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Advice on new cross country/backcountry ski set up
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Elizabeth Camp
(scamp_80) - MLife

Locale: Portland, Oregon
Advice on new cross country/backcountry ski set up on 03/16/2011 12:51:51 MDT Print View

I’m trying to take advantage of the end of the season sales to purchase my own ski set up.

Do you have any advice or suggestions on specific set ups that I can look into? Do you have any good resources that could help me research equipment so that I can make an informed decision?

Here’s some information about my experience level and the usage of the ski setup.

Experience level:
I cross-country skied growing up and just got back into it this season. I took a short 1-week course on groomed trails this past season. I have snowshoed in previous seasons with a few overnight winter camping forays (done with snowshoes).

Almost all the cross-country ski trails around Mt. Hood are ungroomed (I typically visit Mt. Hood for winter adventures). The snow is typically very wet and not powdery at all. I also visit areas east of Seattle which have similar conditions. In addition, I go to areas around Bend in Central Oregon where the snow is quite dry. I would mostly be skiing on ungroomed trails without a pack but would occasionally visit locations with groomed trails. Terrain is fairly flat but there are rolling hills on many trails. I would like to increase the amount of winter camping I do next season and would like to do so on skis. I have a pretty lightweight winter camping set-up (Duomid, WM bag, MLD bivy, etc) and so would be carrying under 30lbs total for winter camping. I do not forsee using a pulk.

Thanks for reading my lengthy post and thanks in advance for your advice!!

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
light BC ski gear on 03/16/2011 13:12:23 MDT Print View

My thoughts:

Madshus Epoch skis (in 165 or 175, depending on your height and weight)
Voile Mountaineer bindings (w/ anti ice tape, no need for climbing wires)
BD kicker skins (60mm width)
Rossignol BCX11 boots
Cheap alu XC poles in the proper length

Insofar as ski length goes, you want to balance speed (longer usually equals faster, with manueverability). The Epochs are on the fat side, which is IMO better for trail breaking and going downhill in heavy, wet snow. The scales will grip well in that snow, but the kickers will be good for steeper slopes and dryer, powder snow. With practice you can put them on and take them off with your skis on. The Rossi boots will stride well enough, and have enough side to side support for cranking alpine turns.

Elizabeth Camp
(scamp_80) - MLife

Locale: Portland, Oregon
Re: light BC ski gear on 03/16/2011 15:00:34 MDT Print View

I am a little concerned that skis as wide as the Madshus Epochs would be tough to manage on the flats and/or that they would be a bit wide of groomed track (although I would be on groomed tracks the minority of the time).

regarding the bindings, I'm definitely sold on a 3-pin setup.

I was thinking along the lines of the Rossignol BC90s, Atomic Rainiers, Madshus Eons or maybe even Rossignol BC70s.

Your thoughts on the above concerns and skis?

Edited by scamp_80 on 03/16/2011 15:30:55 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
groomed tracks on 03/16/2011 16:46:59 MDT Print View

Epochs are definitely too wide for groomed tracks. If you want to be able to do that, get some Glittertinds. They're one of the softest of the skinny metal edge skis, which means you'll be able to crank turns through the low angled woods and stop on hiking trails.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Advice on new cross country/backcountry ski set up on 03/18/2011 18:16:02 MDT Print View

I have the Rossignol BC70 skis with NNN-BC bindings and Alpina BC1550 boots, which I purchases as a set along with poles from LL Bean. I'm fairly new to skiing, so this is about the only equipment I've used. I did rent some 3-pin skis when I was first learning. I ski on ungroomed trails, and even if the trail is broken, I usually try to ski on unbroken snow. Sometimes I want BC90's, especially if I carry a pack on powder.

The boots are decent overall, but I had to get mine replaced free by the retailer when a lacing rivet popped out while tightening the laces. They're overkill for gently rolling hills.

I like the free rotation of the binding, but it can be a little finicky to get it snapped, and sometimes it's not clear what the problem is--just have to reposition and fiddle. Some of this could just be newbie user error of course!

For anything steeper than gently rolling slopes, I really need at least kicker skins, but have gotten by without so far.

David Lutz

Locale: Bay Area
"Advice on new cross country/backcountry ski set up" on 03/18/2011 18:26:47 MDT Print View

I wanted to tryout winter camping on skis this year and I didn't want to spend a bunch of money. Here's what I did.

I bought some old Kahru Lookout skis with Rotofella 3-pin bindings for $40 off the gear swap here.

I shopped for used boots, but the right boot in the right size is hard to come by. I looked at the Garmin Excursion boot but decided that it was too much boot for the skis and for what I wanted to do and also too expensive. I picked up a pair of Alpina 1575 boots from ORS online for I think $160.00.

I use ski poles or hiking poles that I already had.

So for $200 I got an opportunity to try it out.

