X Country Skis?

6:04 p.m. on September 14, 2011 (EDT)
9 reviewer rep
119 forum posts

I dunno if this post is appropriate but I'm gonna thow it out there anyway.  Sorry.  I'm looking to get new X country skis or preferably the wider, shorter skis to do some backpacking/skiing this winter.  We have some great wooded areas/trails by us & I know they do x country skiing back there.  I'm more interested in the shorter, fatter type.  Is there a particular name for these?  Are they touring skis?  I dont want the hard ski boot type set up but someone mentioned I should get these shorter, fatter, x country skis which have the "regular" x country ski boots and are better for off trail skiing.  I checked REI and backcountry.com but a little confused.  Thanks.

7:38 p.m. on September 14, 2011 (EDT)
102 reviewer rep
2,993 forum posts

There is no single ideal set up for back country skiing, thus the advice you have received is misleading.

If the terrain you intend to negotiate is gently inclined or flat, the "soft" boots will be fine, but if you have terrain requiring the ability to turn with any precision or brake your speed you most definitely will need stiff boots.

If you intend to use a christy turn or telemark style turns, a ski with an hourglass profile (when viewed from above) is highly desirable, since it is that curved edge that creates the turn.

You voiced a preference for a wide short ski; do you have a reason?

As far as width and length, the recent trends have been to shorten and widen backcountry skis.  The ski length affects the ability to track a straight line; a longer ski is easier to keep from wondering off your intended line.  Longer skis are harder to turn, however, because they tend to create a larger diameter turning arc, and because the length generates something called swig weight that resists your effort to pivot the ski into a new direction.  Ski width, when combined with length, provides floatation on the snow; the more surface area of the ski's footprint, the more floatation.  Wider skis are better suited to soft snow, because they float better than narrow skis.  But narrow skis are generally better on hard snow because keep their edges better in turns than wider skis.  It is due to these considerations, and others,  why I ask if you have a reason to be inclined towards wide short skis.


5:48 a.m. on September 15, 2011 (EDT)
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119 forum posts

I was told that the wider shorter skis are easier to ski on especially if you go off trail.  Frustrating thing about all of this is that we are both expert alpine skiers but when it comes to x country....DUH!

1:53 p.m. on September 15, 2011 (EDT)
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2,993 forum posts


If you are a skilled alpine skier, you definitely want a XC touring boot stiff enough to execute a good, tight, telemark turn.  Flimsy light touring footwear will just frustrate you. 

The rules about ski length and width on XC are basically the same as lift serviced slopes.  Keep in mind you should not be doing challenging Warren Miller type skiing in the BC, because you are far far away from help, hence want to avoid getting injured.  For the most part I find skis in the BC are more a mode of transportation than gear used for thrill seeking sport.  Even the epic powder bowl should be taken conservatively, both to avoid athletic injuries, as well as to minimize exposure to avalanche.  Likewise you will find hauling a pack will reduce you to shuffling along, and avoiding anything more ambitious than a gentle glide, as the added mass will retard any quick adjustments to terrain, and end up pitching you head over heels.  There is nothing like a face plant while being tackled by a 50 pound pack!  Hence the quick response features of a short ski are pretty much nullified by pragmatic considerations. 

It is a good idea to bring some additional equipment with you on BC ski trips.  In addition to the requisite first aid stuff, consider a repair kit that includes tools and spare parts for bindings, 5' of wire, duct tape, and emergency replacement ski tip.

Also acquire climbing skins.  Wax is cool and waxless sounds convenient, but both are far less efficient than a set of skins.  Consider a second pair if going out for several days (just in case the first pair has trouble sticking to the ski bases. 

Also consider getting some kneepads with hard shell faces to protect your telemark knees from incidental collisions with stuff like tree limbs and rocks hidden under the snow.  Shattering a patella sucks.

Lastly attend some snow safety skills courses.  Learn how to analyze the snow pack, choose safe routes through the terrain, and use beacons. 


7:31 p.m. on September 15, 2011 (EDT)
905 reviewer rep
554 forum posts

First buy "Allen & Mike's Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book". The best money you'll ever spend on winter camping and backcountry skiing.


I recommend a ski like the Karhu "10th Mountain" (named after the WW II U.S. 10th Mt'n. Div.). They are all-around backcountry skis that are wide enough for everything but endlessly deep powder and have enough sidecut for all but steep terrain.

You also need boots that are sufficiently high as in over-the-ankle and have a good Nordic backcountry touring binding, not a regular ski touring binding.

Personally I use old-style 75 mm boots, either leather or plastic Scarpa T3 B-C boots, depending on the trip. And my bindings are attatched to Voile release bindings which accept most Nordic bindings on top of them. If I fall badly they WILL release, saving me a joint or bone injury. As a former Nordic patroller and present alpine patroller I highly recommend a release binding. Don't ask.

As for poles, adjustable hiking poles with snow baskets, as Leki has, are very well suited for backcountry touring. ** Learn how to properly position and use the pole straps for maximum efficiency.**

With all but plastic double boots you'll want knee high gaiters and if it's really cold where you ski, as in Minnesota, you'll want them insulated as well. Regular uinsulated gaiters add about 10 F. to the warmth of your boots.

And finally, do take at least 5 lessons one week apart so you can practice each lesson.

If you plan to do much uphill skiing you'll absolutely need climbing skins to aid you.

As for carrying a backpack of winter gear I highly recommend you make your own pulk because wearing a heavy pack makes skiing quite difficult and often dangerous. Directions for making a pullk are found online if you GOOGLE "Build your own pulk".

Finally, get a decent VBL (vapor barrier liner) pair of socks. Either waterprofed, seam sealed ripstop or better yet, thin diver's neoprene socks. Worn over thin polypro liner socks these will keep your sweat out of yoru boots and thus keep your feet warm. Always take your boots inside your sleeping bag at night. Cold boots in the morning are truly painful.


Have fun. Winter is a great time to travel and camp.



6:05 a.m. on September 16, 2011 (EDT)
9 reviewer rep
119 forum posts

Thanks guys.  You definately know your stuff.  So it sounds like I need to get these "touring" boots?  Similar or the same as teli boots?  For whatever reason I thought they had these regular x country ski boots but just the skis were shorter and fatter so if you skiied into the woods, out of a man made x country ski track you'd be ok. 

1:41 p.m. on September 16, 2011 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
167 forum posts

good  advice here check this out also.


david gives a pretty clear explanation of different ski types, and what they do best.

June 17, 2018
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