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David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
MYOG approach/bushwack/spring touring skis on 05/11/2010 09:26:45 MDT Print View

The video (http://vimeo.com/11645116) says most. Some construction details:

Fishscales are simple angled divots across the base of the ski. Freehanded with a dremel sanding wheel. They work well, and are easy to get wax out of with a scraper. I'll be putting in a few more further forward, as I was slipping at the apex of my kick yesterday.

Plastic in the bindings is pieces of rubbermaid bin. Doubled along the foot, tripled where it bolts to the ski. Single layer pieces in each of the three toe-box pieces, for lateral rigidity. Non-absorbent fabric and rubberized straps would've been ideal, but this was what I had.

Bindings weigh 7 oz each, skis with hardwear weigh 2 lbs 7 oz a piece. BD kicker skins weigh 4 oz each. So at 6 lb 6 oz, these are definitely heavier than my big snowshoes. I think that under most circumstances, the ability to glide and the better allocation of flotation will make the short skis faster and more efficient.

We'll see. In eight days I'll be headed over Two Ocean Pass into the upper Yellowstone River, and there will be plenty of snow!

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: MYOG approach/bushwack/spring touring skis on 05/13/2010 09:45:51 MDT Print View

Hey David,
Just watched the video - very nicely put together.

I really like what you have done here. Some time ago I was wondering about small skis aswell. Reason was that up here I sometimes have to cross big lakes with lots of snow but then climb over a mountain/hill to get to the next lake, etc. I wanted to see if I could take some kids skis and turn them into UL X country skis that wouldn't be too heavy to carry when climbing. I never got around to doing it, but you have accomplished just that. Very nice job. Even though the weight is a little heavy, it'll probably still save you some energy based on how fast and efficient you can travel.

I'd like to see a follow up on how these work out for you on your trip.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: skis on 05/13/2010 16:38:24 MDT Print View

Thanks Steve. I'll post a detailed followup.

If one wanted to sink more money into this project, much lighter skis could easily be found.

Samuel C. Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
MYOG touring skis on 05/13/2010 22:39:40 MDT Print View

Great job, but have one sad sack suggestion:
Added a pair of the strap-on bindings to an old pair of Trak Bushwackers for a friend for a cross country trip on what I thought would be easy terrain. Didn't count on the iced up snowmobile trail we had to follow for a bit. Result was a trip to the hospital and several months recovery time for her. Felt very bad, as I use a super light pair of French Emery X-C bindings that have a release. They made an even lighter model called the "compass," once carried by Black Diamond, but haven't been able to find any. Resolved: Never to wear any bindings, or loan skis with any bindings, that
do not release. Lesson learned the hard way.
My impression was that your MYOG jobbies would probably just rip out at the plastic in a bad fall. The ones I used were (is it spelled "Berwyn?") that do not release.
But wanted to share this experience anyway.
Sam

Edited by scfhome on 05/13/2010 22:45:44 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: bindings and falls on 05/14/2010 22:46:04 MDT Print View

Sam,

Non-release bindings and falls are certainly a potentially problematic combination. My "real skis" are 185cm, and I ski them with light plastic tele boots and non-release three pin bindings. Being conservative and falling properly are the name of the game. Of course, icey downhill snowmobile trails in thick woods are probably the most terrifying and dangerous skiing I can think of. If I come across something like that using these (very unlikely given their planned use), I'll take them off and walk!

The short skis and trail runners should minimize torque on the knees, but that combo would also edge horribly if at all in hard snow.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: re: bindings and falls on 05/14/2010 22:56:32 MDT Print View

I think strap-on bindings were banned by the Geneva Convention. I've used nothing but 3-pin bindings for the last 25 years or more.

If you find yourself on skis and following some horribly iced trail, stop and use some yards of parachute cord. Find the center of a length of cord and tie a small loop there, which is looped to catch on the ski tip. Then you zigzag wind the two ends around the ski all the way to the tail, where you tie them off and duct tape the end to the ski. That, in essence, makes each ski into a long snowshoe with some traction. Once you get past the icey part, you can remove the cords and glide again.

