New skis, new bindings, or new technique?

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yoyoing

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New skis, new bindings, or new technique?

Postby yoyoing » Fri Mar 08, 2019 12:03 pm

Hi all, I'm hoping you can help me in my mission to become a better xcD skier. I'm in northern Ontario (unlimited beautiful low backcountry at my doorstep) and I've become completely addicted to yo-yo'ing up and down every little hill that I come across while I'm out exploring!

I'm on my second season with 145cm Altai Hoks and no-cable Voile 3 pins/soft boots (new skier, experienced snowboarder) and this setup is super fun and versatile. Sure they can be slow on the flats, but I don't mind too much given how well they thrash through bush and run up the hills.

But it's the downhills that I really want to improve on. I'm competent at linking up tele turns now and can get down most anything in control, but I'm not yet 'charging' the downhills as I'd like to. The Hoks are great when the conditions/slope angle are perfect (~6" fresh powder, ~30' slope), but trying to hold an edge on crust/crud/ice/steep/deep with these wide-boys is a real challenge haha! I'm starting to tear out the pin holes on my boots from torquing them too much.

I picked up a used pair of Scarpa T4's thinking that they would be a game changer for me, but I actually really dislike them. They climb and tour so poorly - I can't pivot up onto my toes so my stride length is super short and they keep wanting to 'pop' my heels up like like I'm being ejected from the ski or something - but maybe that's more of an issue with the binding they're matched to? And the downhills feel robotically limited in movement, but not in the productive way that I imagined they would. Since I still can't really torque/edge the ski with the plastic boots I've just gone back to the soft boots which are far more comfortable and surprisingly perform better for me.

So when it comes to charging the downhills, what has the biggest impact on performance: skills, conditions, skis, boots, or bindings? I'm hoping you can guide this noobie with limited gear experience. In particular I'm wondering if a slightly longer/narrower ski might turn better or if a cable/wire binding might make the difference for torquing downhill turns on the Hoks?

These videos all have snappy riding styles that really impress me in terrain that is similar to mine, and I'd like to get looking more like that:

OAC XCD GT (slightly longer/narrower version of the Hoks?):



Altai Kom (how well do the fishscales climb?):



Voile Objectives (look nice but very expensive!):



Even this guy is shredding with just skinny skis with nnnbc!



Any suggestions? Thanks in advance!

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lowangle al

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Re: New skis, new bindings, or new technique?

Postby lowangle al » Fri Mar 08, 2019 1:50 pm

Welcome to the forum YoYo. I think the two biggest factors are skill and conditions. With enough skill you can ski any weight gear in good conditions. As the conditions get worse I to go to heavier gear so turns are still fun as opposed to survival skiing. If your goal is to have fun turning you will have more fun more of the time on heavier gear. The T4 should be a good choice for you, stick with them. New boots(bigger)was always the hardest thing for me to get used to.

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Re: New skis, new bindings, or new technique?

Postby phoenix » Fri Mar 08, 2019 7:50 pm

I think all the factors you mention have a significant effect... except the bindings, which have somewhat less. The boot that's best is the one that feels best to you. No question the T4 is an excellent boot in it's category... but sounds like it may not be quite right for you. I've been in Scarpa's for more than 20 years (various editions of T2's and T1's... still love my old T1's for resort and bigger BC stuff). That said, I tried the T4's a couple of years ago and found the flex wasn't right for me, and the height cut into my shin. Went for a pair of Excursions... first time I've ever chosen a Garmont/Scott rather than a Scarpa. Popping your heels up is an example of "rocket launch", a common characteristic in the T2's I've had.
While several factors affect performance, I find boots to have, perhaps, the biggest on comfort and enjoyment... which I consider major.

Find a boot that feels right to you. A cable of some sort will give you more control on the downhill side of things, but be a little more restrictive on the XC side. You'd probably feel best with a fairly "neutral" cable set-up... Voile 3pin cable, old Black Diamond 03's with a "mid-stiff spring", or some vintage Riva's, which Lowangle has praised. G3's are probably the most widely used binding out there, but personally I dislike the dead start at the initiation of the turn, and the top out dive at the end if you go "deep".

