Selecting My First Brand-New Skis (Backcountry Touring)

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Smitty

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Selecting My First Brand-New Skis (Backcountry Touring)

Postby Smitty » Fri Dec 07, 2018 2:24 am

Hey guys, I know you get a lot of "help me pick a ski" threads so I hope you don't mind another. But first I want to thank everyone for the wealth of knowledge and discussion on this board! I have been following for a couple years, and it has been an amazing resource!

I am from the prairies so have no alpine skiing background, and had never tried XC. A couple years ago I was looking for something more active to do during our long winters. My wife grew up XC skiing and suggested I try it out. I bought a cheap classic on-track setup, and I was instantly hooked. I was (and still am) happy to cruise around the local track set when I am in a rush or to work on my stamina and technique. But I find being out in the bush to be much more enjoyable, and it was clear right away that my 40 mm track skis were not the right tools for the job. Searching around the internet for resources on backcountry XC is what led me to this forum and you fine folks.

So I read reviews and discussions on this forum like crazy and went for the "try and buy" approach that many of you have suggested to new folks. I found a couple good sales / kijiji / ski-swap deals. Without you even knowing it, you helped me put together the collection of:

- 210 cm Asnes USGI's from Coleman's
- Lightly used 205 cm Madshus Eon Wax
- Still-in-wrapping but several years old 205 cm Fischer e89's

All mounted with NNN-BC, pushed by Alfa Perform boots. Then I proceeded to ski them as far and as often as I could!

I am 5'10", 200 lbs, 30 years old and fairly athletic. Do lots of hiking, camping, canoeing in the summer. I live in northeastern Alberta (nowhere near the Rockies unfortunately) right around where the prairies meet the boreal forest. Muskeg country, not Canadian Shield. We get about 100 cm of snow per winter, pretty light/fluffy/dry. Gets wind-blown and consolidates a bit, but the top stays pretty loose until the daily thaw/nightly freeze cycle starts in April. Pretty flat country overall, but there is some roll to it and some areas of steeper but short hills. Lots of lakes, rivers, Poplar forest with sprinklings of Spruce. New-growth forest with super thick under-brush, so you can't really weave through the trees. But we have 100's of kilometers of trails, oilfield / old logging roads, pipeline and powerline corridors, etc that provide beautiful opportunity for cruising. So now most of my skiing is on the three skis mentioned above - across lakes, down creeks, and on trails or cut-lines through the bush. Depending on my route, there can be foot-deep dry untouched powder. But I am also often sharing packed-out trails with snowmobiles and ATV's. The terrain doesn't provide much opportunity for turns up here, so I've decided there's no sense chasing it right now. I just want to keep hitting the bush and cruise as far and as fast as possible in whatever direction is calling. Just me, the wife, and the whoosh-whoosh!

So this leads me to the ultimate point - I am ready to buy my first higher performance XC touring ski. Based on observations from my current quiver:

- I want to maintain full XC length. I love the kick and glide snappiness.
- I will never say never, but I would like to stick with waxable. We have a great climate for it and I find that I need to fiddle with my wax much other than a re-apply on a longer jaunt. And I kind of like tinkering with it anyway.
- Need to turn the ski as a means of self-preservation, but I don't live in telemark country. It would be great if I did, but I want a ski that fits with my everyday, and that means lots mildly rolling miles in dry powdery snow or packed out trail.
- My favorite ski is the USGI. Snappy, fast, burly. Deals with the snowmobile track decently, as well as the (by my local standards) deep powder spots. But it's pretty damn heavy, especially when the stiff tip submarines into the snow when breaking trail.
- Also love the e89 on the hardpack. Started using it on the track-set as well to aid with breaking in and forming the Alfas. I wish I could have found it used in 210 cm, but the 205 cm seems to hold me okay and you couldn't beat $60 CAD the price. No float, but it's a skinny, and the short length for my weight doesn't seem to be affecting my kick and glide enough to bother me.
- The Eon just doesn't seem to be the right ski for my purposes, which I kind of expected. But it was super cheap on kijiji and came mounted with SNS-XA which the father-in-law was looking for a replacement. It's pretty skittery on the snow machine trails and the single camber is a bit sluggish in comparison to the USGI. Trudging through powder it doesn't seem to offer any better float, and I just don't ski in a way that it's (assumed) turning superiority would make any difference.
- Integral kicker skins look cool, but not a must. I acquired a pair of Black Diamond half-skins so could use them on the new ski too.