--B.G.--

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: re: bindings and falls on 05/15/2010 04:44:58 MDT Print View

> I think strap-on bindings were banned by the Geneva Convention.

Dunno about that, but running snow mobiles over XC trails ought to be!

Btw - neat trick with the string Bob.

Cheers

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: re: bindings and falls on 05/15/2010 11:25:44 MDT Print View

"neat trick with the string"

About 30-32 years ago, there were not a lot of reliable fishscale-waxless skis. Inevitably, some beginner would get out on icy trails with smooth waxable skis and they had no proper wax, so they would be slipping and sliding. In order to avoid broken bones, we would use some cord in the fashion that I described. It wasn't elegant, but it allowed them to move along slowly. In fact, cords like that were required for a ski leader to have along on any beginner trip.

In California, we often have a snow condition called Sierra Cement, and the cords get used.
--B.G.--

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: MYOG approach/bushwack/spring touring skis on 05/22/2010 20:13:43 MDT Print View

Wow! How very cool Dave. Great score on the cheap skis and great work on the bindings. I've been thinking about this very subject recently (in the spring a man's fancy turns to thoughts of inventing some sort of ski that doesn't need its own boot). Worth mentioning in this category is the now defunct Yupi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTIPN0DAqwY (I should have bought these when I had the chance).

I hope I can snag a pair of cheap skis as well, but I've been busy lately. It would be really nice if I could grab a pair of SkiBoards. The shortest, widest pair I've been able to find are about 75 cm. This would be ideal, in my opinion. The only drawback with many of these is that they often come with bindings already installed (e. g. http://www.skiboards.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=25&products_id=765). This would mean part of the process would involve removing the binding or finding a way to work with it.

As for me, I'm not sure if I care about the permanent "skin" (or waxless indentations). I think it might make more sense to just apply kickers. Rope might work as well, if I want it to work in "snow shoe mode". If the skis are short enough, then using a skate approach on the flats would work well (I think).

I really appreciate your sharing your accomplishment, Dave. I also appreciate any comments on my thoughts as well.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
The Verdict on 05/22/2010 23:38:14 MDT Print View

I had the chance to give this setup a thorough beating this past week, and the verdict is mixed. In short:

The concept is very sound. With the proper bindings short skis are far better than snowshoes in some conditions (caveat emptor).

My bindings were not sound! Halfway down from Two Ocean Pass on Wednesday the double layered plastic broke just behind the rear binding screws, leaving me with marginal lateral control. This slowed things considerably. I also didn't put the screws in with locktite (doh!) and had the right ones back out repeatedly (but never the left). Eventually one backed out enough without me noticing that it unseated the t-nut, and the t-nut was lost to the wilderness. This marginally exacerbated problem one. I could still scoot along the flats well enough, but the one extended downhill sideslope was quite tedious and annoying.

The snow conditions on that day were the worst I've ever seen. The night before I camped in the upper reaches of the North Buffalo Fork at around 8000', and it rained off and on all night. Not only was the snow warmed well down, it was saturated and heavy. I'll have a video up in the Trip Reports section tomorrow, which shows the punchy, often thigh deep postholing I was doing with the skis on. Anything would have been tough to manage in those conditions, and even though the short tail punched through often, the short length made them easier to extricate from the holes I unwhillingly dug for myself.

I hauled the mangled bindings out, fortunately only having to use them on some flat sections for the rest of the trip. The skis worked great, and I'll be keeping them. In the conditions I encountered, my DIY waxless pattern worked well beyond expectations, and the short skis are easy to aggressively herringbone up steeper sectins. I should have mounted the t-nuts with better glue, and used blue locktite on the screws. Lessen learned.

The bindings have me puzzled. The plasic just behind the crews will necessarily be subjected to some serious twisting torque, and I'm not sure what material might be expected to hold up to such force and still flex fore and aft for kick and glide. I'm curious what the Berwin bindings are made of. Any ideas for a good material?

And while my strap arrangment was well dialed and very effective, the assemblage needs to be made of non-absorbant materials. On several occasions I was was breaking through, in skis, into knee-deep water and overflow, and that hastened icing up, especially under the toes of my shoes. This eventually got annoying enough that I'd have to stop and chip it out, which was slow.

