søndag 13. mars 2016

On the Wrong Skis ?

I do feel like I have been conned a little and on the wrong skis for five years now.

I got a pair of light tour skis, which are Fischer Power Wax 2009 model I think. I always thought I would get the benefit of the slightly broader ski with side cut, but in fact they were the wrong skis for me!

When I was working in Kristiansand I soon noticed that the type of keen, fitness skier had most often as good skinny skis as the Birkebein condom kledd ski-geeks. Even folk over 50 and pensioners had narrow, straight racing and training skis. Oh yeah at the weekend you see masses of folk with steel edge 50mm wide telemark/mountain skis, planking along, some pretty quickly. But on a cold wednesday night with the sun setting and the headtorches bobbing around in the tracks, I saw 90% skinny skis.

Now I know of course there is a good reason for this - folk like going in the prepped tracks and the same as a racing bike versus a more sedate town bike, the narrower contact area and the lighter, stiffer ski puts more power and traction down....to a point. In new 'kramm' snow, wet and aired, my old blue skis excel and I reckon they are pretty good downhill out of the tramlines because they float better and steer better with leaning and weight alone than a straight-skinny-ski.

With all the icey conditions around Kristiansand in the cold winters of 2012 and 2013, with thawbacks and also a huge amount of traffic, the rock hard tracks have eaten into my plastic edges on the fischers. I did look into getting a pair of Fischer Steel Lights which are a training ski, skinny, with 3/4 length steel edges (now apparently discontinued but still in stock several of the larger outlets no doubt) but they were always a bit of an investment and anyway I was taken with the idea of Atomic Skintec since their launch about 5 years ago.

The fischers I have and their comparable skis from most other manufacturers around the 50 - 48 mm max width, are probably ideal for semi prepared tracks with a lot of new snow and following tracks which have been trodden by other skiers. They are not broad enough for deeper, soft snow while they are perfectly at home in hard worn tram lines at the other extreme, and like clister. I would say that they are though a compromise and that you would be better with a light pair of tour and fell skis like the BC 45 or the Åsnes Nordmarka which have steel edges but a shortish camber. They may have the same dimensions, but the steel edges mean venturing out into hardened spring snow on the virgin mountainsides is very acheivable.

The reverse then is true of getting "skinny " skis- you limit yourself to nicely groomed tramlines and mid lanes. Ask yourself this though- will you ever really do those longer tours out of the tracks or when there is a risk for lots of new snow? If you live near prepared tracks then skinny skis are lighter and faster, and I would say follow your learning curve better than tour skis because you can really pick up the pace on the skis as you improve.

I have seen some big fellows who make me look rather, ahem, petite, out on 212cm racing skis with all the gear and a big wax case in the boot of their car. However if you intend going a lot with a heavier pack or a 'pulk' (pulled sled) then you really want to look at getting a set of mountain touring skis to support your weight and engender better turning and ploughing.

I found in the firmer conditions that my new 41-40-40 training skis were much easier to keep a pace on with and sprint up hills on. They felt stable in double poling too, and I feel I can work on my weak spot, double pole with single kick, better than with heavier, broader skis. In the cycle world equivalent it is not quite the same as going from say a Hybrid / Town bike down to an 18C racer bike, more like a 32C down to a 23 C continental like I used to run on my handbuilt racer- not too much pressure and enough stability that it all works nicely. Soft, wet snow then is the equivalent of mud, so on those days you are going to dig in and slip with skinny skis, or catch edges in the mid lane downhill as I discovered- they dig in and suck down!

I can't say I was mis-sold the tour skis I got a long time ago now -I got the right pair given the description of what I was looking to do with them, my weight and my ability then.  I just did not really think about what I was going to actually do with them, and opted for a compromise.

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