M AT Nordic Ski Systems: Discovering the Best of Backcountry Nordic and Alpine Touring Systems Through Hybridization

by Ryan Jordan

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Article Summary:

In Alan Dixon and Mike Martin's An Introduction to Nordic and Backcountry Ski Gear published here previously, a number of backcountry ski systems were compared with respect to their climbing ability (with and without skins), weight, speed on consolidated snow in flat/moderate terrain, flotation in deep/soft snow, and maneuverability/control in moderate vs. steep terrain.

The authors' assessment reveals a bias for BC ("backcountry") Nordic gear for "mere mortals" traveling in moderate to rolling terrain, claiming the following:

I won't argue the expense point. There is no question that alpine touring ("AT") equipment is generally more expensive than BC Nordic systems.

However, I'd like to propose a counterpoint regarding a comparison between the weight, speed, and efficiency of BC Nordic vs. Alpine Touring, and propose that advances in AT equipment have all but made these considerations moot in this comparison. Further, I'd like to propose that AT equipment may now be a better option when weight savings, speed, and efficiency for long distance touring are primary considerations.

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