So the concept is quite sound the worth pursuing. It got me back into some remote country made even more remote by the spring conditions, and it was an awesome trip. The alpha testing taught some good lessons.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: The Verdict on 05/31/2010 16:35:54 MDT Print View

Sorry to hear about the material failure, David. As far as tough plastic is concerned, maybe that clam shell packaging they seem to wrap everything in these days -- I can never seem to get that stuff open. :) Seriously, though, I would think that stuff like that, like a lot of plastic, is stiff enough, but eventually rips. Maybe your best source is a junk yard (assuming the folks have plastic laying around). Plastic is ubiquitous, but trying to find the right stuff at the right time could be hard. Looking around the room right now, I see a lot of stuff that might work (e. g. CD ROM case).

I think you might have to try trial and error. It might make sense to make a little test apparatus. Perhaps a bar with with two bolts. Then, all you do is drill a couple holes, place the two bolts through it, and attach with nuts. Then attach the rest of the plastic to a vise and try to crack the plastic with a lot of twisting and pulling.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: bindings on 06/01/2010 18:50:11 MDT Print View

I may well just buy some Berwins. Their design and materials seem like they should address all my shortcomings.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: re: bindings on 06/03/2010 09:02:15 MDT Print View

It's a shame to spend so much money on bindings when you got your skis for really cheap, but I understand. Home made bindings are tricky. It's definitely a niche market, so it's hard to find any used products.

I just saw this binding, which I find rather interesting: http://www.hummocks.net/hummocks_en/
These make the Berwin bindings sound like a bargain. Actually, I think the Berwin's are a good value, it's just hard to spend full price when the skis aren't new. Anyway, I like the concept (but not the price). Just mount Nordic bindings (which you might be able to get cheap) and then make an adapter. If you decide to go with homemade after all, then this might be an easier approach. The nice thing is that the bar under the foot doesn't need to flex. You could use a stiff board or piece of metal. The only tricky part is getting the thing to bounce back properly. That could be achieved with a bit of elastic connecting the back of the heal to the ski. Interestingly enough, the Pilot Classic binding system (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-country_skiing) does this (although the elastic meets at the middle of the foot, not the heal).

As for me, I just got a used pair of Salomon "Snow Blades" (a brand of ski boards) for $50. They are about a meter long, and roughly 100/80/90. They should be pretty easy to carry. I kind of wish they were a bit longer and wider, but since I bought used, I couldn't pick and choose to much. They come with ski board bindings. I'm sure I could rig something up, but I'm itching to get going on this (the snow is melting, and this is the best season for this sort of thing). So, I just ordered a pair of Berwin bindings. I should have started this project a while ago.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: snow blades on 06/04/2010 08:18:08 MDT Print View

Ross, I'll be intrigued to see how your experiment goes, and your impressions of the Berwins. I've been wondering what sort of forward flex one gets with them, and where the pivot point ends up being. With my rig, I found that if I scooted my feet too far forward my toes got pinched at the apex of the kick, and that made for cold toes in a hurry.

The Berwin's do seem expensive, especially considering that all my other bindings are simple 3-pin rat traps that cost 50 bucks or less. I'd hesitate to go with any nordic system binding, as that system has a poor track record on major failures under heavy loads (toe bars ripping).

The skis really were a bargin. I'll keep them around for a while, and might mount 3-pins on them and use them in the next few weeks. I hauled my real skis (185 Karhu Guides) up a mile or more of dry trail to ski a peak last weekend, and they felt so heavy, big and clumsy! Carrying short skis is a breeze by comparison, and not too bad on the down provided that speeds stay low and the snow is fairly firm.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: re: snow blades on 06/09/2010 17:29:09 MDT Print View

Well, the bindings finally arrived. It will take me a few days to actually install them though. The weather isn't very good now, anyway, so there is no hurry (the weather was great yesterday, but that is a different story). I hope you aren't waiting for my response, but in case you are, I'll give an early assessment. It is hard to describe everything involved in this project, but I took a few pictures to help.

