Ultralight Skiing
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Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Ultralight Skiing Gear on 12/26/2011 12:12:24 MST Print View

I'm moving this thread over here, from a review of Hok Skis. My thought is that someone might search this forum for this information, and have an easier time finding it. These comments are in response to Jonathan's last post (http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?display_style=nested&forum_thread_id=56977&nid=484050).

Jonathan: Very interesting and helpful post. I appreciate the information. I have a few comments:

Yes, the term "waxless" is confusing, but so are many skiing terms. The nice thing is that "waxless" is used throughout the industry and in publications. The only confusing part is that you should wax your waxless skis. Regardless of what you call it, I really like the patterned bases. I have kickers, and I use them a lot. But when the terrain is flat, or not very steep, the waxless base is much faster. Depending on the terrain, a waxless base can save a lot of time. I skied with a guy and saw him take off his skins going down, then put on his skins for a moderate uphill. I was able to just kick and glide my way through that section (saving my kickers for the much steeper stuff). Of course, the price I pay is that I'm a tiny bit slower going down. There are trade-offs with every setup, but I run across terrain that is well suited for waxless bases all the time. This is why I wish those really light skis you mention would add patterned bases. Maybe someday.

Regarding boots, I think you hit the nail on the head: fit is the key. That is why, unfortunately, I wouldn't buy used boots unless I knew the person well. I prefer working with a store that will allow me to return them if they don't fit quite right. That may be why that guy was using cross country boots with the expensive, metal edged, carved skis. It may be that he really just likes the comfort of his boots. I would imagine that while a more supportive boot can be quite comfortable, all things being equal, a thinner lighter boot will be more comfortable (just as a trail runner will be more comfortable than a hiking boot).

It is nice to hear that more boot makers are making NNN-BC and SNS-BC boots. As you mentioned, there really aren't a lot of boots to choose from in this area. I am not too fond of the pair I own, but haven't tried replacing them, just because there aren't many choices.

From what I've heard, boot makers don't think they will ever be able to make telemark boots that are as light as A. T. (Randonee) boots. Allowing boots to flex the way that telemark boots need to flex actually adds weight. That is my understanding anyway, so feel free (anyone) to correct me. In general, though, these are what I believe Rando Race Gear delivers:

1) Extremely light skis
2) Extremely light bindings
3) Extremely light boots
4) Boots that are comfortable for walking as well as skiing

If I very much preferred the telemark turn over parallel, then I would be quite happy with items 1, 2 and 4. I might be a bit jealous of my friends and their lighter boots, but as long as my feet are comfortable, I would be OK. My hope is that over time this technology trickles down to more affordable gear, and that they eventually add waxless bases to the skis.

Edited by rossbleakney on 12/26/2011 12:13:13 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Ultralight Skiing Gear on 12/26/2011 13:02:40 MST Print View

> I really like the patterned bases.
Yup. Not enough on real ice, but I am betetr off taking the skis off there!

> fit is the key
Yup - many times over!

> Of course, the price I pay is that I'm a tiny bit slower going down.
When you have a full pack on, 'a tiny bit slower' may not be a problem!!!

> nice to hear that more boot makers are making NNN-BC and SNS-BC boots.
Switched from leather 3-pin to NNN-BC. Nice, lighter, good control.

> boot makers don't think they will ever be able to make telemark boots that are as light
> as A. T. (Randonee) boots.
Tele is different. 'Resort tele' seems to be popular, but those boots (eg T3) are murder for real touring imho.

Cheers

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Ultralight Skiing Gear on 12/26/2011 18:21:01 MST Print View

Trickling down - how I wish. But will it? I wonder if the market is big enough to encourage trickle-down. There seem to be lots of folks who want that burly tele gear, and lots of folks who want that light AT gear, but not so many who want light touring gear - XCD gear is what it's often referred to as, meaning "Cross County Downhill" for a mix of touring and downhill. Skis you can get - I really like my Atomic Rainiers, which are not as light as those rando race models but still pretty light, and with a camber more suited to touring than downhill. As for waxless baes on rando race skis, I doubt we'll see it - rolling terrain does not seem to be what those guys race on!

Bindings and boots are the quandary. I have Garmont Excursions - as light a plastic 3-pin boot as you can get - but I wish they were lighter and more flexible. What I love about them is they are warm and dry, and stay that way for a 9-day trip. No leather boot can do that, and I doubt that the fabric/leather combinations can either. AT boots, if I could afford them, would be lighter, and the bindings about as light as my 3-pins - but they lack that little bit of resistance that makes maneuvering in the woods a lot easier.
I can easily imagine the setup that I really want, but it would be a plastic boot, and that means a mold, and that means you need a big market to amortize that mold or you're never going to make any money. You can make a fabric/leather type boot that is pretty close to what I am looking for, and they are out there, but they are not as warm or as dry, and the difference in control between those and my excursions is much bigger than the difference in weight.

It drives me up the wall. But the consolation is that the small size of the market is due to how few people want to go deep into the wilderness on skis, and that means I can have a whole mountain range almost to myself for a week or so every year.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Re: Ultralight Skiing Gear on 12/26/2011 23:55:57 MST Print View

I have Atomic Rainiers too. I also have a pair of skis that are significantly lighter than that, because they don't have metal edges. Then I have skis lighter than those, which are long, skinny and meant only for the rare times that I ski the groomed areas. The racing skis are lighter than those. That's the crazy part, and the part that I hope will trickle down. By that I mean that the sophisticated technology that goes into the really expensive skis (allowing skis with metal edges to be lighter than my super skinny metal edgeless skis) to be available in cheaper skis. This happens with technology all the time, and could, theoretically, happen with the skis. At least, that is my hope.

I agree that they probably won't add waxless patterns to those racing skis anytime soon. Then again, if they make interesting race courses (with a wide variety of terrain) then skis like that would make perfect sense. As I mentioned earlier, it seems like more ski makers are adding patterns to big fat curvy skis (like the Rossignol 125). That ski, like a few other waxless ones, has more sidecut and a bigger width in general than some of the ultralight skis.

I agree that there isn't that much in the middle market in general. I think there are a couple things that drive it. One is the resorts. Both the lifts and the groomed resorts cater to a lot of people. The other one is racing. The Nordic racing and Alpine racing market has been huge for a long time (it helps when your sport is in the Olympics). Now we have this relatively new sport, and it seems to drive lighter gear. I'm all for it, as long it makes the relatively cheap stuff better.