Spider 62

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Spider 62

Postby Nevada » Thu Jan 07, 2016 5:51 pm

We have a wonderful amount of snow this season and I’ve recently acquired some new cross country skis. I’ve skied from childhood but mostly Alpine, and I’m only just now getting the opportunity to ski more than a few times a season.

I bought some Spider 62’s about a month ago and have been able to ski about twelve days on them so far. I bought them online without the opportunity to see or try a lot of different skis because I live in a fairly rural area. Alpine skiing and snowboarding are far more popular here and the smaller stores within a couple hours drive only stock what is popular. I ski only offtrack, and wanted skis that would work acceptably on both flat terrain and hills. Although we have plenty of vertical from 10,000 feet down, we also have meadows and alpine lakes. The Spider 62 are skis that are shorter than traditional, narrower than many other skis intended for backcountry or offtrack use, have moderate camber, a slight sidecut of 10mm, an “offtrack crown” waxless pattern, and I bought them with NNN-BC bindings and boots.

The Spider 62 appeared to be made popular according to Fischer and the retailers, but I did not read much about it in forums or see much of it on Youtube from anyone else. I did read in the forums some deriding the Spider 62 and the whole offtrack cruising segment for being marketed towards recreational users that lack any skill, as though they were a ski company’s alternative to snowshoes. The retailers appear to characterize them as 50/50 skis that work in touring center tracks as well as offtrack. I don’t know how other people are really using these skis.

Fischer’s copy indicates they’re aimed for use away from groomed trails or existing tracks on, “untouched fields of snow… to be the first one to leave traces in the fresh blanket of snow. Choosing your own way off the beaten track… away from the well-known routes.” “Make your way through the unspoilt terrain…” “With the Offtrack package you are best equipped for such ungroomed terrain.” They describe their concept of Offtrack Cruising as requiring only 5 to 10 cm of snow at a minimum. They also mention what it is not: “If you want to set off here with conventional cross country equipment, you will reach your limits.” I think “conventional cross country equipment” is a reference to skinny skis. They also declare, “The idea of Offtrack Cruising does not lend itself to steep climbs or racy downhills. Most of the time you will be on gently rolling hills, thus reducing Alpine hazards to a minimum.” So they are obviously distinguished from Fischer's S-bound line or tele skis.

Distinguishing “Offtrack Cruising” from “Backcountry” in Fischer’s lineup is a little harder. Their catalogs appear to suggest the Backcountry line is for polar exploration, but just evaluating the specifications, they appear to be traditional length (longer) skis with more camber that will be more efficient over long distances, but otherwise harder to handle in varying terrain.

I chose a Spider 62 ski size a little longer than recommended for my weight to maximize float and glide in a ski that is otherwise somewhat short and narrow for offtrack or backcountry use. I am 130 pounds, and 140 with my gear and backpack. I have the 179cm skis which are recommended for 140-195 lbs. The shorter 169cm skis are recommended for under 150 pounds. The 179cm skis seem to have very moderate camber. REI lists them as “single camber.” I can easily compress the bases together with three fingers. Standing on a board, my 130 pounds compress them flat and there is not much of a pocket that I can slide a paper under. I was expecting the waxless pattern and full steel edges to be effective in our local conditions where the temperatures are rarely below 0F, and typically between 15F and 30F.

The first few days out I was swamped in the powder after storms. I was plowing through powder halfway up my shins. I was tempted to return the 62’s and get something with more flotation, but determined to wait and see how conditions changed. The 62’s just did awful in powder. They would submarine on the flats, and of course they were impossible to turn downhill.

We get big dumps of powder. We can get 36 inches or more in one day. The powder is the loveliest snow, but I’d need some enormous skis to float on it. As much as I enjoy it, I don’t think I’ll buy gear for it because I think by the end of the season there won’t be that many powder days compared to other days. Besides, my dog only lasts about an hour in the powder.

While I probably don’t need big powder boards, I still ski offtrack only, and break trail more often than not. So I don’t see myself going to anything much skinnier than the 62’s. At first, I was conscious of my low skill level when evaluating my frustration, but I really wanted some wider skis that would float, with even less camber and more sidecut so they would turn. But I also recognized that I didn’t really want a tele ski that would be a drag for me on flats and rolling hills. I definitely want to do more than just the steeps. I determined to stick it out and learn some more first. Besides, I knew powder doesn’t stay all season.

I took the Spider 62 to some groomed slopes at the resort. The resort was closed due to an avalanche on the road, so none of the lifts were running, but the hills were open and groomed for the coming weekend. The 62’s worked beautifully downhill on groomed snow. They were easy to turn. Crud could upset them, but some of that was down to my skill level. Still, with some basic snow-plow and tele-turn skills, they were quite pleasant on the bottom portions of some blue-square slopes. Obviously this completely changed what I had thought about them after trying to control them downhill in powder.

