Page 2 of 5

Re: Altai Skis Hok Review

Posted: Wed Jan 27, 2016 1:31 pm
by Johnny
Hey Nils!

Thanks for chiming in here... I know Frank is not crazy about TT but it's a new era now... 8-)

As you can see, we're all big fans of AS... Wow, that new adapter plate looks very cool... I will mount my future Hoks with NNN-BC... Thanks for sharing!


Re: Altai Skis Hok Review

Posted: Sat Mar 19, 2016 5:55 pm
by lilcliffy
Altai Hok 145cm- Work and Play All Day!

The Hok is inspired by indigenous skis of Eurasia, that are relatively short and fat, with a permanently-fixed skin underfoot- designed for skiing on deep soft snow, through dense northern forests, and highly variable terrain.

As a starting point- many people are referring to the Hok as a “ski-shoe”- a hybrid between a snowshoe and a ski. Having now had a chance to put these skis through their paces- I am firmly of the perspective that these are skis- period. And although they can be easily used by the novice skier on gentle terrain- they require skiing skills in order to effectively use them on steep terrain.


The Hok can currently be had in two different lengths: 125cm and 145cm. There is also a children/youth’s version of the Hok- the “Balla Hok”. I bought the 145cm. Apparently Altai originally designed the 125cm, and was not planning on a longer version. As I have yet to test the 125cm- I cannot compare them. But- I am thrilled with the performance of the 145cm- so I am happy they made them longer!

Here is a summary of the 145cm Hok specifications:

-Profile: 124-110-122mm.
-Weight: 5lbs, 5oz (2.38kg)
-Camber: single-cambered; with a rockered tip, and slightly open tail.
-Flex pattern: smooth, even, soft flex.
-Full-length steel edges
-Broad, elongated, raised tip.
-Nylon skin, permanently attached to the mid-section of the base.

The Hok has a smooth, even, soft flex that is designed to perform in fresh soft snow. (I have not yet tried the Hok on dense/hard, and/or icy snow- I would predict that they would be brutally inefficient.)

The rockered-tip makes for efficient flotation, trail-breaking and climbing; and efficient turn initiation. The raised, elongated tip offers excellent trail-breaking performance. The slightly open tail allows for great manoeuverability- you can even quickly back up with these skis on!

I have been using the Hok in a XCD context- xcountry and downhill skiing through dense northern forest in moderate terrain. I have not been covering great distances on them. But I have been putting them on some very steep slopes- wanting to test the climbing and downhill performance.

My initial interest in the Hok was purely utilitarian. I am forestry professional- spending a lot of hours doing field work in the woods- in all seasons. I have always used snowshoes for winter field work- often skiing into the field site, carrying snowshoes on my pack, or on a pulk/sled. The maneuverability and traction of the Hok initially interested me in a replacement for my snowshoes. This would allow me to travel lighter and complete my field work and travel with the same equipment.

I have been pleased and surprised by the ski-performance of the Hok.


There are a number of binding options.

Altai sells the Hok with the optional “Xtrace” universal binding. You can where whatever boots you wish with the universal binding.

The Hok comes pre-drilled for a standard NN, 75mm-3 pin binding.

There is also an optional binding adapter plate that can be used to easily use a wide range of XC and Telemark bindings.

I bought the Hok with the universal binding so that I might try them out. I have some interest in using a winter field boot with the Hok- in a work environment. I am reasonably impressed with the universal binding. I find it strong and supportive. It is fine for shuffling along on the Hok. However I find it very restrictive. I find when I try to push the Hok to perform, in a K&G context- I find the universal binding too restrictive- the instep strap prevents me from fully extending my stride.
I also bought the binding adapter plate- I plan on mounting an NNNBC-Magnum binding on this ski.

Quality and Durability.

I cannot speak to durability yet- but these skis are beautifully made. The burlap topsheet and indigenous-inspired artwork are unique approaches to ski art- especially in an era where there seems to be a hideous return to 1980s bright colors and neon!

