torsdag 13. februar 2014

Which Skis for XC? Is There a Formula? More myth and prejudice debusting

I'm sitting here watching the Winter Olympics 10k' womens classic XC langrenn, while here the rain merrily washes away the massive amounts of snow up to 400 m over sea level here.

Plenty time to read and get better from a bout of bronchitis (never had that before!) so I found a huge thread on a forum in Norway started by a Mamma blogger on what type of skis she should get?

Norsk shibboleths and prejudice abunded, while the odd peep from waxless fans was burried. The best advice is that if you have a dog then don't get steel edged skis, and hunters have a couple of favourite skis for back country as such.

Here then is my go, which I will later put in a table, a kind of disjointed flow chart here, on what type of skis you should buy as a newcomer or as an intermediate developing your style and ready to notch up your experience.

Reason for taking up skiing Defines Ski Type

Active Winter Cardio Training: you are fit from another sport and want to train hard on skis. Proviso is that you have access to well prepared trails and a good deal of fresh snow and minus degrees for the main season Jan-Mar or preferably longer.

Skis: Training ski package with good quality boots and bindings which are matched to the boot, such as atomic's system. Probably ordinary, smooth soled waxing skis. Examples- Madshus Lillehammer, Fischer Superlight/wax light and others from Rosignol and Solomon as well as atomic, but hold up there for:

Waxing: can't be bothered to wax? Try either Fischer RCS waxless or Atomic Skintec.

Icey, low level conditions: Try Fischer Steel lights if Fido stays at home, or the Lillehammer above which have a special reinforced edge underlay which looks like steel to me.

If you are serious , what about Racing Skis ? Well skis are relatively cheaper than mountain bikes for example use for use, so a complete set of skis, poles, boots, clothes could be had for around 1200 euros which is a mid level carbon mountain bike.

For the money you will get a set which are matched for your wieght and height, and also with some idea of your power when kicking. You will probably be started on a softer pre-loaded ski to make kicking easier.

My first ever tour on XC skis was on Fischer Carbon RCS wax fri- I fell over a bit, but the instructor kept me going and gave me some ok tips. Ploughing on the hard, old snow conditions that year at Geilo was pretty difficult. However much against my instructor's advice I managed 20km on my first day ever, being a too sore to move the next day from falls and slips!

If you have good conditions, little thawing and middles snowfall, as well as great prepared tracks which are undulating valley floor or mountain side, and you are serious then why not splash the cash on racing skis? Well you may end up breaking poles or skis or just as bad, grazing the soles if you can't stop at a car park or the likes.

Touring: Cabin  Visits in the Mountains, Family Tours, Longer semi prepared Tours with Pack:

Well of course touring skis are on the cards, but you can also consider the narrower mountain skis with steel edges such as Fischer E89 BC, Åsnes Vikefjell and Åsnes Holmekollen.    The fischer come in waxless too, while the Åsnes come with a short skin locking groove which for the purpose is pretty much as good if not better than waxless and means you can choose later.

Atomic have a range of touring skis with their very useful waxless Posigrip 3D grip technology : I had this on my first skis from them and it is pretty okay but I had to revert to clister on top in wet or icey conditions. The dearer skis are no doubt better and the technology is no doubt developed since 2003!

Remote Cabin Access and Making Your Own Tracks

Here you are into mountain touring skis and the newer randonee skis, also you may find skis called off piste-telemark. 

Personally I would opt for the latter because the modern, broad ski with side cut when combined with a telemark binding and boot make for a good deep snow mountain tour ski with easier progress on the walking stages and even some skating on the flat.

Randonee skis are taking the place of traditional mountain tour skis and telemark skis for the more adventourous and picking up thrill seekers who would never have considered cross country touring before, bums firmly on lift seats. The benefits of downhill control and comfort for both the new randonee and the new cuts in telemark off piste skis out-weigh the loss of fast flat touring ability. Combined with the excellent synthetic skins you are talking about a direct route up and an exciting run down.

Lighter langrenn-fjellski are okay for harder snow and tour routes where there are skidoos and other skiers blazing the trail for you. But for any deep snow and mountain tops you are talking the other two.

In fact I don't really see a place for traditional fjellski because so many people misuse them when a lighter, langrenn pre-bend would be a happier combination for prepared trails and easy terrain with packed or old snow.

Long Valley or Plateau Touring

Where fjell ski have a definite place is for longer tours over flatter terrain where as above you have a degree of trails being at least tramped down, and you can avoid deep snow for the most part.

A wide ski with steel edges and a sturdy boot and binding will make for weight distribution when carrying a pack, and will tackle any snow which has settled and firmed up.

Even here though, a british south pole was using Åsnes holmenkollen for training at least,  I must check up. These are a light, quite narrow mountain touring ski with a reduced steel edge and a shorter kicking pre-bend to increase efficiency over flat, hard terrain. Vikefjell or E89 are also a good type to look at in this ball park, but wider skis do have an advantage where a significant part of the tour will be on new snow or routes which are not driven with skidoos or many skiers.

Even your last couple of km to a private cabin (or first if you are using it as a base) could make the use of broader (55mm up) a better choice than a narrower ski for a mixed terrain and varying snow conditions tour with a heavier pack.

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