Rain hit the snow on the meadow and the next day the whole landscape was hard-pack. Again, the 62’s worked beautifully. They would glide, climb, and descend, turning with ease. On the hard-pack where the skis left only a barely visible trail, it was somewhat difficult to maintain a straight track. These skis have some sidecut and a willingness to turn.

More snow came, and the 62’s did ok. They’re excellent at climbing. I have some old skins from a pair of AT skis many years ago, but haven’t ever wanted them with the 62’s. The crown has gripped everything I’ve wanted to climb just herringboning, switchbacking or side-stepping the steepest parts. Climbing the blue-square slope on the corduroy was slick, but just off the piste to the side where it wasn’t groomed was cake. I figure some of the grip comes from the ease by which the softer camber is compressed.

The Spider 62 do reasonably well down hills. On groomed or hardpack snow, they’re easy to turn. Even in the backcountry on anything but deep powder I can at least control the speed and turn some just by snow-plowing. My time on the groomed slopes really proved these to turn easily and with that confidence, I was able to turn them on the backcountry descents as long as the snow was not too soft. I am just descending hills and the base of mountains, nothing more extreme than an easy blue-square run or what it would take less than an hour to climb.

The Spider 62 glide some. They are much softer than a double camber ski and they come in short sizes, but I selected a longer ski for my weight, and they are not as wide as many other backcountry or offtrack skis. They do not have enough flotation to glide in powder or soft snow. My boots especially drag too much. This is too bad for a ski that I was led to believe was aimed at breaking trail offtrack. On snow that has some firmness or that has been compacted by snowshoes or skis, the Spider 62 give good grip in the kick and they glide a few feet with each stride. Because of the drag of the crown or the boots in soft snow, they don’t glide over super long strides except in ideal conditions.

Overall, I’ve found them to work usefully. Some people might not like the compromise of a short, soft-cambered ski that is also somewhat narrow. A long, double-cambered ski will almost certainly be more efficient over the distance, and most people looking for a short, soft ski will probably want more width and sidecut as well. But for a ski that tries to make all terrain accessible, there are just compromises to choose from.

For the Spider 62, the shortness and soft camber make it easier to turn without the level of skill required to carve turns on double-cambered skis. The narrow width keeps them somewhat efficient over the distance as long as the snow is not too soft.

A more traditional backcountry ski will be longer with double-camber. The E89 for example, will be more efficient over the distance, but would require a much higher level of skill to control on a descent down a hill. The extra length could also be challenging in dense woods or around rocks.

A fatter, flat ski with more sidecut like the S-Bound will float better and take the descents with only modest skill, but will be a drag over the distance.

I don’t have enough experience to evaluate skis that are only slightly different by one variable. The Outback 68 and Traverse 78 for example, are similar to the Spider 62, just a little wider. That almost certainly adds a bit for descents, but does that extra width give flotation that helps them glide better in soft snow, or does it just create more drag? I suspect to improve the glide, they would also have to be stiffer. The E109 is wider, and probably not as stiff as the E99. But is it stiffer than Fischer’s “Offtrack Cruising” line, or about the same?

My current plan is to work on my skills with the Spider 62 for at least the rest of this season. In the future, I’d like to find something that is faster over soft snow without being impossible to control in steeper terrain.

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Re: Spider 62

Postby MikeK » Thu Jan 07, 2016 8:33 pm

Hey well thanks for the review!

I'm a bit confused... where are you skiing?

Impossible to know what you will like but if you truly are always breaking trail, then you will most likely enjoy a ski with a little more width and length. Skiing in deep snow will give quite a bit of drag whether you have single or double camber, wide or skinny. It generally helps to have a little more area though and not a stiff camber.

The Traverse or Excursion skis might be your next step up if you want to stick to Fischers.


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Re: Spider 62

Postby Nevada » Thu Jan 07, 2016 11:04 pm

I'm skiing in the Eastern Sierra Nevada. This area is considered the "California Alps." There's a lot of different terrain all within a short distance of one another. I have four ten-thousand foot peaks outside my window, but there's also alpine lakes, meadows, and Forest Service roads that are fairly tame. I will also ski Nevada's "Basin and Range" terrain which is peaks up to 9000 feet in the Pinenut and Sweetwater ranges, and steep rocky canyons. I won't descend into the canyons from the ridges, but ski up and down the creeks at their bottoms. I ski with my family, and this is my kids' first year on skis, so I'm "cruising" for now, but they are doing awesome and learning fast.