Original thought was either Fischer e99 or Asnes Gamme. Sounds like the front-end rocker might absorb some of the snowmobile track skitter while the rest of the ski tracks straight. Nice width for me on the skinnier side, should be good and fast. Was leaning toward the Gamme because of this damn fever that is going around. Probably in 210 cm, although it worries me that I fall just under the suggested weight for that length. 200 cm just seems too short.

Then I start second guessing myself - am I unfairly discounting the Amundsen? But I worry about that ski on the powder and I don't know how stiff Mr. Amundsen would handle some snowmobile tracks. The Ingstad and the Combat Nato would offer more float than the Gamme in my deep, dry spots. And everyone says they ski like a fat XC focused ski. Would Mr. Ingstad's super-rockered tips do the best job? Or a nice white Combat Nato to keep the old USGI company on the ski rack?

I would love your guys input since I don't have near the miles under my belt that you do yet.

Cheers!

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Re: Selecting My First Brand-New Skis (Backcountry Touring)

Postby lowangle al » Fri Dec 07, 2018 8:58 am

Correct me if I'm wrong, your goal in getting a high performance xc ski is to better handle terrain where you are currently doing self preservation turns and something that will track better on rough snowmobile trails without sacrificing xc performance.

First I'd like to say that if your hills require self preservation turns they probably are big enough to make turns for fun. I'm not sure if this is one of your goals, but it should be. It sounds like your current skis are adequate for what you are doing so if you want to see a big difference in control you have two choices. One, save your money and get one of the Asnes with nordic rocker and soft camber or look for a cheap used alpine ski around 70mm at the waist and around 170-180cm long. This will make it easier to learn to turn.

One more thing, if you are looking for more control go with the shortest ski recommended for your weight, not the longest.

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Re: Selecting My First Brand-New Skis (Backcountry Touring)

Postby bgregoire » Fri Dec 07, 2018 9:08 am

Smitty, the Norsemen out in Calgary take sizing XC skis like Asnes to an art. They are very serious about it. I would highly suggest you go to them for sizing cause they have told me repeadtedly that there is significant variance in the stiffness of skis of a same size. As you looking for performance and you are close, I would take advantage of that service!

With that, at 200lbs, I don't think you will have trouble with a Gamme 210. Others like LC I believe choose then as long but weight less. I gather they have a softer than double camber?

I see you have the Asnes bug so I suggest you stick with that brand or else you might be dissapointed!

All the bad words here about Amundsen are from folks that do not own them. They are awesome skis like the rest of the Asnes line. Being stiff, they are actually performance skis for packed snow.

If you are often going miles on packed out snow trails, of the three (Ingstad, Gamme, Amundsen), I would put Ingstad aside for now, reserving it more for opening trail in big snow and better float teleing downhill. As for the Gamme/Amundsen, I do believe you will be happy with either. I understand the Amundsen will be slightly more efficient on the flats (and retain wax longer) and the Gamme: a little more efficient when teleing down stuff. Of the two, I think it would be most important to size the Amundsen right cause its got a real awesome deep wax pocket that you need to squish just right on hardpack.

Hope that helps.
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Re: Selecting My First Brand-New Skis (Backcountry Touring)

Postby lilcliffy » Fri Dec 07, 2018 10:46 am

Smitty wrote:Hey guys, I know you get a lot of "help me pick a ski" threads so I hope you don't mind another. But first I want to thank everyone for the wealth of knowledge and discussion on this board! I have been following for a couple years, and it has been an amazing resource!

I am from the prairies so have no alpine skiing background, and had never tried XC. A couple years ago I was looking for something more active to do during our long winters. My wife grew up XC skiing and suggested I try it out. I bought a cheap classic on-track setup, and I was instantly hooked. I was (and still am) happy to cruise around the local track set when I am in a rush or to work on my stamina and technique. But I find being out in the bush to be much more enjoyable, and it was clear right away that my 40 mm track skis were not the right tools for the job. Searching around the internet for resources on backcountry XC is what led me to this forum and you fine folks.

