NO, they are not toys. They are neither snoeshoes nor ski blades. And no, they are not Hoks either. They are a lot more than this.
It all started as « Skishoes ». A terrible name for something without a very definite crowd. There were several different incarnations by different manufacturers in the last 20 years. But none of them were really successful, except the newer and better known Altai Hoks. They were mostly used for snowshoeing or as described by Altai Ski, an essential tool for travel and hunting during the long winters. But lately, more and more tele enthusiasts started to take the skishoes thing more seriously, using them for pure backcountry skiing fun. And there is now a new kid on the block. Meet the Hagan Off Limits.
Actually, the Off Limit ski has been around for a few years. But it just got updated for the 2017-2018 season. I do not like to call them skishoes, because the Off Limits are actually real skis. They are not utilitarian skis. They are not traditional hunting skis. They are real (and super cool!) ski boards. They are actually described as approach skis, but they are much more than this.
"Are you looking for a special ski for special pursuits? The Off Limits is adept as an approach ski, ski board, variable conditions ski or for snow kiting. The new Off Limits is now enhanced with a lightweight wood core, 180 mm soft rocker and slightly modified shape. The 130 cm long, extra-wide Off Limits is an allrounder you can trust blindly — it is the choice of the "Blind Climber” Andy Holzer. This ski is sturdy, agile and drifts beautifully in powder. A little secret is how the exceptionally maneuverable Off Limits aids skiing steep, deep and tightly-tree'd slopes. More than a few people have great fun on the Off Limits in powder stashes that are too much work on longer skis. Those who have skied the Off Limits swear by it. For this ski, nothing is Off Limits."
“How the exceptionally maneuverable Off Limits aids skiing steep, deep and tightly-tree'd slopes”. Yep, this is pretty much what ski boards are all about. Long skis are good for high speed, and small skis are super fun for very steep and tightly-tree’d glades.
The Off Limits are 130cm long, almost the same as the Hoks at 125cm. But their sidecut is quite different. The Off Limits tips are fatter and the ski has a more pronounced sidecut of 130-90-110, which gives them a stunning 9.5m radius! No doubt they will turn very quickly on any kind of challenging terrain. But the main advantage here is that unlike the Hoks, they do not have a permanent skin glued under the ski.
With this Hagan specialty ski, you’re free to use it the way you want. As it is for pure downhill fun, with custom Hagan skins for climbing, or with kicker skins or wax for yo-yoing around. All snowshoes on the market are fun for walking in the woods on two planks and enjoying a few turns, but they have two main problems: They have very limited grip on the uphill (slow ascents) and lots of drag on the downhill (slow descents). The Off Limits offers the opposite: Super fast ascents and fast technical descents. It can be used as a snowshoe, or as an approach ski, but I see it as a perfect backcountry ski for super-technical terrain. An allrounder that can really do it all.
Like pretty much ALL the other skis on the market, they have low-rise tips. Manufacturers really have to do something about that. I really hope this ridiculous trend will end soon. Low-rise tips don’t even look better than normal tips, there is basically no reason for this except following the trend or saving on shipping costs. PLEASE Mister Market, bring back real high-rise tips!
The Off Limits tips rise 5cm, which has been the industry standard for powder skis in the last few years(?!?!?) I would have taken more, but hey, who am I to change a standard? For reference, OAC WAPs tips also rise only 5cm. Current Voile skis are also 5cm. All ski tips before that ridiculous trend were in the 8-10cm range. Asnes tips are currently 8cm. The Hoks are slightly higher around 7.5cm. Not a big thing you will say, but I would really like to find a way to end that trend.
On the terrain, they are pretty amazing... and FAST! They are just the easiest skis to turn I have ever seen. And it is not only their 9.5m radius… Not having a permanent skin glued under the ski makes them incredibly easy to turn. Turn initiation is immediate. Even much more faster than the Hoks. Your neurons just have to think about turning and Shhhhoooo! You’re already set for yet another turn. I was able to turn on terrain I could never ski with normal skis. I was able to turn facing the fall line all the time on sections of very challenging trails I would have only traversed on regular skis. I was really blown away by the Off Limits maneuverability and infinite potential. The best skis for finding untracked powder several days after a storm. And they are also super fun for carving on the groomers…!
You can mount the Off Limits with whatever you want. Alpine or touring bindings, modern tele bindings or good old pins. As you already noticed on the first picture, I mounted them with Rottefella NNN-BC Autos. But just like other skishoes, you can also mount them with Hagan’s own X-Trace universal bindings. Often the preferred option for hunters or people who are more into snowshoe mode. The Hagan X-Trace universal binding is also the one sold by Altai Ski for their Hok skis.
If you are looking for a ski to go hunting or for after-dinner walks in the woods, other sliding snowshoes will be perfect. Don't get me wrong, Altai Ski Hoks are great permanent skin boards, I really like them. But if you're into more serious skiing, and if descents are your primary goal, the Off Limit ski is a more serious candidate. And if you have never tried tellying on ski boards before, you will be totally amazed by what they can do. You will suddenly feel like you can go anywhere, like having a 8” lift kit on a 4x4 offroad Wrangler or 4Runner. You will probably not go at 100 MPH, but you will be able to go where other people can’t.
It's without a doubt the most versatile ski of its category. You can transform the Off Limits into whatever you want. The ultimate ski for tight and dense unexplored terrain. If the spots you are usually skiing get tracked rapidly, the Off Limits will secure several days of virgin powder in places where regular skiers can’t go. If they had real old-fashioned high-rise tips and an integrated skin system, they sure would make every other ski boards on the market totally outdated and obsolete... (Hint hint ski makers... )