Xcountry Performance.

Well- being a lifelong xcountry skier I was not surprised to find that the Hok is not a high-performance xcountry ski- it is short, wide and has very little camber. However, stiff, double-cambered skis do not perform in deep soft snow. Altai has the flex pattern of the Hok just right for deep soft snow. The rockered tip offers superb early-tip rise, keeping the tip floating on top of the snow. The broad, elongated, raised tip breaks trail through deep snow very effectively.

I am actually quite surprised to find the Hok a decent kick-and-glide ski in deep, soft snow. If I really push the ski to perform, and aggressively weight and unweight the ski- I can get decent K&G performance.

The loss in xcountry glide is traded-off against incredible maneuverability. You can truly xcountry ski anywhere, and through the densest of northern forest, with these skis. My backyard, backcountry skiing is through dense mixedwood forest- with two to three hundred meter verticals. On long Nordic touring skis I am forced to stick to trails, woods roads, fields, and open hardwood stands. The maneuverability of the Hok opens up a whole other world to explore on skis- allowing me to find new routes and ski into places that would normally require snowshoes, or hiking boots!

Climbing Performance.

With that nylon skin underneath the Hok has enough traction to climb up amazingly steep slopes. The topography around here is dissected by endless rugged, steep stream and small river valleys. With long touring skis I have to find very strategic access points in order to climb out of them- otherwise I would constantly be putting on climbing skins. The permanent skin of the Hok allows me to climb up out of a ravine whenever and wherever I wish- again greatly expanding the exploration opportunities.

Downhill Performance.

To be honest- I expected the downhill performance of the Hok to be downright disappointing- I was wrong. The Hok is downright FUN on the downhill. Again- they offer decent glide, and the open tips offer effortless turn initiation. In deep, soft snow, these skis are an absolute blast on the downhill. And again- the manoeuverability allows to charge down through steep, dense forest- runs that I would never be able to pull off with my long touring skis.

I have been playing around with different turning techniques on these skis. In deep, soft snow I find I can easily use Alpine techniques to turn these skis. BUT- I find that I get much better performance from Nordic turns, such as step/jump turns and traditional telemark strides. Similar to my observations when xcountry skiing with the Hok- I find I get much better glide the more I weight and unweight the skis. And the more assertive/aggressive I am in my striding the better these skis glide down the hill. I find that if I stay evenly weighted on these skis and simply steer my way through turns- I can really feel the skins dragging and killing my glide.

Although I have yet to try the 125cm Hok- I greatly appreciate the stability of the 145cm. I’m thinking that the 125cm Hok might be a little too short for any serious downhill skiing at speed?

The downhill performance causes me to offer caution to new “ski-shoers”. If you are not a backcountry downhill skier- be careful on the Hok. The inherent climbing ability of the Hok will allow you to climb up slopes that could easily be beyond one’s ability to safely ski down. Yes- those skins do slow the Hok down- but if the slope is steep enough you will still pick up speed very quickly, requiring downhill skiing skills. Whether one calls it “skishoeing” or not- the Hok will quickly teach you it is a ski on a steep downhill run!


What can I say? This is a powder ski. With a full 110mm underfoot, and that rockered tip- the Hok wants to floats to the top of the pow. At my weight (185lbs) I get as much, or more, flotation from the 145cm Hok, as I do from my 195cm Madshus Annums (109-78-95mm). We live in age where every ski for some reason needs to be “good” at everything. But a powder ski needs VERY little sidecut. What it needs is a rockered tip, lots of surface area, and the right flex pattern (I have always thought the Annum/Guide would have been a better powder ski if it was wider underfoot- you don’t need all of that sidecut in the pow!) The Hok is a dream in truly deep, soft snow.

From Work to Play.

These skis have met and exceeded my hopes for a utilitarian “work ski” for the dense northern forest. I can hike into work sites; follow compass shots through the densest bush; measure trees; record field data; and set up plots- all on skis!