Thank you fo taking the time to describe all of this! I am most interested in each individual skier's context- and it also makes it easier to hopefully help you!

So I read reviews and discussions on this forum like crazy and went for the "try and buy" approach that many of you have suggested to new folks. I found a couple good sales / kijiji / ski-swap deals. Without you even knowing it, you helped me put together the collection of:

- 210 cm Asnes USGI's from Coleman's
- Lightly used 205 cm Madshus Eon Wax
- Still-in-wrapping but several years old 205 cm Fischer e89's

You haven't tried the E89 yet? Hmmm...I would certainly test those before you make a decision regarding an E99/Gamme 54 class of ski...I debated for a couple of years between the E89 vs E99. In the end my hilly terrain and abundance of fresh snow made the extra float, stability and softer flex of the E99 a much beter choice for me than the E89. I can certainly see many contexts where the E89 would be a better choice!

All mounted with NNN-BC, pushed by Alfa Perform boots. Then I proceeded to ski them as far and as often as I could!

I am 5'10", 200 lbs, 30 years old and fairly athletic. Do lots of hiking, camping, canoeing in the summer. I live in northeastern Alberta (nowhere near the Rockies unfortunately) right around where the prairies meet the boreal forest. Muskeg country, not Canadian Shield. We get about 100 cm of snow per winter, pretty light/fluffy/dry. Gets wind-blown and consolidates a bit, but the top stays pretty loose until the daily thaw/nightly freeze cycle starts in April. Pretty flat country overall, but there is some roll to it and some areas of steeper but short hills. Lots of lakes, rivers, Poplar forest with sprinklings of Spruce. New-growth forest with super thick under-brush, so you can't really weave through the trees. But we have 100's of kilometers of trails, oilfield / old logging roads, pipeline and powerline corridors, etc that provide beautiful opportunity for cruising. So now most of my skiing is on the three skis mentioned above - across lakes, down creeks, and on trails or cut-lines through the bush. Depending on my route, there can be foot-deep dry untouched powder. But I am also often sharing packed-out trails with snowmobiles and ATV's. The terrain doesn't provide much opportunity for turns up here, so I've decided there's no sense chasing it right now. I just want to keep hitting the bush and cruise as far and as fast as possible in whatever direction is calling. Just me, the wife, and the whoosh-whoosh!

Again- great information. It is important to acknowledge and embrace the context of your local backcountry. I read Nordic backcountry touring and the key words are- to me- "beautiful opportunities for cruising".

So this leads me to the ultimate point - I am ready to buy my first higher performance XC touring ski.

Can you flesh this out for me a little bit? What do you mean by "higher performance"? Faster? Lighter? More camber? More supportive flex? Better flotation? Or- better on packed out trails?

- I want to maintain full XC length. I love the kick and glide snappiness.

This makes sense to me. But is also explains why you are bit underwhelmed by a ski like the Eon in your skiing context (I am as well!)
- I will never say never, but I would like to stick with waxable. We have a great climate for it and I find that I need to fiddle with my wax much other than a re-apply on a longer jaunt. And I kind of like tinkering with it anyway.

With you man! Grip wax is magic!!!!!
- Need to turn the ski as a means of self-preservation, but I don't live in telemark country. It would be great if I did, but I want a ski that fits with my everyday, and that means lots mildly rolling miles in dry powdery snow or packed out trail.
This is important to acknowledge and embrace. IMHO- you need to focus on XC performance. Light responsive skis can allow you to move away from simple "self-preservation". With a light, stable long XC ski one can do some pretty awesome stuff if you get comfortable with step and jump turns!

