I’ll admit that now I finally might very well be repeating myself, but to clarify the state-of-the-market in response to some recent posts:
Skis are all very similar (except for the even lighter Merelli models ... which have a very bad reputation for breaking) and weigh a bit over 3 pounds per pair at a bit over 160cm (unless you want to drop as low as 150cm for the women’s minimum, which will save even more weight and gain even more maneuverability in tight quarters). About half a dozen different models are available in the U.S. (way more in Europe), with the cheapest from Hagan and Dynafit (the “Race Performance” model). Cheap used rando skis can be found from Atomic for ~$100: TM:11, MX:11, MX:20.
No ultralight rando race skis are available with patterned bases (i.e., “fishscales” or the misleadingly termed “waxless”). Patterned-base skis are now available in a very wide variety of widths and lengths, and the weights although quite light is still much heavier than rando race skis.
For a rando race ski on lots of rolling terrain, kick wax would work okay (although not as well as on a true double-cambered ski of course). Kickers skins are another option (just keeping them on all the time) or super-skinny mohair skins (sometimes termed “runners”).
Bindings are cheap (~$200 used) if you take on extra weight and go with the non-race Dynafit Speed, but the older Dynafit Low Tech Race is now showing up on eBay fairly regularly (as elite racers upgrade their gear and as wannabe racers go through their equivalent of all the nice road bikes showing up for sale barely used b/c of Lance mania). Another good deal is trying to rack down last year’s Dynafit Low Tech Lite. This year’s Dynafit Low Tech Radical is reasonably affordable by alpine downhill standards if ordered from Europe (not available in North America for some odd reason), but it lacks a completely “flat” touring position, so probably not a good choice for more nordic-esque applications.
Weights vary from about a pound to half a pound, per pair, with mounting screws. And speaking of mounting, this is not for the do-it-yourselfer, unless you’re really good at this kind of work. (I’ve mounted four such pairs of bindings, but I’d had many years of experience with other Dynafit models.)
Boots are now at around three pounds per pair from four different companies (well, except for Merelli with a new custom boot at only . . . two pounds . . . per pair?!?). Near-race boots are available at around four pounds. But for more nordic-esque applications, I think the somewhat dated Scarpa F1 is preferable, especially with modifications:
... and the best part is that since it’s no longer used by rando racers, used prices are about $100 to $200, with good availability. (So in other words, blame the Euro rando race scene for increasingly the price of cutting-edge gear to crazy high levels, but also thank it for creating an affordable used market.)
As for how all this skis, compared to the skiing video footage at the Hok website, I’m able to ski about 4x as fast (in rando races when under time pressure!) on terrain much steeper with far trickier snow. (Yes, the skis are skinnier, but the 125cm length of the reviewed Hok is absurdly short for real skiing, and the lack of any rear cable or other support plus a severely hacked-up telemark boot can’t help matters much.) Here are some old pics from a glacier in the summer:
On firm snow, this is just some mellow skiing, but I think the fairly precise short-radius turns convey the control the gear provides:
Quoting a few prior posts:
“In other words, a skinny ski I specifically bought to cruise around in the groomed, because it is faster and lighter than my general purpose ski, weighs about the same as a metal edged ski with ten times the sidecut.”
– My rando race setup weighs significantly less than my nordic backcountry setup: as was said, it’s as if my mtn bike were to weigh less than my road bike...
“It also begs the question: I wonder if you could use plain cross country boots with those skis? The obvious answer is why bother.”
- Funny you should mention that, since each year I see a guy in this one rando race who does exactly that ... and I have exactly the same reaction when I see that setup! (Although I’ve never asked him why/how he came up with that combination.)
“If you use a lot of plastic, you can make a lightweight boot. The big challenge is making it comfortable, especially for hiking. Lots of people say these are, but that varies person by person.”
- Individual fit of course varies immensely. That said, if these boots fit you, they are quite comfy for tromping around. I spent a couple hours on Saturday with trailwork on a rando race backcountry ascent route, and although regular hiking boots would have been lighter, the near-race rando race boots (plastic lower shell, carbon fiber upper cuff) I had on were just as comfy. (And ditto for then hiking down the upper half of the ski area from the summit, which I had hoped would have more snow already made, ugh...)
BTW, at the other end of the spectrum, I see that Rossignol is coming out with a new “OT” version of its X5 nordic boot. For many nordic backcountry skiers, so-called “bar” bindings (i.e., NNN-BC or SNS-BC) are a very attractive option, but unfortunately the boots have really lagged behind the potential of the binding system, so nice to see what looks like an innovative model. (If you’re looking for used, I really like my old Salomon Raid boots - shame that they discontinued it.)