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Rugged XC skis - recommendations on the whole kit and caboodle?

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  • Rugged XC skis - recommendations on the whole kit and caboodle?

    After reading through all the responses to my other post about four or five times ( http://www.backcountrytalk.earnyourt...d-in-BC-skiing ), and after scanning through the internet reading reviews and equipment specs and who knows all what else, I freely admit to being more confused than I was at the start. No doubt this is due primarily to trying to cram years, or even decades, of education about skis into a few months. Also, there is a whole lot of different types of gear out there.

    I'll admit that I am obsessing a bit about it. A shoulder injury has sidelined this year's cycling / kayaking / long haul hikes. Activity wise, skiing next winter is what I have to look forward to the most. So, I have the time to plan and make a rational decision about gear.

    Anyways, I'm thinking of running with rugged XC skis, and some sort of NNN BC or telemark binding and boot. I'll also go take alpine lessons at a nearby resort (Salmo or Whitewater) so that I can become proficient in DH skiing. My decision is based upon:

    1) I essentially know squat about BC skiing. To try and make a decision about that kind of gear now is a bit crazy.
    2) If I did buy AT gear, I might get myself in over my head (figuratively and/or literally)
    3) I know I do like mucking about on golf courses, mild slope hills, and some moderate trails.
    4) I need to get in better physical condition before I'll be ready to get into steeper terrain.
    5) I like the idea of having skis that I can carry across the street and go play out on a field

    Because I'm a heavier guy (240 lbs), I'm thinking of something like the Rossignol BC 125 http://www.rossignol.com/CG/CA/bc-12...ckcountry.html I'm hoping it would provide plenty of float on the powder.

    What I am stuck on are bindings and boots. Do I go NNN BC? Three pin? Telemark? (Or are a 3 pin and telemark the same thing?) Or something else? What will allow me a decent amount of control in moderate terrain, and withstand a skier who's on the big side?

    Oh, and is it safe / advisable to get any of this gear used?

    Other info, in case it helps: skier in mid 40's, 5' 11", 240 lbs, one season mountain experience, XC skied on the prairies for 10+ years. I reside and ski in the Kootenay, BC region.

    I should mention that I currently have a set of Alpina Red Birds (60-50-55, 210 cm length, full metal edges, waxless) with SNS bindings and boots. I have no illusions about SNS being a great binding for control off the groomed trails - they're not. However, my weight (+ a 15-20 lb pack) means that I am sinking a whole heck of a lot on those skis.

    I realize that with a wider set of waxless skis, I won't have much in the way of kick and glide when I'm on the flats or on an upslope. That's okay. I'm looking more for control on the way down, without having to use skins on the way up.



    P.S.: Would this package be a good idea? If so, what upgrades would be a good idea? http://www.orscrosscountryskisdirect...i-package.html
    Last edited by Jesse; 14 June 2014, 05:40 PM. Reason: multpile edits for further clarification

  • #2
    I've skied the BC 125s and found them to be pretty slow and heavy for just touring and fooling around. They are better suited for steeper/deeper snow. NNNBC would NOT be a good choice of bindings for that ski, IMO. If you are leaning towards a waxless setup, I would suggest BC110's, Madshus Eon or Epoch (185-195) with 3-pin bindings/boots, like the Garmont (Scott?) Excursion, Scarpa T4, or leather tele boots like the Asolo Extreme or SnowfieldII's or something like that if you can find them. A setup like that would work on a wide variety of terrain, especially the type you described in your post.
    Last edited by Crowbar; 14 June 2014, 01:30 PM.

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    • #3
      Thanks, Crowbar. Any suggestions on a brand / type of 3 pin binding? And pardon my ignorance, but is a 3 pin binding the same as a telemark binding? And would having that cable on the binding (the one that wraps around the boot) make any difference? Also, I see that they only make a BC 90 or BC 110 now. Which one would you recommend?
      Last edited by Jesse; 14 June 2014, 12:33 PM.

