Selecting My First Brand-New Skis (Backcountry Touring)
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.