- XCD Enthusiast
- Posts: 3
- Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2020 12:38 am
- Location: Southern Utah
- Ski style: Pragmatic?
- Favorite Skis: Madshus XCD trio; Asnes Ingstad BC WL
- Favorite boots: Ugh. Sore subject.
- Occupation: Wilderness Guide / Outdoor Educator
Other than taking a few alpine lessons at Squaw Valley in 1992 when I was 12 years old and one disastrous three day weekend learning how to snowboard in high school (hey, the cool kids were doing it) I didn't touch snowsports again until I was 30. Actually, it was on that high school trip that I remember riding the lift, snowboard dangling from one boot, looking down and seeing our quirky classmate Colin doing deep knee bend, free heel, swooping turns down the hill. Now I know what that was, but I didn't then. Just esoteric Colin, being different, as usual.
By 2010 I had been a professional backcountry guide in the other 3 seasons for a decade. The winter of '10 I was in Alberta during a week of "continuing education" (i.e. boreal winter survival taught by the late, great Mors Kochanski) when some of my colleagues introduced me to the world of what I now know as "xcd" and I've been enthralled ever since.
We would go out early on some mornings before class when the mercury read -45F, exploring and bushwhacking through larch and willow thickets. Such freedom, such peace, such a privilege to gain entrance to and experience what felt like the forest's private moments. (I have this notion that the mountain expects and accepts all the human activity during spring summer and fall, but that it retains winter as a kind of "personal quiet time" — hence why my instinct is to behave extra respectfully when I visit the deep backcountry during winter. Guess I haven't outgrown the animism universal to children.) Snowshoeing always struck me as such a slog. And despite sucking, (back then, and still today frankly) I could immediately perceive the possibilities for efficient, elegant winter travel on skis like these, attached to the right feet...
One memory, or image from this time stands out in particular: I happened to be tooling around the backcountry of Mt. Hood with some of these aforementioned colleagues. Our Swedish colleague was on a pair of Karhu 10th Mtn skis. We came to a very short little hill. Hannes side-step stomped and prepared the slope. He then proceeded to fly down the hill, upright, relaxed, making incredibly short-radius, rapid teleturns the whole way. I distinctly remember the sound that his inside metal edges made as they clicked against one another during his lightning fast transitions. My mouth probably wasn't actually hanging open, but that was basically my sentiment. I thought, "Holy sh**. That's the coolest thing I've ever seen. I want to be able to do that." [spoiler alert, I still can't do that.]
I've been xcd skiing for about ten years on waxless Madshus Eons 175cm, Epochs (185cm) and Annums (185cm)—both 3 pin and NNN-BC, some owned and some borrowed. Alpina and Rossignol boots. Entry-level poles off the used gear racks. And it has been about that long since I purchased any new equipment, until recently.
I glugged the kool aid and treated myself to a new set up consisting of the 195cm Asnes Ingstad WL with NNN-BC magnum bindings, Alfa Guard Advance GTX boots and Asnes 2 Part Nansen poles, all from Sport Albert. (At some point I will share my experience with all of the above.)
I don't know how I would describe my abilities. Total hack? I survive? I have a great time and look mediocre doing it? One of my more memorable trips was a hut-to-hut in the Colorado Rockies. It was about 32m/52km and 5600ft/1700m elevation gain. Often quite narrow and steep switchbacked trails. (Being Colorado, the overall elevation was rarely below 10,000ft/3050m.)
My goal at the moment is a multi-day traverse of a remote, high elevation mountain plateau nearby. As far as I know, it has not been climbed, traversed and descended in the wintertime on skis. Partly that was what I was hoping my new setup would help me accomplish.
Currently and for the last twenty years or so I've lived and worked in rural southern Utah. My home rests at about 7,400ft (2255m) in elevation. When lucky I can ski out my front door but most often when I'm skiing locally I seek higher ground and ski between 9,000' (2743m) and 11,500' (3505m).
Around my hobbit hovel it is transitional high desert, where the pinon-juniper-sagebrush woodland gives way to ponderosa pine and quaking aspen. The higher elevations yield to subalpine (spruce-fir) and alpine meadows at the highest elevations. Because of our southerly latitude timberline is quite high.
They say that this region is the "most remote place in the lower 48". Not sure how that's measured—maybe distance from a Wal-Mart. At any rate if it gives you some idea, my county is about the size of Connecticut (5200 square miles / 13,500 sq km) but does not have a single traffic light. My township within the county is the land area of Manhattan yet the population fluctuates seasonally around 250 people. And even in the relative comfort of town we are considered to be on wilderness medicine protocol (for those unfamiliar with the term it is defined as >2 hours from definitive medical care). So, you know. It's quiet. It's far from just about everything. It's a wilderness within a wilderness. I love it.
But also, that's why I find the telemarktalk forums such a godsend in terms of keeping my inspiration and motivation high for this most glorious and challenging of sports! I think there are maybe two other backcountry skiers in town, I see their tracks occasionally, but they are on fat carbon fiber AT skis and they mostly go straight up and back down. Meanwhile I will keep hacking away in obscurity reading Paul Parker's and Steve Barnett's books, lurking on the forums and living for those tiny breakthroughs and ah-ha moments!
I wonder what Colin is up to these days...
Here in New England we have a lot of hiking and peakbagging enthusiasts, in fact, many of the alpine peaks we have are visited more often by winter hikers packing out the trails with snowshoes than skiers & boarders. I'm always urging these people to check out skiing when I see them - like, hey, your legs are already in great shape for this, did you realize you could be gliding down these peaks in a few minutes instead of down-hiking and post-holing your way to the bottom?
-Will Lange (quoting Inuit chieftan)
First you fall in love with the tour and then the turns, the better you get the better it feels, keep at it.
I think skijouring with cats is a great idea, at least they bury their turds.
Dunno ... Seems real.
- Posts: 2456
- Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2015 7:20 pm
- Location: Stanley, New Brunswick, Canada
- Ski style: Nordic backcountry touring
- Favorite Skis: Asnes Ingstad BC; Asnes Gamme 54 BC; Asnes Falketind 62;Asnes Storetind Carbon
- Favorite boots: Alfa Guard Advance BC; Alpina Alaska BC; Scarpa T4
- Occupation: Forestry Professional
Instructor at Maritime College of Forest Technology
Husband, father, farmer and logger
Unashamed to be a "cross-country type" and love skiing down-hill.