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Thread: Back country ski suggestions?

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    Moderator AKmud's Avatar
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    Default Back country ski suggestions?

    I'm looking for some back country skis this winter and don't really know what to look for. A friend of mine showed me his tonight which were easily as wide as most alpine skis and had metal edges. He said they were great for trail breaking and gave him a lot of flotation. I think he said they were 200 cm. The boots he had were heavy looking almost like hiking boots with extra ankle support and a vibram type sole.

    What should I be looking for while shopping for these style skis? I plan on using them breaking trail to get to hunting areas and won't be following trails much at all.

    Any suggestions? And what should I expect to spend?
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    Atomic makes a ski, the "Chugach" ironically enough that goes 98/77/89 I believe. I have a pair and they are great for what you are talking about. They are several years old now but I recently saw a pair on CL for 200 that had not yet been mounted with a binding. Several Touring skis available on CL as a matter of fact, keep your eyes peeled and you can save a bunch on your first pair. These skis are a lot of fun. Good luck.

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    Member Phish Finder's Avatar
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    Are you looking for cross country skis, telemark skis, or alpine touring skis?
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    Moderator AKmud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phish Finder View Post
    Are you looking for cross country skis, telemark skis, or alpine touring skis?
    I guess that is what I need help with Phish... I won't be on trails much, I need something wide enough to give good flotation and comfortable enough to 'hike' in. I'm guessing I don't need telemark skis since I don't plan on much downhill action. What is the difference between cross country and alpine touring?
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    Member Phish Finder's Avatar
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    Alpine touring gives you the option to secure your heel to your ski for going down hill. Basically it's a hybrid between normal downhill skis and telemark skis. The ankle of the boot flexes and you are connected at your toe while "touring". When you come to terrain that has a downhill slope, you can click your heel in.

    My knees have had a lot of work done so alpine touring (AT) will be my new sport this winter. I'm giving up the tele gear and switching to AT.

    Here's an article with pics and a more coherent description:
    http://www.skimountaineer.com/EquipInfo/Equipment.html
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    I'm thinking that touring skis with something akin to a tele binding will be the best option, Rob. I'd be happy to meet you at AMH or some other similar store to look at options, if you'd like. Alternatively, if you find something online you're interested in, send me a link and I'll let you know what I think.

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    Moderator AKmud's Avatar
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    Thanks Phish, that answers some questions.

    Brian, that would be good, this is new territory for me for sure!

    My buddy has Karhu 10th mountain skis. I'm not sure what class they fall under, but they look like a good fit for what I am anticipating.
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    Something to look for is waxless skis that have a kind of fish scale sort of texture on the bottom under where your weight is so that they can glide foreward and have some grip for pushing yourself as you go.
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    Thumbs up Cross-Over design

    Quote Originally Posted by AKmud View Post
    Thanks Phish, that answers some questions.

    Brian, that would be good, this is new territory for me for sure!

    My buddy has Karhu 10th mountain skis. I'm not sure what class they fall under, but they look like a good fit for what I am anticipating.
    The ski you mentioned here is a pretty good one for what you are describing as your general use. Get it with the waxless 'Omnitrack' per your description.

    Most of this tech-talk is useful to a degree, but here are the basics in this order:

    a.) Define primary use with potential secondary features that could be important like terrain, improving skills/techniques, snow-conditions, weather considerations, and duration of outing.

    For example, you are looking to tool around off trail un-tracked meadows in deeper snow for a few hours... vs.... same with the exception of woods, brush quick ups and downs (nothing too demanding)... vs.... all things previously listed, yet adding the alpine picture with up over and down mountains. In other words what is the real picture and what is overkill... what is ideal and what is a pain in the tail out making trail?

    Let me paint the picture of a classical skier on groomed trail shuffling along or a good kick & glide... a skate skier of 1/4 the ability glides in comparison passing effortlessly by like the wind. Take the same skiers... add 3-5 inches of snow... for the classical skier not a big deal & to the skate skier not really happening. Take an AT or modern Tele set-up to both these settings (unless you add a dog to pull you around) total overkill pigs on your feat and inefficient. Unfortunately but true... combi-skis are not all that great for either... however a crossover is smewhat different and works very well for your defined uses.

    b.) For hunting skis your looking mainly at the Boots #1 in terms of comfort, utility & possibly hours of multi-day warmth in that order.

    c.) Once you have determined the Boot... you must pick the compatible binding

    d.) Then its on to the Skis... What do you plan to do, how much do you weigh, what type of skier are you and what is your conditioning... used to be how tall are you - but this is not as much a factor as it once was.