Last, for now, but immensely important, is technique. Or let's say skills. Nothing you have on your feet is going to make you "charge" if you don't have the foundation; better skills will help you ski anything better. Note that in most of the videos you posted, confident turns resulted in a turn n' burn. The exception was the Altai's... but that's Nils, who has been a dedicated skier for a long, long time. And note how he instictively shifts from tele to parallel when necessary, or desired.

The tele turn is not quickly acquired (usually). Takes time and dedication. To avoid rambling longer than I already have... making turns in the BC only, it's gonna be a long and very possibly frustrating learning curve. My advice is, settle on your gear, and if it's at all possible, get yourself to a lift served place and just make turns. Lots and lots of turns, till it clicks. Next best would be to yo-yo your butt off, focusing on same.

Skis? I need to take a break here. Altai Kom's, Voile Objective or Vectors, or... there's more than I can think abou at the moment.

In closing, just a glimpse of my after work tour today: ON my Excursions, Spike 3 pins, and Objective BC's... in the open meadow, where the sun and freeze cycle offered a few inches of creamy snow on a not quite breakable base, turns were sweet and smooth.
In the woods, where the shaded snow was a breakable crust, often chopped by my previous tracks, turns were most ungraceful, to put it mildly. Survival turns kept me upright, that's about it. That survival comes from decades of experience. It still wasn't pretty.

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Re: New skis, new bindings, or new technique?

Postby Lo-Fi » Sat Mar 09, 2019 12:38 pm

phoenix wrote:. The exception was the Altai's... but that's Nils, who has been a dedicated skier for a long, long time. And note how he instictively shifts from tele to parallel when necessary, or desired.

The tele turn is not quickly acquired (usually). Takes time and dedication. To avoid rambling longer than I already have... making turns in the BC only, it's gonna be a long and very possibly frustrating learning curve. My advice is, settle on your gear, and if it's at all possible, get yourself to a lift served place and just make turns. Lots and lots of turns, till it clicks. Next best would be to yo-yo your butt off, focusing on same.



Hey, that’s not Nils on those Altais, that’s me! (Ha. That’s the second time I’ve been mistaken for him. Well, I’ve been called worse!)

Otherwise, Phoenix is right on with all his points.

I’ve done A/B comparisons between the Hoks and Koms on the same day, conditions and terrain. The Hoks climb steeply and are like having short “kicker” skins on the Koms. Unfortunately, you can’t then take the skins off of the Hoks. It makes the descent challenging: slower, and grabby & stuttering. Still fun, but not nearly the same glide and flow that you can get with skis.

The Koms are real skis and ski as such with geat edging, turning, floating and pivoting (that video is on terrible re-frozen crud). I think they are particularly well suited to yo-yo skiing on our rolling Canadian Shield terrain and tighter bush. They climb well for our terrain, just more gradually than the HOks and you can always add a little grip wax to sweeten the grip as lilcliffy has suggested or carry quick on & off kicker skins in a pocket if you have long ascents.

The OAC guy is a great skier to ski like he does while wearing his Sorel pac boots in the universal binding. The OAC GT is also more of a ski than the Hok and the powder snow he’s in is pretty ideal.

I think that’s Chuck Flannel aka Woodserson(from this forum) skiing nicely on the Objectives. The Hoks would never ski like that.

The NNN-BC guy has neat foot-steering type technique but I’m sure he would look different on steeper and deeper conditions with that gear.

I say stick with your T4s(try touring with the top buckle and laces really loose) get some real skis like Koms, or Vector BCs, or Objectives or the like, get some easy pivoting simple cable bindings(better downhill support than pins but still tourable) and work on technique at a lift served hill.

Do a million perfect tele turns at the resort and then take those honed skills and merge them with the backcountry base you’ve already built with the Hoks and you’ll be charging on skis in no time. It only took me 20+ years!

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bgregoire

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Re: New skis, new bindings, or new technique?