It's been a blast!

I've had the skis out on two overnights and the ski/boot/binding combination has worked very well. (Although I have been lucky with the snow conditions.)

I also used the skis for resort skiing twice and can reliably make a stem christie turn and can occasionally pull off something resembling a tele turn.

Again, loads of fun and far superior to snowshoes.

BTW - I tow a pulk with the skis.

Elizabeth Camp
(scamp_80) - MLife

Locale: Portland, Oregon
Re: "Advice on new cross country/backcountry ski set up" on 03/18/2011 21:36:17 MDT Print View

Thanks for the input guys!

I'm still gathering info from, past posts on this forum, and other places so feel free to keep the input coming.

BTW David Chenault (who posted above) had a really informative post on his blog regarding backcountry gear that I, for one, will keep in the back of my mind as my skills improve and I wander further off the beaten track. So, thank you to David.

I've tentatively decided on Madshus Glittertind (waxless), a three pin binding, and the Alpina 1575 boot. They don't make the Alpina 1575 in a women's model but I tried the 1575 on and works nicely for me. I'm keeping my eyes peeled for deals.

I can't wait to get out there some more, do some skiing, and keep improving my skill set.

Edited by scamp_80 on 03/18/2011 21:42:19 MDT.

Douglas Ray

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Let us know... on 03/18/2011 23:13:33 MDT Print View

I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on that set-up, and how it works out for you.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: let us know on 03/19/2011 08:48:23 MDT Print View

Thanks for the kudos Elizabeth. IMO there's not enough info out there about the sort of skiing you're talking about, which is the sort of skiing I think more people will find satisfying (as opposed to groomed XC and lift-served alpine).

I may get some Glittertinds myself for next winter.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Advice on new cross country/backcountry ski set up on 03/22/2011 22:32:00 MDT Print View

That is exactly the type of skiing I like to do. I also ski in the same type of conditions as you do (I'm based in Seattle and get out about 50 times a year). One thing to keep in mind is that as you get into Nordic skiing, you will tend to get a bunch of different gear, and you'll apply it based on the conditions and terrain. It helps if you have gear that can be used with other gear, although to a certain extent, it is impossible. Here is what I have, starting from the lightest/fastest:

1) Really skinny skis (no metal edges), Nordic SNS boots
2) Short skis with no metal edges but significant sidecut, same boots as above
3) Atomic Rainier skis (more sidecut and metal edges), BC boots

If I did a lot more backcountry, I would have a 4, 5, and 6. As it is, though, I do all my backcountry on 2 and 3. This shocks some people. Many assume that you need heavy gear to do backcountry skiing, but it really isn't the case. I just read an article about Steve Barnett, and the equipment he likes to use. He skis very steep terrain on very light (some would say flimsy) equipment. Now, to be fair, he is a much better skier than both of us, but I do well in my light gear, despite the fact that I'm not a great skier (I do a stem cristie way more than I telemark).

So much depends on the conditions. If it is crusty (like last Sunday) or icy than you definitely want metal edges. If you have to make sharp turns, then you want more sidecut. But if you have snow (even wet snow) and moderate terrain, then you can do really well on short, significant sidecut, non metal edge skis. My favorite of the bunch is Fischer Inbound Crown. It has a sidecut of 68-58-64. Not only do I like the fact that they have good sidecut (for a ski without metal edges) but they are fairly wide, so they float fairly well when I break trail (and I often break trail). I don't want to imply that you need to get those skis, though. I know there are plenty of other skis out there that are similar. Again, lots of sidecut, but no metal edges can work for most conditions and terrain that you encounter.

You may wonder why I don't like metal edges. The simple answer is weight. The weight of the ski has a cascading effect. Once you have heavier skis, you need heavier boots (like backcountry boots). Again, I still use my Atomic Rainiers when the conditions aren't ideal, or the terrain is a bit more challenging (such as some of the tricky stuff on Mount Rainier) but I usually use my light gear on Mount Baker.

Until recently, the only gear I had was the number 2 equipment. If the snow wasn't good, I would just snowshoe. My brother is a better skier and has more robust equipment, so I decided to add my level three gear (by the way, he has lots more levels) which I use for the trips I described above. After experiencing a few really good groomed trails, I decided to get really light, skinny skis. I still spend 80% of my time on the level two equipment, but it is really nice to have options. In case your curious, here is a listing of the weights of this equipment:

Another spot you might consider posting your question is

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Steve Barnett alive? on 03/22/2011 22:55:55 MDT Print View

Didn't Steve Barnett write a book on skinny skiing decades ago? Is he still alive? He must be almost as old as me, and I'm amazed that I'm still alive.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Steve Barnett alive? on 03/23/2011 08:41:51 MDT Print View

Yes, that is the same Steve Barnett. According to the article, he is 63.