- My favorite ski is the USGI. Snappy, fast, burly. Deals with the snowmobile track decently, as well as the (by my local standards) deep powder spots. But it's pretty damn heavy, especially when the stiff tip submarines into the snow when breaking trail.
This my issue with this ski as well. It is VERY heavy isn't it? From a XC perspective it demonstrates how even a very heavy set of planks can be fast and supportive with the perfect balance of flex, camber and width underfoot! BUT- my backcountry is very hilly and I find the weight of the USGI ski hard to weild!!! However if I could only afford one touring ski for my backcountry and I was on a serious budget- the Asnes USGI would be it!!
- Also love the e89 on the hardpack. Started using it on the track-set as well to aid with breaking in and forming the Alfas. I wish I could have found it used in 210 cm, but the 205 cm seems to hold me okay and you couldn't beat $60 CAD the price. No float, but it's a skinny, and the short length for my weight doesn't seem to be affecting my kick and glide enough to bother me.

Oh- so are using the E89. Are you satisfied with it for your packed out cruising? An E99/Gamme 54 will be slower than this ski on hardpack...An Amundsen should be just as fast as the E89, but better float and stability.
- The Eon just doesn't seem to be the right ski for my purposes, which I kind of expected. But it was super cheap on kijiji and came mounted with SNS-XA which the father-in-law was looking for a replacement. It's pretty skittery on the snow machine trails and the single camber is a bit sluggish in comparison to the USGI. Trudging through powder it doesn't seem to offer any better float, and I just don't ski in a way that it's (assumed) turning superiority would make any difference.
The Eon is an ultimate example of an attempt at being a "jack of all trades" and the result is a master of NONE! The Eon is very slow when XC skiing on hardpack and I find it miserably unsuppotive in deep soft snow. The USGI is waaaay better than the Eon in every context as a XC ski- also being more supportive and wider underfoot makes the USGI better in deep soft snow. As an XCD ski it is an old design- a design that ended up proving to be very limited. I understand why people love this ski- the Eon is very soft, smooth and manageable- but, if you are looking for high performance, there are much better options out there. Regardless- I don't think you are looking for a "XCD" ski...

Original thought was either Fischer e99 or Asnes Gamme. Sounds like the front-end rocker might absorb some of the snowmobile track skitter while the rest of the ski tracks straight. Nice width for me on the skinnier side, should be good and fast. Was leaning toward the Gamme because of this damn fever that is going around. Probably in 210 cm, although it worries me that I fall just under the suggested weight for that length. 200 cm just seems too short.

You definitely want the 210cm E99/Gamme 54 in your skiing context. This class of skl is definitely more stable and offers better deep snow performance than the E89 class- but, not a deep snow ski. Your USGI will beat the E99/Gamme in deep snow...

Then I start second guessing myself - am I unfairly discounting the Amundsen?

Yes- I think you are. If I had the terrain you have I would have bought an Amundsen- not an E99/Gamme 54.

But I worry about that ski on the powder and I don't know how stiff Mr. Amundsen would handle some snowmobile tracks.
I think that the key with a ski like the Amundsen is what Ben spoke to in his post is getting the length-flex-camber just right for your weight and snow conditions. Obvioulsy you can get away with a pretty stiff, cambered ski on hardpack- but on powder snow the same ski won't work as you drive the tip/tail into th abyss and fail to effectively engage the wax pocket. If you get it just right the Amudsen could replace both your E89 and your USGI...

The Ingstad and the Combat Nato would offer more float than the Gamme in my deep, dry spots. And everyone says they ski like a fat XC focused ski. Would Mr. Ingstad's super-rockered tips do the best job? Or a nice white Combat Nato to keep the old USGI company on the ski rack?

The Ingstad and Combat Nato are now very different skis- both finely tuned for deep soft snow. Though I haven't had the Ingstad in deep powder yet- I predict the Combat Nato to be the better in terms of PURELY XC performance. Those rockered tips do nothing to improve XC performance- in fact until I test the Ingstad in true powder and breakable crust, I cannot make a final judgment on it. What I do know is that the rockered tips of my E109 Xtralite SUCK when XC skiing in deep snow. I am thinking that the Ingstad's more supportive flex may be enough...But- regardless- the tip rocker is for turning not XC skiing. The Combat Nato's trail-breaking tip is simply incredible. The Combat Nato is certainly better than the Eon when XC skiing on consolidated snow, but the more cambered and stiffer skis are MUCH faster XC skiing on consolidated snow. The Combat Nato- like your USGI- is an incredibly versatile BC-XC ski- especially if one has an abundance of soft snow. If the abundance is dense consolidated snow than the more cambered, stiffer skis are more versatile than the Combat Nato...