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      • #4
        This whole category is nothing but a collection of bad compromises. Being waxless, they require double camber or they won't glide when touring. But the double camber means they perform very poorly on the down. They try to compensate for that by making them wider, but that only serves to increase drag, so they tour and turn worse because you can't gather enough speed for the dynamics of the ski to work in either function. If you want a waxless ski for touring, stay with straight, narrow waxless skis. If you want to tour for turns, get skis that can turn and learn to wax or get skins. For the BC125 you flat out need a plastic boot or they won't turn and all you will be doing is slogging on the flats. For the BC110 the same really applies. The BC 90 is possible to get a little edging power out of a leather boot if you are very experienced and aware of its limitations. But with all of these skis, you sacrifice so much glide that you might as well use skins because all you are doing is shuffling along anyway.

        If you insist on a ski that strikes a balance between these goals, the Rossignols are poor choices because of the high camber. The Mashus Epoch and Annum at least have lower camber so they can make turns on the downhill. You will not kick and glide very well with them, however, due to the drag.

        Cables don't really add all that much to a 3 pin binding if the boot is stiff enough to edge the ski. And if the boot is not stiff enough to edge the ski, there is little point in trying to eek performance out of it in anything but easy meadow skipping in powder, which you can do with any touring ski.

        I have yet to see a "rugged touring" ski in any width that performs nearly as well as a straight 60mm ski with edges and 1.5 camber like the venerable Kazama Mountain High or Outback TM.

        There... I said it.

        Comment


        • #5
          I agree with cesare about 3-pin bindings. The cable really does little to help, except add insurance in case your pins somehow fail. I like the Voile HD Mountaineeer for a 3-pin binding. Regarding skis, I've used the Karhu 10th Mountain 195's and for my purposes, they tour reasonably well (I wouldn't call it 'slogging') and are wide enough for some float and will turn pretty well. Nowadays I use Rossi BC 65's/NNNBC, but they can be a real challenge to make turn smoothly. I agree that the category is a collection of bad compromises, but I think for the type of skiing the OP is looking to do, you can find something that works pretty well.

          Comment


          • #6
            Advice on this sort of thing tends to be all over the map, which is because definitions of "backcountry", "touring", "XC", "XCD", and so on, tend to be all over the map. Keep that in mind.

            The specific ski that you mentioned, Rossi BC125, is a wide ski, significantly wider than even downhill resort skis were until recently. I would say that the place that ski has is for people who want to be able to make reasonably graceful turns (but strictly low-speed, due to the pattern) on just about any kind of snow, and while they don't care about XC performance, they don't want to feel quite like they're dragging a pair of surfboards in the flats. It's a turn-on-anything ski that's lightweight and with a pattern. No way I'd ski those things with NNN-BC; I'd say 3-pin-cable with Excursions, or beefier.

            Now, if you're interested in having what's mainly an XC diagonal stride experience, something that's more about straight-ahead performance than turnability, and you value the lively smoothness of an NNN-BC type or flexible non-plastic 3-pin boot-binding more than being able to turn on difficult snow, well, personally I'd be looking at the more classic touring widths, 55 to 65 underfoot. They'll still turn nicely on favorable snow if you adapt your skills to them, but these skis are mainly going to be about straight-ahead performance.

            Some of the skis in that class are surprisingly rugged. I'm out of date on the brands and models, but don't assume that durability is proportional to width. Back in the day, people did amazing things, like circumnavigate Denali, on Epoke touring skis, which despite being narrow (my E900s are 56-46-51) were considered bombproof, wood core in a fiberglass torsion box. So if you want straight-ahead performance but just don't want them to break like sticks in heavy snow, give some of the narrow skis a look. Back to bindings, I'd limit NNN-BC to 60mm and narrower; they just don't have the torsional control that even a lightweight MT12-15 three-pin with some of the appropriate-weight boots do.