Thanks for the advice. I was hoping more camber would give me a little more glide, like maybe the E99, but I wouldn't know. I'm breaking trail at least three fourths of the time. We're getting several inches of snow tonight, and another four inches is expected before Saturday, so whatever tracks were out there from last weekend will be covered. We've had over 200 inches of snow so far this season. The snowfall here is around 400 to 600 inches a season from one place to the next. There's a few places where there's more traffic, but I prefer to have more space. There's tons of that here, with many millions of acres of open public land and very few people. There's no cities around here, and the people that do come up from the cities for the weekend mostly go to the resorts to ski downhill or snowboard.

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Re: Spider 62

Postby Woodserson » Sat Jan 09, 2016 8:02 pm

That was a great review.

I am with you that your evaluations of the others skis are correct, and you're going to have to pick and choose for your tastes.

From. What you're saying, and how the conditions seem I'd lean heavily towards the Fischer 109/Madshus Eon. More of a traditional XC ski with longer lengths (glide and float) and a little traditional side cut. TO ME these seem the best fit. If you're interested in going wax, see the Asnes skis.

You're going to have the same problems with the 68, less so with the 78. I think with the dryness and deepness of the snow the 99s would be too skinny. I have a pair of 78s and have been happy with them but they are a compromise... Day Long valley floor K&G sessions they are not, but a few hours are fine. Nice descents too, but with caution due to their flex and side cut.

Be wary of Fischer descriptions, they tend to be threadbare and empty, despite the great quality of their skis. The 62 and 68 are good skis for the novice to intermediate XC skier who largely skis on snowmobile trails and golf courses and maybe a foray down a hiking trail. Marketed largely towards the suburban US crowd. They get people outside but I think they are over their limits with what you're doing and where you are.

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Re: Spider 62

Postby lilcliffy » Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:52 pm

Excellent and well written review- I appreciate your description of the terrain and the snow you are skiing on.

I too ski with my family- almost every day. I have 4 children- they have been on skis since about two years old. My youngest started this winter- she was 2 on Christmas Eve. I have a pair of wide, flat, Madshus skis with a universal binding to start them on. I also get them on snowshoes early- just for the experience, balance and muscle development.

It can be very difficult to find an “easy-learning” backcountry Nordic ski that is short enough for a child. All of the manufacturers make classic track skis for kids- but they tend to be too stiff and cambered for skiing on fresh snow. Slipping and sliding on a stiff cambered ski is no way for a kid to enjoy skiing on fresh snow!

Asnes is the only manufacturer that I know have that is making an off-track Nordic ski for a child. The “Vestmarka” comes in lengths as short as 140cm; the “Vikafjell” comes in lengths as short as 150cm.

I started my oldest daughter (now 11)- who is still as light as a feather- on 165cm Madshus Eons when she was 7 years old. The great thing about the Madshus XCD line is that they have a very soft, easy to control flex pattern (designed for soft snow) - this is ideal for a beginner backcountry Nordic skier. I plan on starting my two youngest on the 165cm Eon as soon as possible. We have an Epoch in a 165cm as well. This was a good ski for my oldest son (now 13) in deep powder- because he weighed so much more than my daughter…my oldest daughter still cruises around on the 165cm Eon and gets as good flotation as I do on a 195cm Annum!

What boots and bindings are you using with the Spider 62?

The Fischer “backcountry” line is IMO, very different than the S-Bounds and the “Offtrack” lines. The “backcountry” line offer more old school backcountry-xcountry skis- traditional long lengths, relatively stiff, double camber (not “track” stiff- but WAY stiffer than the S-Bounds and the “Offtrack” lineup). The “backcountry” line is designed to offer XC-focused performance- as opposed to the S-Bounds which are hybrid XC-AT/telemark skis designed to offer downhill performance in a XC ski- with the compromise of losing some XC performance.

I agree with Woodserson, the “Offtrack” line seems intended for very casual, ventures “off the track”. However the S-78 and S-88 have been added to the “Offtrack” lineup- they are certainly not designed to be a casual offtrack ski…not sure why Fischer would blur the lines by moving them from the S-Bound to the "Offtrack Cruising" lineup?

With the snow and climate you have I would definitely think you are soon going to want at least one powder ski- the dimensions of which will depend on the terrain you wish to ski on- reasonably short and super fat for steep terrain (with burly boots/bindings to match), or long and moderately fat for gentle terrain. Regardless- you will want a soft-flexing, single-cambered ski for Nordic skiing in deep powder.

In general you are correct- the longer and more cambered a ski- the more XC-glide it is capable of…but it needs the snow structure to support that stiffness- otherwise you are just driving the tips/tails deep into the snow, without engaging the traction/grip wax zone.

My guess is (if you are skiing on gentle to moderate terrain) is that you are going to want at least two skis- a relatively stiff ski for skiing on a dense base; and a soft, relatively fat ski for skiing in deep powder.
The pursuit of XCD balance: cross-country AND down-hill skiing in the backcountry

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