike Tebbutt

Scarpa Freedom SL Ski Boots
Scarpa Freedom SL Ski Boots

First off, I have to say that I was really impressed with Nick’s knowledge of Tahoe Mountain Sports’ selection of boots and making sure I got the best boot for me.

That boot is the Scarpa Freedom SL. I definitely wanted a stiffer boot than the 10-year-old Garmont G-ride I was replacing, but still keeping the lighter weight and cozy feel of a backcountry boot. I had a few short days on the Freedoms so far and they were breaking in nicely, yet they still needed a true test and a trip to the Benson Hut would certainly suffice.

The Scarpa Freedom SL’s performed amazingly for me all weekend. They are stiff enough to provide the added performance I was looking for in a boot, especially in steep and heads up terrain. They are super comfy on the uphills with many micro adjustments that you can make to customize them to your liking. I look forward to visiting Nick again soon at TMS to have the liners cooked for a little extra custom fit!

Benson Hut on the ridge of Anderson Peak overlooking Coldstream Canyon and the town of Truckee.
Benson Hut on the ridge of Anderson Peak overlooking Coldstream Canyon and the town of Truckee. See more photos below in the gallery.

Hut life really is about as good as it gets. My most recent trip was far too short, arriving shortly before dark with just enough time to drop my monstrous pack and make a few turns on the west slope heading into the sunset and then needing to be back to civilization by the following night, yet it filled my soul with the same feeling as if I’d been out there all week. Good time with good friends, old and new, celebrating Sam’s 40th birthday.

After hauling my 70-pound pack that included a case of beer and a fancy Johnnie Walker sampler case for 3.5 non-stop hours that included 2000 feet of elevation gain and 1000 feet of descent, I arrived nearly broken, forgetting how hard the Benson Hut is to get to. Sam said that is why he chose it as it is the hardest of the four local huts to get to, even if you take the lift up to the top of Mt Lincoln at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort.

Naturally, I dumbly refused the lift pass being offered to me to ride to the top, saying that I owed it to Sam and his general style to earn every inch, and spent the afternoon cursing my poor approach choices. The Freedom SL’s were great on this challenging approach, with plenty of flexibility and comfort, and also provided more than enough stability on the ups and downs to handle the extra 70 pounds on my back.

Everyone else had been out there since the day before or arrived early enough to go out for the “after lunch” tour and were satiated with powder. They told tales of the day’s skiing and I recalled my sunset low angle powder turns and sufferfest approach while we began to drink all of the extra weight I and the others had carried out. Always a generous host, Sam whipped up a tasty communal dinner. As tired as we all were, the festivities went late and may or may not have included a midnight assault on the summit of Mt. Anderson.

In addition to being the most difficult to get to, the Benson Hut is the only hut where (unless you go for the Anderson summit) you ski your downhill lap right from the front door. Some of the rowdiest skiing of all the huts is located just downhill to the east, including a natural hole through a cliff with a steep and narrow entrance into a hard dogleg right through the hole. Fortunately, Sam and crew had been out skiing that terrain the day before, so they had spotted all of the landmarks we needed to navigate through the many cliffs. After a couple of attention grabbing laps in the steeps to start the day, we finished with some really fun low angle powder in the trees, cutting it a little shorter than we would have liked to make sure we still had time to trek back out before dark.

We skinned back up to the hut, finished packing, drank our final beer and raced the setting sun back to the top of Sugar Bowl. We almost made it — thank goodness for my Black Diamond Spot!

TMS Ambassador Mike Tebbutt is an avid backcountry skier and adventure runner and member of the Donner Party Mountain Runners. Follow Mike on Instagram at @irontebby.

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