Excellent article, David. I especially like the intro. I had a small email conversation with the editor of Ski Trax magazine, and he wrote about the same thing. It is a shame that there is so much focus on the groomed or the steep, and not much about making your own tracks on mellow ground. I'm afraid that most of the folks that do that are on snow shoes, which seems like a shame.
I've written a lot about this niche market with David, much of it on his excellent blog (http://bedrockandparadox.wordpress.com/). So, most of the review confirms what I expected. To begin with, these are excellent skis. I've already ordered a pair, and eagerly await delivery. I could tell even before this review that the length, width and other design details are just right.
I'm still not sold on the permanent skin, but maybe I'll be proven wrong. I personally would like a nice waxless base (especially since waxless bases are very good right now) along with some way to easily attach a skin. Maybe little bolts, which allow a custom skin to be attached. I would sell the skin as part of a package (as opposed to standard skins, which are custom cut by the user). Such a skin would rely less on the glue, and more on the physical attachments.
I'm also not surprised about the problems with a universal binding. My experience with universal bindings matches David's. Generally speaking, if the binding provides good support, then gliding is difficult. With an easy glide, you don't have much support. The only exception I know about is a custom binding, that uses Berwin along with a hinge. I think the main advantage to an universal binding is less bulk (not less weight) along with a more enjoyable experience. I've been on a few trips, where the other guy carried his skis, along with his universal binding. He made very nice, controlled turns along with nice uphill glides. He said he would put the control somewhere between Nordic Backcountry and Telemark gear. He could have carried his ski boots, but then things get really bulky. He could have carried snow shoes (as I did) but then he wouldn't have enjoyed the day as much as he did.
Perhaps the best solution is a good ski boot that allows for easy hiking. I know that some of the A. T. boots have tongue inserts that allow you a fair amount of flexibility going up and good support going down.
But back to the product at hand, I think there is only one thing this ski needs, and that is an easily removable crampon. Even with these short, easily maneuverable skis, I'm sure I will encounter terrain that is too difficult for skis. In that case, I would just like to go into "snowshoe" mode. Knowing that my skis won't go anywhere (up or down) adds a lot of security. With that, I would never use snowshoes again.