            Comment


            • #7
              I dunno, cesare, in the 34 years I've been skiing Guides, 3 pin Hardwires, and T3s is easily the best general touring rig I've used. I'm not quite sure what rugged XC means and, glancing quickly through Jesse's other thread, am not seeing which snowpack the gear'll be used in. But round here we see lots of Fisher 6s and 8s, T4s, and Excursions on Epochs, Rossi 110s, and Fischer 112s with NNN-BC or Voile 75mm bindings as well as the occasional AT setup or somebody on skins. Most everybody I know who's not already there is changing into T4/Excursion on ~80mm waists as they update gear. So I get a lot of comparison points and will say for mixed backcountry or breaking trail there's a set of conditions where any one of those setups beats the rest. Overall I find the Guides tend to ski a smidge better than anything else. Some feel the Epoch's a better compromise than the Annum but, for the amount of breaking I do, there's no way I'd go back to a 68 waist.

              If rugged XC means, say, usually broken trail that's hilly and such, yes, the above's overkill. Unless it's icy, in which case the metal edge control from a beefy boot is huge and the extra width over 64-68mm helps some with breakable crusts. For example, skiing out from this winter's hut trip the only non-boilerplate miles were the ones I had a knee deep break on. And the boilerplate? Well, I was still three miles from the car when I was really wishing I'd brought earplugs to managed the constant chatter.

              To comment on the package Jesse linked I'd say it's not bad. Ski width aside, my experience with the 675s is they twist too much so the Excursions would be the way to go. I also found I used the Hardwires quite a bit on my 64 waist setup for descending in poor conditions and they helped enough I didn't mind the weight. Curiously, with the Guides I pretty much never put the wires on. So if I were buying an all new setup (as opposed to mounted used kit from TeleTurnAround, which is where I got my Guides) I'd probably go Voile Mountaineer on Annums.

              Comment


              • #8
                I don't really disagree. It's just that I think waxable skis perform much better. And in selling this class of gear, I always felt conflicted and was honest with customers about what its capabilities are. People think it will kick and glide just because it has a pattern and really, waxable does that so much better I can't consider it to be in the same class if that is what they want to do. I wouldn't tell them it would do everything they wanted to their expectations just to get it out the door. I consider it a travesty that waxable edged touring skis are extinct but waxless is what the manufacturers tell us the market demands.

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                • #9
                  Thanks, everyone, for your advice.

                  A few of you have extolled the virtues of skinnier skis. I have a set of Alpina Red Birds (waxless, 210 cm, 60-50-55, metal edges), and I have taken them off the groomed trails, and I sink pretty deep. No surprise, I'm a heavier guy. Would a pair of skis close to twice their width (and with way more sidecut) not keep me higher up, and be easier to control for turns? I'm not asking this in a smart ass way - I simply don't have experience with skiing like other folks do,

                  When you folks are mentioning "waxable", are you referring to using glide wax or kick wax? Hopefully not kick wax, the temperatures are waaaayyy too variable around here for that to be a success. Or at least that's why I bought the Red Birds - my waxable XC skis were pretty much useless on the groomed trails around here.

                  I really don't know the official name of the type of skis that I am looking at. I do know they would be too wide to fit into groomed XC tracks, and that they have a nice side cut, which I am hoping gives me way more control for turning. And they have fish scales, because I don't want to muck about with skins.

                  I am looking at more of a meadow skipping kind of ski - one that I can walk across the street and go play on the golf course. Or that I can take on a light to moderate sloped multi use kind of trail. Preferably in new snow. I don't mind snowshoe speed going up a trail, it's coming back down that I want to glide at a reasonable speed. Nothing too crazy, slope wise (and keep in mind that I lived on the prairies for more than a decade, so my definition of crazy is probably going to be different than yours is ). When the time comes that I am ready for true BC skiing (ie: blue level slopes, and needing to skin up), I'll have more appropriate equipment.
                  Last edited by Jesse; 14 June 2014, 05:36 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Jesse View Post
                    Thanks, everyone, for your advice.