What I did not anticipate is how much FUN this ski is. And it also allows me to explore areas I never would have been able to on long touring skis.

Skiing with Little Children.

My wife and I have four children at home (ranging from age 2 to 13). We have backcountry skied with all of our children since they were very young. The two youngest spend a lot of time in a “Chariot”- we carry their toddler skis and snowshoes with us. The two oldest can keep up with us on everything except the most grueling of tours.

The Hok is a real dream when skiing with young children. The combination of traction and maneuverability makes it so easy to pull/carry weight through deep snow; turn around on a dime; or chase after someone that has taken off into the bush and/or a ravine (I don’t know about your kids- but mine have always gotten a thrill out of heading off into some rat’s nest that is a real nightmare on long touring skis.

Over the last few weeks my wife and I have brought the Hoks and a long touring ski between us. One of us stays close to the little ones on the Hok- while the other can fly back and forth and ski ahead with the older children. We switch back and forth between the Hok and the long ski during the tour.

Long Nordic touring skis are definitely the way to efficiently fly over long distances in the backcountry. But the Hok is definitely a better ski for farting around and playing with little kids.

I can also easily pull a kid-loaded sled on the Hok without ski poles. A new development in our sliding afternoons is to pull the little ones up the hill and then fly back down the hill- all on the Hok!

Man- these skis are awesome.


Here are my current conclusions:

The Hok is an incredible piece of work equipment- especially if you work in a climate where there is lots of soft snow to travel and work on. On soft snow, the Hok has made my snowshoes almost obsolete!

The “ski” performance of the Hok is surprisingly pretty darn impressive (in soft snow). Nordic xcountry and downhill techniques bring out this performance. You need to assertively stride on these skis to unlock the grip of that skin and get a good glide.

These skis climb like a goat, are incredibly maneuverable, and float in the deepest pow. If you live in the Northwoods- the Hok will open up a whole other world of places to explore on skis.

Although I cannot speak to the 125cm Hok- I can confirm that the 145cm Hok is a true Nordic ski. In the appropriate snow conditions- the 145cm Hok offers true XCD performance.

The universal binding although versatile- is quite restrictive. If you plan on doing a lot of skiing on the Hok- moving to a proper ski boot and binding will not only offer even better performance- but it will be easier on your feet!

The Hok is the perfect ski for going out and playing on snow with young children. The combination of grip and maneuverability leave your hands completely free to deal with and play with your little ones. (I am beginning to consider the Balla Hok for my four-year-old son. He is so much an explorer that to date he has much preferred snowshoes to skis. I had better get a second pair for my two-year-old daughter though- she is already a determined skier and will want to keep up with her brother!)

What can I say? The crew at Altai Skis did it right with the Hok. Well done.

I look forward to trying the 145cm Hok with a burly BC-XC NNNBC boot. I will give you and update when I do!

Re: Altai Skis Hok Review

Posted: Sat Mar 19, 2016 6:29 pm
by kumachan
These great reviews are killing me! I picked up a pair of the 145's last month and am still waiting for some snow here to try them out! We might, finally, get a few inches this Sunday night! C'mon, Ullr, I want to get on these things!!!

Re: Altai Skis Hok Review

Posted: Mon Mar 21, 2016 1:30 am
by athabascae
Another great review LilCliffy. Thanks. You use the Hoks in the same context I mostly would - bush work.

I have a pair of 125 cm for work but haven't tried them yet, and will get a pair of 145 cm also for work. Which ever we like best we will get to make up a third pair for my work crew. Will just use the the universal binding cause that makes the most sense from a work perspective - the skis will be shared among our field crew.

Re: Altai Skis Hok Review

Posted: Mon Mar 21, 2016 7:06 am
by lilcliffy
They are amazing for doing field work Tom. The grip to glide ratio, with both skis weighted is such that you can shuffle around with both hands free. The slightly open tails allow a certain amount of backing up as well. They are certainly easier to back up in than a traditional powder snow shoe. They are also narrower than a snowshoe which is better than a snowshoe if you have to move through very dense thickets.