So- I remain unsure about what you are looking for...

Sounds like you have two cruising contexts:
1) deep fresh snow
2) packed out hardpack trails

If you are happy with the E89 for hardpack cruising...

I think the USGI is your favourite because it is your most versatile cruising ski in both #1 &#2 contexts...

Do you want a lighter more responsive ski that is versatile for both contexts (i.e. you are frequently on/off hardpacked trails)- or are you looking for a lighter more responsive ski for a single snow condition?
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Re: Selecting My First Brand-New Skis (Backcountry Touring)

Postby Cannatonic » Fri Dec 07, 2018 2:14 pm

the description of how the skis will be used and what you want to do screams "Gamme 54" to me! especially this part:

- I want to maintain full XC length. I love the kick and glide snappiness.

They will complement the skis you have well too. Absolutely you need the 210's, the perfect size for you, I'm skiing them at 180 pounds and they're great. The kickers skins are worth the money and make the skis versatile, you can cut the skins short and make the skis function like fishscale skis in warm snow, or use a wider kicker skin and climb almost as well as full-length skins.

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Re: Selecting My First Brand-New Skis (Backcountry Touring)

Postby Smitty » Fri Dec 07, 2018 2:35 pm

Thanks for taking the time to reply gents!

lowangle al wrote:Correct me if I'm wrong, your goal in getting a high performance xc ski is to better handle terrain where you are currently doing self preservation turns and something that will track better on rough snowmobile trails without sacrificing xc performance.

First I'd like to say that if your hills require self preservation turns they probably are big enough to make turns for fun. I'm not sure if this is one of your goals, but it should be.


Sorry Al, I didn't do a very good job of explaining my turning requirements. There aren't a lot of big hills close by and the forest has too much tight undergrowth to weave through the trees. I am skiing mostly on cut-lines and snowmobile tracks through the bush. So for this ski I just need enough turn capability to prevent running-out of a downhill curve on the trail and smacking a tree. Not so much in the context of ditching speed on a steep or keeping a tight line through trees.

So for now just looking for my ideal XC cruiser. But there are more sustained hills a little further afield from my place - next winter's goal might be the used alpine ski you mention and see if I can learn the free-heel turn!

bgregoire wrote:Smitty, the Norsemen out in Calgary take sizing XC skis like Asnes to an art. They are very serious about it. I would highly suggest you go to them for sizing cause they have told me repeadtedly that there is significant variance in the stiffness of skis of a same size. As you looking for performance and you are close, I would take advantage of that service!


Good point Ben. I was hesitant about Norsemen because their prices are higher than Lacordee. Even with shipping and exchange rate, I believe Norsemen were still higher than what lilcliffy quoted for Sport Albert a while back. But at the end of the day if I I have the opportunity to get the skis perfectly sized by the pros then maybe paying the premium is worth it. That way I can see and flex the skis in person too. By the time I made it to Norsemen last year it was late-season and they were in the process of switching back over to climbing gear. Only a couple Combat Natos and Nansens were still out so I didn't get a chance to look at the Gamme or Amundsen.

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Re: Selecting My First Brand-New Skis (Backcountry Touring)

Postby Smitty » Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:31 pm

lilcliffy wrote:Thank you fo taking the time to describe all of this! I am most interested in each individual skier's context- and it also makes it easier to hopefully help you!


Felt like I was rambling after a while, so thanks for taking the time to read it!

lilcliffy wrote:You haven't tried the E89 yet? Hmmm...I would certainly test those before you make a decision regarding an E99/Gamme 54 class of ski...


Sorry, referring here to the condition of the e89's when I picked them up at a used ski shop last year. Not sure the exact model year (at least a few years old, not an xtralite / easy-skin model) but they had never been mounted and were still in the wrapper! I have maybe 50 km testing them out now, mixture of track-set and out on the trails

lilcliffy wrote:Oh- so are using the E89. Are you satisfied with it for your packed out cruising? An E99/Gamme 54 will be slower than this ski on hardpack...An Amundsen should be just as fast as the E89, but better float and stability.