The skis: The skis are used Salomon Snowblades (probably 2008 or so). They are about 99cm, with a sidecut of 100, 80, 90. The term "snowblades" has become synonymous with ski boards, even though it is a Salomon name (like Kleenex or Band-Aid). Amongst many skiboarders though, they are considered inferior. There are several reasons for this, but the one that matters to me is that they are a bit too skinny (for their length). This place says as much. The picture is accurate, but a bit misleading, as they sell skiboards the same length (and shorter) but none that skinny. They have a link to a forum that describes the situation (scroll down to "Kirk" who summarizes things well).

I don't feel bad about buying the ones I bought though, as much of my skiing will be on solid, consolidated (Spring) snow. Besides, I shopped around, and the cheapest "good" skiboards I could find were $200 or so (as opposed to the $50 I paid). Plus, much of my time will be spent carrying these, so at that point, the smaller the better.

The Ski Board Bindings: The snow blades came with their own (skiboard) bindings. These bindings are meant to work with regular (Alpine) ski boots. As mentioned in the links in the previous paragraph, the bindings are considered inferior, so I imagine they are being phased out. If I was more of a tinkerer, I might try and attach something to these bindings. They have lots of possible attachment points (I wish we lived in the same town, Dave, as we could tinker together). Here are some picture links and descriptions of the bindings:

Skiboard with binding and one without: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rossbl/4686018549/
In relation to my foot (size 10.5): http://www.flickr.com/photos/rossbl/4686651520
Closeup of binding: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rossbl/4686019257
Binding detached: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rossbl/4686652234
Upside down binding, with bars and one bottom plastic piece removed: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rossbl/4686019889
Side view of binding: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rossbl/4686020249
Another view (showing how you can remove bottom plastic part): http://www.flickr.com/photos/rossbl/4686020585

Hopefully all of that made sense. I could certainly rig something up so that my boot stayed attached (at worse, I could do a Gulliver's Travels type thing, using the gaps). The hard part is making it work Nordic style. Which leads me to:

Berwin Bindings: I haven't installed these, so I'm not sure how well they will work. The attachment points don't match any of the holes in the skiboard (they do match "Nordic Norm" though, so they match a lot of existing Nordic skis). Here are more pictures, that I hope will show how they work:

Top View, laying on top of ski: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rossbl/4686020947
Side View, with boot inside: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rossbl/4686654024
Bottom View: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rossbl/4686654370
Another Side View: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rossbl/4686021941

The boot is basically pushed as far forward as it will go. It pushes into side bumpers and the strap. The binding is attached at three points (see bottom view). The first point is one of those single holes. The second and third are parallel each other (the screws go through the strap). So, hopefully you can imagine how the thing will flex.

The Boots: I use a heavier boot for Spring hiking that I do for summer hiking. This keeps my feet drier and makes it easier to kick steps in the slush. These are all leather, REI brand boots, but I believe they are just an OEM from Raichle. The leather is pretty soft, but the sole is fairly stiff (for me, anyway). They weigh 1' 13". I think they will work fine, but any stiffer boots might cause significant fatigue. Lighter boots would be fine, but might make it harder to control the skiboards. I'll let everyone know when I get a chance to try these out. Hopefully the snow will stick around until then.

Edited by rossbleakney on 06/09/2010 17:36:32 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: berwins on 06/09/2010 17:51:40 MDT Print View

Thanks for sticking that up, it's helpful to see the bindings up close. The snowblade will certainly be easy to carry!

Based on my experience, that berwin design looks good. I found the snugging the instep strap down tight was key to control, and you can do this without impeding circulation anywhere. The Berwin instep strap looks well positioned.

The toe bit looks less ideal, if only because of how far forward the boot must be relative to the pin line/pivot point. This creates two problems. First, the toe strap cannot be too snug or it pinches the toebox everytime the foot is flexed, and makes for cold toes in a hurry. In my bindings, I found that loose toe straps weren't a big deal. Second, the natural ski stride works best if as much of the foot as possible can lift off the ski, a la classic XC ski setups. On the other hand, having the toe and forefoot locked down would likely improve downhill control.