In soft snow I am finding them much more effective than a snowshoe.

I have been using them for bush and field work here at our place- haven't managed to take them into work yet- my wife won't let me!

We are going to "need" a pair each by next winter. I expect that my crew and my colleagues are going to be quite jealous of me gliding around them!

Re: Altai Skis Hok Review

Posted: Mon Mar 21, 2016 11:18 am
by connyro
Forget forestry LC, you should be a professional ski-reviewer! I have a couple pairs of the Karhu metas/Karvers from years ago. They are similar to the Hoks but it sounds like the Hoks get way better glide in both K+G context as well as the descent. I imagine the Hoks can't be skied aggressively downhill because it's real easy to overload the tips, so soft boots and neutral bindings seem to work best? The old Karvers/Metas climb great but are pretty lousy for K+G. Thanks for the review!

Re: Altai Skis Hok Review

Posted: Mon Mar 21, 2016 11:46 am
by lilcliffy
connyro wrote:I imagine the Hoks can't be skied aggressively downhill because it's real easy to overload the tips, so soft boots and neutral bindings seem to work best?

I think you are bang on here (they are also- even at 145cm- a short ski).

Although all of that width underfoot might suggest boot and binding power might be advantage- I am finding that "surfing" my way through turns to be the best approach. You would certainly need a lot of power to hold this ski on edge on hardpack.

As far as the glide- my experience thus far is that I need to constantly be striding- shifting weight between skis- in order to unlock the grip of skin, and get decent glide. And I find that the more assertive/aggressive I am the better the glide I get. Again- snow conditions make a huge difference. The camber and flex pattern perform so well in deep soft snow, that I would expect it to be the complete opposite on dense snow. Trying to unlock the grip of that skin on dense consolidated snow would be exhausting- there isn't enough camber and resistance for that context.

I find the universal binding too restrictive to consistently push this ski (I can do it/force it- but it is not efficient). I am also finding that if I push this ski with the universal binding it hurts my feet- there is too much pressure on the ball of foot. (I do have minor plantar fasciitis in my left foot- I find that any boot-binding that prevents me from fully extending my foot, will begin to bother my feet in a long-distance K&G tour).

I am going to try NNNBC first...I would like to try my T4s as well...But that is more power than I think I want...

Re: Altai Skis Hok Review

Posted: Mon Mar 21, 2016 1:02 pm
by bgregoire
Good read! Keep us posted. I have seen some really nice vids of descents in tight forests with these. How about trying them out with the traditional long pole? Seems quite compatible with the way you are driving these downhill, weight further back.

Re: Altai Skis Hok Review

Posted: Mon Mar 21, 2016 4:21 pm
by lilcliffy
I do plan on trying out the long pole ("Tiak"). I'm thinking that red or black spruce should be as good as lodgepole pine.

So far- I have been using a double pole plant when charging/striding downhill. FUN!

Re: Altai Skis Hok Review

Posted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 9:57 pm
by lilcliffy
So after incredible "spring" skiing over the last couple months, we got a dump of near 30 inches of soft, fluffy powder first of the week (at one point it snowed a foot in less than two hours!) The snow came down in huge snow flakes, and was full of air.

I took my 195cm Annums out on Monday night- and they sank into the abyss. I charged down through a steep sidehill field- the snow was piling up around my upper thighs!

I went out early after chores the next morning (Tuesday) with the Hoks- you couldn't even see the tracks of where we had skied the night before!

I can confirm that in deep, fluffy snow a 145cm Hok offers better flotation and over all performance than a 195cm Annum.

Went out this evening again on the Annum- the pow has settled considerably- the Annum performed beautifully. Flew across flats, up hills and then cranked efforts less open telemarks through beautiful soft snow under a bright moon.

The Annum may also be a powder ski- but the Hok offer more effective flotation.