I REALLY like the e89 on the hardpack, they fly. I will definitely be holding onto these skis. But many of my routes alternate between packed out snowmobile track and then breaking trail again through 10-30 cm of powder cover. So in the new ski I am willing to sacrifice some of the speed of the e89 in order to gain more floatation / trail breaking ability.

lilcliffy wrote:Can you flesh this out for me a little bit? What do you mean by "higher performance"? Faster? Lighter? More camber? More supportive flex? Better flotation? Or- better on packed out trails?

lilcliffy wrote:So- I remain unsure about what you are looking for...

I think the USGI is your favourite because it is your most versatile cruising ski in both #1 &#2 contexts...

Do you want a lighter more responsive ski that is versatile for both contexts (i.e. you are frequently on/off hardpacked trails)


Yes, you nailed it. My tour can often switch back and forth between cruising down a packed out trail and then trudging through a blown-in low spot. So I am looking for one ski that can give me the versatility and stability that I get out of my USGI now but with a lighter modern construction and a bit more responsive!

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Re: Selecting My First Brand-New Skis (Backcountry Touring)

Postby Smitty » Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:49 pm

Cannatonic wrote:the description of how the skis will be used and what you want to do screams "Gamme 54" to me! especially this part:

- I want to maintain full XC length. I love the kick and glide snappiness.

They will complement the skis you have well too. Absolutely you need the 210's, the perfect size for you, I'm skiing them at 180 pounds and they're great. The kickers skins are worth the money and make the skis versatile, you can cut the skins short and make the skis function like fishscale skis in warm snow, or use a wider kicker skin and climb almost as well as full-length skins.


Thanks for the feedback! Great to know that if I go with the Gammes that 210 cm is the way to go too.

May have to call Norsemen and see if this years order has come in and what stock is like. Still intrigued by the Amundsen as well. May be able to get to Calgary in January to look in person and get sized. Should probably take the USGI's out for the afternoon to ponder these difficult life decisions.

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Re: Selecting My First Brand-New Skis (Backcountry Touring)

Postby lilcliffy » Fri Dec 07, 2018 8:31 pm

Smitty wrote:I REALLY like the e89 on the hardpack, they fly. I will definitely be holding onto these skis. But many of my routes alternate between packed out snowmobile track and then breaking trail again through 10-30 cm of powder cover. So in the new ski I am willing to sacrifice some of the speed of the e89 in order to gain more floatation / trail breaking ability

Well an E99/Gamme 54 will be slower than the E89, but definitely more float and more stable in the deep snow. Again- an Amundsen appropriately sized for your height and weight would be the bomb I think. Though if the Amundsen is too stiff/cambered for your weight, you will have trouble engaging the wax pocket in the powder.

lilcliffy wrote:Do you want a lighter more responsive ski that is versatile for both contexts (i.e. you are frequently on/off hardpacked trails)


Yes, you nailed it. My tour can often switch back and forth between cruising down a packed out trail and then trudging through a blown-in low spot. So I am looking for one ski that can give me the versatility and stability that I get out of my USGI now but with a lighter modern construction and a bit more responsive!


So- what dominates?
1) Cruising on consolidated snow?
or
2) Breaking trail through deep snow?

If #1 dominates: Amundsen (or Gamme 54- slower- but better in variable terrain).
This ski will be acceptably stable in deep snow and will still fly on dense snow.

If #2 dominates: Combat Nato.
This ski will be acceptable on dense snow and will absolutely crush deep soft snow and breakable crust.

It sounds like the E89 is actually too much of a niche ski for you (as it would be for me!)

No matter what you choose (i.e. Amundsen/Gamme or Combat Nato)- you may end up with the other at later point and the E89 may relax on your rack most of the time!

If I had to choose just one ski for my truly distance-driven tours here in the hills I would have a hard time choosing between my E99/Gamme and the Combat Nato...I think I would have to choose the Combat Nato due to my continuous supply of fresh soft snow...BUT- I am very thankful I don't have to choose!
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Re: Selecting My First Brand-New Skis (Backcountry Touring)

Postby Johnny » Sat Dec 08, 2018 8:49 am

Smitty, a friend of mine has a nice pair of 201cm Amundsens for sale at a very nice price...
Just saying... ;)
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