    I'd say for tooling around/hunting you have two options:
    1.) short, fat, sturdy but light-weight, waxless pattern on the base (maybe steel edges if side-hilling or working icy to hard snow terrain) and good boot/binding combo... SNS, NNN, or 3-pin all of which are made in Back-County models.
    2.) longer length (for flotation yet still manageable) mid-width (like cross-over more classical old-school tele) waxless pattern on the base (maybe steel edges if side-hilling or working icy to hard snow terrain) and good boot/binding combo... SNS, NNN, or 3-pin Back-County setups. Maybe get a set of climbing skins to go along w/.

    I do not sense you are planning alpine ascents and descents as a primary use --- that is overkill and inefficient.

    Good Idea is --- Take a look at the "Back-Country" specific SNS and NNN boots and bindings first... then decide if you go something like the very good ski you listed in your post or a compact 'bushwhacker'.

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    Moderator AKmud's Avatar
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    Wow Brian! Thanks for the detailed response!

    You are right that I won't be climbing any mountains, just bushwhacking mainly and some easy down hill slopes occasionally.

    I'm a pretty big guy so what size of ski should I be looking at? I'm 6'4" and ~250# without gear. Add snow gear, rifle and a backpack full of odds and ends and I'll be pushing 300# total I imagine.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKmud View Post
    I'm 6'4" and ~250# without gear. Add snow gear, rifle and a backpack full of odds and ends and I'll be pushing 300# total I imagine.
    Get a pulk to go along with those new skis!

    Once snow is on the ground I don't carry squat in a backpack. A sled is so much more efficient and comfortable. I started using one with snowshoes and haven't looked back!

    Brian,
    Great discussion on skis. Could you maybe compare using the short fat brushbusters (which I'm contemplating) over a good snowshoe (which I've done plenty).

    I've only skiied very little downhill and some CC on trails around Anchorage.

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    Karhu XCD Guide in 190 cm.

    I picked a pair at the end of the last season and haven't been out on them yet this year.

    They are the fattest of the BC touring/light Telle skis. I'd go with NNN BC bindings and a stout leather boot. They have metal edges and a waxless/fishscale base.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hodgeman View Post
    Get a pulk to go along with those new skis!

    Once snow is on the ground I don't carry squat in a backpack. A sled is so much more efficient and comfortable. I started using one with snowshoes and haven't looked back!

    Brian,
    Great discussion on skis. Could you maybe compare using the short fat brushbusters (which I'm contemplating) over a good snowshoe (which I've done plenty).

    I've only skiied very little downhill and some CC on trails around Anchorage.
    One of the back-country skis often overlooked here in Alaska is what could be described as the sliding-snowshoe. I did not make this name up... there was a fat, 150cm x/c ski having a fish-scale base I used back in the day going 3 miles down the mountain and 3 miles back up at the end of the day from the school bus stop. Growing up on the mountain... Dad would hang propane lanterns off tripods to light a Nordic ski hill that later turned focus to our fully-lighted rope tow behind the house. I trained nightly chasing bamboo sticks in those grade school days for Alpine Racing. Often the snow was un-tracked deep just to get to the rope tow to alpine ski... so a short, fat, waxless all-terrain ski was handy just to get there carting along the downhill equipment. Long story short, the ski was called the TRAK BUSHWACKER. Later Karhu picked up the design when the companies merged some 10 or so years ago. TRAK fish-scale concept has been re-named 'Omni-trak'.