                    A few of you have extolled the virtues of skinnier skis. I have a set of Alpina Red Birds (waxless, 210 cm, 60-50-55, metal edges), and I have taken them off the groomed trails, and I sink pretty deep. No surprise, I'm a heavier guy. Would a pair of skis close to twice their width (and with way more sidecut) not keep me higher up, and be easier to control for turns? I'm not asking this in a smart ass way - I simply don't have experience with skiing like other folks do,

                    When you folks are mentioning "waxable", are you referring to using glide wax or kick wax? Hopefully not kick wax, the temperatures are waaaayyy too variable around here for that to be a success. Or at least that's why I bought the Red Birds - my waxable XC skis were pretty much useless on the groomed trails around here.

                    I really don't know the official name of the type of skis that I am looking at. I do know they would be too wide to fit into groomed XC tracks, and that they have a nice side cut, which I am hoping gives me way more control for turning. And they have fish scales, because I don't want to muck about with skins.

                    I am looking at more of a meadow skipping kind of ski - one that I can walk across the street and go play on the golf course. Or that I can take on a light to moderate sloped multi use kind of trail. Preferably in new snow. I don't mind snowshoe speed going up a trail, it's coming back down that I want to glide at a reasonable speed. Nothing too crazy, slope wise (and keep in mind that I lived on the prairies for more than a decade, so my definition of crazy is probably going to be different than yours is ). When the time comes that I am ready for true BC skiing (ie: blue level slopes, and needing to skin up), I'll have more appropriate equipment.
                    Then my advice would be either the Madshus Epoch (Karhu 10th mtn) or the Annum (Karhu Guide) in either 185 or 195 with Voile 3-pin mountaineer bindings and T4s or Excursions.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Crowbar View Post
                      Then my advice would be either the Madshus Epoch (Karhu 10th mtn) or the Annum (Karhu Guide) in either 185 or 195 with Voile 3-pin mountaineer bindings and T4s or Excursions.
                      Ditto this.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Yeah, for skiing flats in powder/cement/slop, extra width will help, but it's still trail-breaking no matter what you're on. When I hear "golf courses" and "moderate trails", I'm thinking that it'll be reasonably firm or at least not deep, at least sometimes, and so I'd like to be able to really stride and glide when that happens. With the bigger widths (calling for beefier boots as well), you kind of lose that stride dynamic. But you've already got some 50-wides, so sure, adding to the quiver calls for significantly wider. For flats and rolling, I'd still be aiming more for 70ish than 85+ though, personally.

                        Pattern: I think they turn fine, but only if you keep it slow. If you start cruisin' and rippin', the mid-ski friction seriously messes with stability. I should mention that I'm typically using patterned skis only on above-freezing snow. I'm in California, and most of the cold snow is the very occasional sweet powder, and I'm definitely not going to be on patterned skis for that. As for kick waxing, I sure do love a day of striding on blue crayon, but that's not at all a typical day out here.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Might want to check out the Fischer e109's...Waxable, 78-60-70...three pins for bindings and a decent leather boot....With your weight about a 190-200 would probably work well...As Caesar said the waxables go up better and down much better....Waxing is like an art....sometimes you get into the ski and have to stop and put some different stuff on top of what you "thought" would work....But the glide and downhill performance is worth it...TM

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Jesse View Post
                            Thanks, everyone, for your advice.

                            A few of you have extolled the virtues of skinnier skis. I have a set of Alpina Red Birds (waxless, 210 cm, 60-50-55, metal edges), and I have taken them off the groomed trails, and I sink pretty deep. No surprise, I'm a heavier guy. Would a pair of skis close to twice their width (and with way more sidecut) not keep me higher up, and be easier to control for turns? I'm not asking this in a smart ass way - I simply don't have experience with skiing like other folks do,

                            When you folks are mentioning "waxable", are you referring to using glide wax or kick wax? Hopefully not kick wax, the temperatures are waaaayyy too variable around here for that to be a success. Or at least that's why I bought the Red Birds - my waxable XC skis were pretty much useless on the groomed trails around here.