Postby bgregoire » Sat Mar 09, 2019 1:11 pm

Lo-Fi wrote:Do a million perfect tele turns at the resort and then take those honed skills and merge them with the backcountry base you’ve already built with the Hoks and you’ll be charging on skis in no time. It only took me 20+ years!


Tru dat!
I live for the Telemark arc....The feeeeeeel.....I ski miles to get to a place where there is guaranteed snow to do the deal....TM

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lilcliffy

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Re: New skis, new bindings, or new technique?

Postby lilcliffy » Sat Mar 09, 2019 2:42 pm

yoyoing wrote: The Hoks are great when the conditions/slope angle are perfect (~6" fresh powder, ~30' slope), but trying to hold an edge on crust/crud/ice/steep/deep with these wide-boys is a real challenge haha! I'm starting to tear out the pin holes on my boots from torquing them too much.


Welcome yoyoing!

I love the Hok. It is a wonderful, fun and utilitarian soft-snow ski designed to ski right through the dense northwoods!

The Hok is a soft snow ski- it is not designed to hold an edge- even if you had the boots and bindings to force it on edge it does not have enough torsional stability.

The Hok doesn't offer a lot of stability as a downhill ski period. I am not aware of anyone doing any serious downhill skiing without the added support of a lurk or "tiak".

If you want to be able to effectively ski downhill you either need a narrow enough ski that you can drive with a soft XC boot- or you need a true downhill ski with a downhill boot and binding.

On the subject of boots- what boot have you been using with the Hok to this point?

Sorry to hear that you do not like the T4- I love this boot, but I have a good fit in it.

A boot like the T4 is on the most distance-end of the downhill Telemark spectrum of boots.
There are still "toury" leather Telemark boots available- again at the "distance-end" of the downhill Telemark spectrum. I put "distance-end" in quotations because even the most stridey Telemark boot is not going to give you the freedom of movement and striding that you describe:
I picked up a used pair of Scarpa T4's thinking that they could be a game changer for me, but I actually really dislike them. They climb and tour so poorly - I can't pivot up onto my toes so my stride length is super short

My point is that you are simply not going to find any downhill boot that offers the striding performance of a XC boot.
AND- I have skied in plenty leather Telemark boots that are both heavier and offer less freedom of movement than the Scarpa T4. That being said- if simply cannot get the T4 to work for you than you will need to replace it...I simply advise that you don't expect any "Telemark" boot to feel like a XC boot when you are striding.

So- I guess a number of thoughts-

If you want to truly "charge" downhill then you are going to need to learn how to free-heel downhill ski (sorry if I am making false assumptions about your skill level). There are a number of different roads and pathways here...

Again- don't expect the Hok to be more than it is. It is a ski- but it certainly ain't a high-performance downhill ski nor a high-performance XCD ski.

I would suggest that adding a MUCH narrower BC-XC ski (i.e. "Fjellski"), with an easily-managed camber (i.e. single-camber or at most, camber-and-a-half) and enough stiffness that you can push it downhill. I would not go any wider than 62-ish waist, so that you can effectively drive with the ski with a XC boot.
Examples include skis with XC DNA:
-Asnes Ingstad BC
-Asnes Nansen BC
-Fischer E109
-Fischer Traverse 78
-Madshus Eon
If you don't need the XC DNA then consider this gem:
-Asnes Falketind 62 (a mini modern BC-downhill ski made for XC "shoes"!)

There is no question that downhill skiing with a proper downhill boot and binding is going to give you much more support and allow you to drive a much wider, more stable modern downhill ski. Be prepared to spend some dough!

So when it comes to charging the downhills, what has the biggest impact on performance: skills, conditions, skis, boots, or bindings?

