Throwing my 2cents in - I've got an ortovox pack, and it is the most comfortable thing I've ever put on my back! It's a 22l and big enough for a day but not much more, and the spine protection is a bit of a bonus.
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2010 11:41 am Posts: 317 Location: Altadena SoCal
As long as you're not overnighting it, I advocate for Camelbak's 38L PitBoss. It fits my long frame well, keeping most weight on my hips. It has plenty of compression straps to keep the load from shifting no matter how small it is. You can't beat the hydration system and tri-zip is rad (accessible from top and sides). Quick access pockets for shovel blade & skins and another for probe & shovel handle. Horizontal board carry close to your back is great for climbing sketch. Adjustable loop for axe/whippet (or skis). Seam sealed hip stash. Once I down-climbed an icy couloir which proved too gnar for my wife, carrying my board, her skis, and ski boots and the load did not shift. I modded mine out with rain flaps over the top zips and adjustable compression straps on the lower sides. The stock, non-adjustable straps fit my regular width split; adjustables now fit my wide board. Rain flaps are more so ski's edges don't eff up my zippers in A-frame mode.
The current model
Here's the ladies version (smaller and backward) highlighting Tri-zip and hip stash.
For day outings, it is hard for me not to recommend the Deuter Freeride Pro 30L. It carries everything you need for the day, but no more.
I almost went with a ski-specific Cilo Gear pack (www.cilogear.com), since I climb with their 45L and 60L worksacks, but the Deuter was half the price. You should be able to find a deal at around $130.
I carry my Ice Ax poles and Whippet in a similar manner to firstlight, BUT it continues to bother me that I will take a hard fall sometime and wake up Phineas Gage. Suggestion, other than a film-canister protector for the spike?