                            I really don't know the official name of the type of skis that I am looking at. I do know they would be too wide to fit into groomed XC tracks, and that they have a nice side cut, which I am hoping gives me way more control for turning. And they have fish scales, because I don't want to muck about with skins.

                            I am looking at more of a meadow skipping kind of ski - one that I can walk across the street and go play on the golf course. Or that I can take on a light to moderate sloped multi use kind of trail. Preferably in new snow. I don't mind snowshoe speed going up a trail, it's coming back down that I want to glide at a reasonable speed. Nothing too crazy, slope wise (and keep in mind that I lived on the prairies for more than a decade, so my definition of crazy is probably going to be different than yours is ). When the time comes that I am ready for true BC skiing (ie: blue level slopes, and needing to skin up), I'll have more appropriate equipment.
                            Keep your Birds. You will use them more often than not I bet. Depending on the snow type, for XC, you will sink a lot at your weight. It takes a pretty fat board and some velocity to keep on top (think like a water ski, none will float unless you have velocity)... and that all comes on the down. For touring, even a wide ski will sink pretty good.

                            Anyway, those ought to be your go to for flattish terrain or tracked out stuff. The real issue I find with the skinny ski like that is if you are in some gloppy, mashed potato snow, you won't be able to turn or do anything. This is where I've been advised by some to use skins with them. I've yet to try but it will slow you down so you don't need to turn or snowplow to control speed. Also will give you bite on the way up.

                            In powder, again you are going to sink a lot, but depending on how dense it is, you may still be able to control those chopsticks. I doubt you'll see much improvement in sink with a wider board unless you are carrying some speed.

                            Where you may notice a big difference, and one that may drive you nuts touring, is breakable crust. That stuff is the worst power sapping crud to break trail through. A wider ski may help keep you above that, and certainly will when you try to ski down it (surely you will fall when it breaks on descent).

                            The package you show from ORS would be pretty good. There are other option that would be more touring oriented (like the Eon with a BC-NNN) but that setup is supposedly a good all around. Kick and glide in plastic boots is going to feel like lead anchors compared to soft leather, but what you lose in touring speed, you make up for in muscle on the ski. I'm currently looking into the Crispi Svartisen myself for a boot to go with the Epoch. From what I've read it's a better boot that the Fischer BCX 675.

                            Anyway if you can get away skiing your Birds, ski those i.e. broken out trail, fluffy snow, easy terrain, etc... they will be more efficient. The ski like an Epoch or Annum will be better for breaking trail through more difficult snow (you won't be going fast anyway) and going down more (keep you up on the snow and have some sidecut for turning).

                            If you seriously want to ski downhill BC, I would not consider any of this. Some people can maybe, but it wouldn't be me. I'd then look into something I could ski at a resort and out of bounds like an AT or heavy Tele ski, and something with release.

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                            • #15
                              One more thing re some comments about 3-pin versus 3-pin-cable: It's a no-brainer to get 3-pin-cable, because it's the same without the cable, and at least you have the option of using cables (10 oz a pair, worth it just as pin-holes insurance).

                              I did a 4-day Sierra crest tour once where I noticed on the morning of the 2nd day that I'd brought only one cable (actually I brought two, but the other was my wife's, which didn't fit me, and didn't help her either since she'd stayed home). When it came time to do a nice long 35-40 corn descent with full pack on, it was fun times, but I was definitely noticing that one turn was more secure than the other (if nothing else, the cable makes the binding a tad more "active"). That was with plastic boots, by the way; I forget which Garmonts I was using that trip.
                              Last edited by bobs; 15 June 2014, 02:15 PM.

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