Any plastics nerds have insight on what Berwin uses and why it is (apparently, they've been to the arctic) so solid? Looking at the Berwin I'm not totally sold, but I do see a future for this sort of rig. (Forrest's ski/raft trip, for instance.) The other alternative is 3 pin bindings and a soft, fabric/leather XC boots. Problem is that duckbills suck to hike in, and even the lightest of 3 pin nordic boots have lots of padding that would be heavy once it gets wet.

For the 9 people out there how do these sorts of trips.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: re: berwins on 06/09/2010 19:05:13 MDT Print View

>>>
The toe bit looks less ideal, ...
>>>

I agree, that is my main concern as well. I think this will work well on the downhill, but may be a bit of a pain on the flats and uphill. If things get bad, I can maybe switch to a skate style. Those little skis should be really easy to skate with.

As far as plastic is concerned, I am curious as well. Both bindings are made of plastic, so I think you could design something pretty nice if you can find the right plastic. The Berwin bindings don't say anything about the plastic except that it is tough.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Plastic on Berwins on 06/10/2010 12:39:09 MDT Print View

I just realized after reading the instructions again, that the Berwin bindings are made from Rilsan 12 Nylon. I hope that helps.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Re: Plastic on Berwins on 06/18/2010 09:02:29 MDT Print View

I finally got a chance to try out my skis. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring a key part of the system: my (kicker) skins. Since my skis have flat bottoms, I struggled on the flats and carried them up the hill. If I had more experience with skate skiing, perhaps I would be fine, but most of my cross country experience is with classic Nordic technique. So, I kept slipping backwards (I'm just not used to skis with flat bottoms). So, that aspect of the system remains largely untested. So far, so good though; I was able to do a bit of striding coming down and they felt pretty comfortable (I should be able to say more in a few days).

I was very happy with their performance going downhill. It has been a long time since I've done such tight parallel turns on relatively steep terrain. I was able to make quick, controlled turns on those little skis (it felt more like downhill skiing then the Nordic skiing I usually do). Unfortunately, they weren't that good for long traverses. This is where I wished I had my Nordic gear. The little skis hit every bump in the spring snow. It is a bit like having a small boat in rough seas.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Berwins and Solomon Snowblades on 06/23/2010 23:27:16 MDT Print View

OK, here is my last report for the year. I finally got a chance to test my mini-skis in the proper terrain. The results are mixed, but for the most part negative. I'll start with the good news:

If you are an intermediate downhill (parallel) skier, you can carve like crazy with these things. The last time I made turns like this I was wearing heavy boots and took a chairlift up. It is really amazing how easily I can turn considering the fact that I was wearing hiking boots and plastic, universal (Berwin) bindings. I could see a market for these for folks who like to kick steps up and ski down. In some ways, it wouldn't be much different (and might be lighter) than hiking up with snow shoes and then snow boarding down (which a lot of folks do).

The bad news is that they are not good on the flats nor uphill. I believe it is the combination that is the cause of the failure, and not necessarily each individual piece. The bindings are designed for Nordic skis. I tried to make the skis slide (with skins on the bottom) but kept "submarining" (slamming the skis into the snow). They skis just aren't long enough, or flexible enough to deal with firm, bumpy, Spring snow. I took several (slow speed) face plants. I tried to operate the skis like snow shoes. After all, in surface area, they are closer to that. Unfortunately, the bindings (and perhaps where I mounted them) wouldn't allow that. When I lifted my foot, the tip pointed straight, in direct line with my foot. It is possible that I could have mounted these further forward (so more weight was on the back) but I'm not sure that would have solved the problem.

One possible solution is to mount a hinge on the ski, closer to the front. This would essentially allow the back of the ski to swing back (and the tip to stick up) when I lift my foot. This would make them operate similar to snow shoes.

Another possibility is to get better skiboards/skis. The skiboard community frowns on the pair I bought (thus explaining the low price) in part because they are too small (for the width) and the tips are too low. A longer ski with higher tips might prevent some of the submarining, and thus allow me to glide.

As for now, for going on the flats and uphill, these beasts are an unhappy medium. Not good as Nordic skis, not good as snowshoes. But, like I said, at least they are a blast for going downhill.