    These ol' TRAK skis were (and still are) excellent as a back-country option when easy maneuverability in the tight spots and quick transferability of weight on uneven terrain starts to factor in. Hence the comparison to the sliding snowshoes

    I still have two pair of the BUSHWACKERS. They shine on outings or hunts that a person may do in passes like Broad Pass & Denali HWY, Johnson Pass, Hatcher Pass, etc... mixed conditions, brush, up/down transitions, stream crossings, carrying a load on your back, pulling tarp role or sled... ya get the idea --- very versatile, easy, and handy. The only downside is cross-country inefficiency when it would come to keeping up on trail. 150cm, fat, w/ lots of traction and little glide or camber by design makes for a balanced yet slower/steadier pace skier. On prepared track the fish-scales hummm headed down hills. When you know what you are doing you can Tele turn very well. The friction created by the Fish-scale base allows you to initiate the turn without rolling the ski over much on edge. My ol' ones do not have a metal edge.

    Today, the best representation I use is the SALOMON RAID system. Pictured here you'll also see a set of the SOLOMON snowshoes that use the compatible SNS XA snow-shoe binding in the package set. The skis do have a pattern on the bottom and do glide better, but do not as good traction when compared with bushwhackers. These skis do have steel edges for better performance on hard-packed side-hills or ice. Interestingly tho' having more sidecut and metal edges... they exhibit no real advantage in less demanding tele turns over the ol' TRAK skis.

    Look at the Karhu 'Widetrak' series like the escape in a 190cm if none of these sliding snowshoes seem to turn up. This would be a more efficient ski in terms of kick and glide and I think per your description, the others like XCD or AT line-up are probably overkill and less efficient for what you plan to do.

    I totally disagree with leather boots in this application in today's world. They are not as convenient a set-up, can lack instant good fit, are not as supportive, take longer to dry, and are heavier. Here - I would look long a hard at SNS XA boot/binding combo. These links will help - http://www.salomon.com/us/#/nordic/boots/boots/x-adv-8 & also look at the skis that they have that can easily apply to this discussion http://www.salomon.com/us/#/nordic/s...y/xadv-89-grip

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    Member L. G.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Richardson View Post
    . . . back in the day going 3 miles down the mountain and 3 miles back up at the end of the day from the school bus stop.
    Well, back when I was a kid, I had to . . . dang it, I can't top that one.

    A buddy of mine has the BushWackers. We've gone grouse hunting the spring up high. they are a very cool ski. Might be a bit hard to find.

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    You might just want to try snowshoes. The efficiency you gain in going downhill in skis is often lost with how miserable they are when you are bushwacking around and otherwise breaking trail. If you're going through forests, skis can be a real PITA.

    You're more then welcome to borrow my Atlas snowshoes and try them out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul H View Post
    You might just want to try snowshoes..
    Paul, I've already worn out two sets of snowshoes. I really enjoy it and I'm looking for my next pair currently.

    The whole idea of a "bushwacker" type ski is intriguing and i'm always looking to try something new.

    A sliding snowshoe is something interesting- I'll check out the link.

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    Thanks for the offer Paul, I have a pretty good set of snowshoes but the family is wanting to try x-country skiing so I figured I might as well get set up with something I can use in the back country as well as on the occasional trip with the kiddos.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKmud View Post
    Thanks for the offer Paul, I have a pretty good set of snowshoes but the family is wanting to try x-country skiing so I figured I might as well get set up with something I can use in the back country as well as on the occasional trip with the kiddos.
    Great thread Mud! I will be following along with it as the wife and I have been looking into getting the family on ski's as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AKmud View Post
    Thanks for the offer Paul, I have a pretty good set of snowshoes but the family is wanting to try x-country skiing so I figured I might as well get set up with something I can use in the back country as well as on the occasional trip with the kiddos.
    The thing is you'll find that skis that are suitable for off trail use will be miserable on the trails. I'd suggest checking out Play it again sports, you can pick up some older trail skis for next to nothing, and you'll find them much, much more enjoyable on trails than back country ski's. I picked up an old pair of Kniessel classic race skis for $30 w/ NNN bindings, and they are great for use on the trails.

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    I live in the Butte area and skiing has not been so great this year around here. To much ICE! I have 3 pairs of skis, touring cross country, back country, and army skis that are just old down hill skis. I use the same cross country pilot binding on them all. I can step in and out of them fast. They can be simply stepped into and can be released pressing ski pole into a notch so you don't even have to bend over except to pick them up. A big heavy guy learning to ski would like this feature to avoid bad stretches. I know I do.

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