Hi , I mailed Steve in November 2013 with a questions related to XCD. Below I provide those questions and his answers. Greetings from Poland! Marcin
1.How do you view the state of XCD skiing in 2013 – 35 years after the first publication of “Cross Country Downhill and other nordic mountain skiing techniques”
2.Do you envisage a new updated edition of this book? How do you comment the fact that during last 35 years, no one has ever wrote something comparable to your classic book.
3.Are you still skiing ? What is your current XCD set up and how do you like the nowadays Nordic backcountry equipment.
4.Skiers I know, on the various occasions are debating about the pros and cons of the SNS XA, NNN BC and 3 Pin bindings. What is your view on the available systems and what works best for you.
5.How do you seen the future of XCD/nordic backcountry skiing?
6.What is your opinion about the best place for nordic backcountry skiing in North America, where a XCD skier from Europe must see? Mountains, National Park, trail?
I would be very interested to hear your view on the above issues and I hope this would be also very interesting for the readers of my blog.
I hope that you will not find my request disturbing or inappropriate. I am a big fan of your book I have read it many times and still reading it waiting for the opening of the season. It is in my opinion the best ski manual. A big respect and glory to you.
Marcin, Thanks for contacting me. I’m still active and interested in XCD skiing. To answer your questions:
The state of XCD skiing in 2013? Still alive but not thriving. Here, at least, the emphasis has gone to steeper and more dangerous skiing, made possible for the masses by the availability of very easy to use skis and light AT bindings. The tour possibilities and technical challenges of using lighter gear in mellower terrain are not much in the minds of young skiers or the ski media.
I don’t plan on writing a new book - that should be the project of someone younger. Nor is a book necessarily the best way to spread knowledge today. I would like to spread news of technical and equipment developments that aid XCD type skiing.
I am skiing a lot this year. My go to equipment for the last 5-10 years has been very narrow and light. Madshus Glittertinds and Salomon XA system boots. I have pushed these as far as I can, and this year, just for the sake of change, I’m trying a very different outfit - Dynafit Cho Oyus, simple 3 pin bindings, and Garmont Excursion plastic boots.
The Glittertind certainly is a better ski than the skis I was using 20 or 30 years ago. It’s really capable of amazing things - skiing breakable crust competently or threading tight lines through trees or crevasses. To use it, though, you must learn a different technique than you would learn skiing downhill. That, I presume, is why Madshus has never pushed it here (despite my urging).
The Cho Oyu is nearly as light as the Glittertind, and has a fully modern competence, even at a ski area. It’s been very enjoyable to use. Obviously the Salomon boots are much better for a long hike carrying skis, such as might happen very early or late in the season. It’s a little harder to say exactly where the Cho Oyu is much better. Certainly in deep powder, but even here, at Mt. Baker, that’s only occasionally possible for touring. Certainly better for steep, hard snow skiing, but I avoid that if I can, anyway. Certainly better for parallel rather than telemark skiing, but that’s only a matter of technique. Well, just leave it at very enjoyable to use for either system.
I’ve used SNS XA because the Salomon boots fit me perfectly and no NNN BC boot that I tried was right for me. I don’t know if there’s a NNN BC boot that is the equal of the XA8 for support. Maybe, but I don’t know about it. I’ve used 3 pins since day one and have had absolutely no problem with using them with plastic boots (leather ones often cracked at the pin holes). I see no need for cables or other complications. Certainly one could design a better system than the 3 pin (go to it clever, young engineer!) but it works, and is light, cheap, simple, and reliable.
The future of XCD? I don’t know. I see a place for it not filled by heavy telemark or AT so it should continue in some form, but I don’t see the interest in it for use in moderate or high mountain terrain and variable snow conditions - where I think it functions superbly! I hope I’m wrong. Perhaps the terrain in the Tatra is just right, as is terrain in Scandinavia, Iceland, and at least some of the Pyrenees. Maybe also the Jura.
The best places in the US for XCD. That’s a huge topic.
How about Mexico? The Cordillera San Pedro Martyr in northern Baja has excellent terrain which is well snow covered some years (typically those years in which southern California ski areas get plenty of snow).
The western Sierra in southern California has lots of beautiful terrain. Reputedly the Sierra south of Mt. Whitney is also very nice. These places may have the best spring skiing in the world with lots of snow and lots of sunshine.
The northern Sierra around Lake Tahoe CA has terrain right for XCD skiing and gets a very large snowfall.
In Oregon the country around the 3 Sisters volcanoes near Bend is very nice for moderate or harder touring. Lots of snow there and a season that extends through June.
In Colorado there is a huge range of possibilities. Let me suggest the southern San Juan mountains by the New Mexico border (Cumbres Pass). These are less rugged than their very high siblings to the north and should be perfect for moderate tours. I think there is suitable terrain in Rocky Mountain National Park in northern Colorado.
In Utah, the desert parks are fantastic in the winter. Some years, Arches and Zion (above the main canyon, on the Kolob Plateau) can be skiied to give an experience as unlike Europe as is possible. The question is “How will you know?” Nowadays maybe that’s not as hard as it used to be, with instant communications with park offices, local weather, and local skiers.
The La Sal Mountains in southern Utah are very high (4200 m) and stand out from the desert all alone. There are huts and a plowed road for access.
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona is all above 7500 foot elevation and perfectly suited to an 80 km XC ski. Then, you take your skis off and go down one of the most spectacular trails in the world to the Colorado River. Climb back up to the South Rim and drive a 2nd car around to complete the trip. Logistically complicated, but you can easily get there (with rented cars) via Las Vegas.
That’s a few suggestions. There’s lots more possibilities, and I haven’t even mentioned Canada.
I hope this helps. I’ll take a look at your website. I’m always curious about how this kind of skiing shapes up in different parts of the world.