These things are all connected of course and any specific perspective utterly depends on the specific skiing context (i.e. snow, terrain, cover, etc.)- but to hopelessly generalize- in order of importance:
1) skills
2) boots
3) skis

1) In other words- skills first- so be patient and determined.
2)While a very skilled skier can do amazing things in very light soft boots- there is a very clear physical limit to how much leverage a specific boot can provide. I too can "ride" wonderful turns with XC boots on skis as wide as the Hok- but I ain't gonna drive that ski with a XC boot- even if the ski was capable of being pushed to do so!
3) Accept and embrace the strengths and limitations of a particular ski.
Cross-country AND down-hill skiing in the backcountry.
Unashamed to be a "cross-country type" and love skiing down-hill.

yoyoing

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Re: New skis, new bindings, or new technique?

Postby yoyoing » Sat Mar 09, 2019 7:07 pm

Thanks for the tips everyone! Cool to hear that some of the clips I linked are already well known :)

I gave the T4s another shot today as suggested. I'm having a hard time finding the fore/aft balance in them while going downhill and can't seem to freely stride a tele turn. I guess they need an altogether different technique than I've grown accustomed to with my soft boots (cheapos from amazon which actually perform much better than expected).

I also tried some parallel turns and could sort of get the Hoks on edge with the T4s (at least with my horrendous technique) but had a hard to transitioning into the next turn once they were locked locked in. Conditions are admittedly bad right now though with only 2" of consolidated powder on top of breakable crust from a previous frozen rain event. As a snowboarder I actually find the tele turn way more intuitive and have gotten pretty good at them, but the parallel turns has a long way to go! I'll get onto some groomers as suggested though see if I can't get a better feel for them.

I think it's good advice to accept and embrace the limitations of whatever gear you have. In my case the Hoks are really great for 90% of what I want to do around here anyways so really I'm happy about that :)

So just to confirm - a skinnier ski is easier to turn with a soft boot? But what would be the downsides?
And can someone please explain to me to be what wires/cables actually do, as I've never had the chance to try them?

Thanks again!

yoyoing

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Re: New skis, new bindings, or new technique?

Postby yoyoing » Sat Mar 09, 2019 7:22 pm

97826342-39E6-42E6-A801-F53C43671E19.png


I couldn't figure out how to upload a video so I just added a screenshot of my tele turns on the hooks with soft boots. In the right conditions they're a lot of fun!

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Re: New skis, new bindings, or new technique?

Postby lowangle al » Sat Mar 09, 2019 9:52 pm

It looks like you're doin pretty good there YoYo. The problem with the T4 might be that you're having trouble getting the ball of your foot down so you are not able to get as much weight on it as you want. It helps to have a tighter stance and keep that rear boot under your butt or close to it.

Once you get used to plastic boots the added control you get will make it worth it.

Wires and cables will let you get more pressure farther up on the ski giving you more carving power. The thing I also like about them is that give me more control of an unweighted ski. With a cable I can feel my edges engaging throughout the turn making for a smoother more stable turn. With pins I loose the connection to my edges when the skis are unweighted and I also need more weight on the rear ski to make it work.

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Re: New skis, new bindings, or new technique?

Postby phoenix » Sun Mar 10, 2019 12:31 pm

LoFi, sorry for the mis-identification! It was simply an assumption on my part that it was Nils. Very nice skiing, by the way. Extra points for keeping the flow when the tail of your right ski skittered off that sapling, and the smooth gelande off the log!

YoYo; in addition to all the sage advice from veterans here, and the abundance of videos available, I'll offer an archaic suggestion: A book! Freeheel skiing, by Paul Parker. Both first and second editions, preferably... but start with the first. I found it really helpful for me to move from weaning myself from relying on parallel and fake-o-mark techniques to developing a solid, balanced tele turn. This, after several years of working on it.

Of course, for some, it's the other way around: they learn the telemark first, and struggle to acquire parallel skills. Ultimately, best by far, is being proficient and fluid with all manner of turns. I've been on skis for 63 winters now, and am still very thankful, at times, that I was steeped in the basics... snowplow, wedge, herringbone, etc. Still use every bit of those skills when necessary. And switch up tele and parallel when desired, or required. Not uncommon for me to modify a tele turn into parallel, mid turn, when I hit a patch of ice (where parallel is far more stable).


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