New boards

8:30 a.m. on February 27, 2020 (EST)
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What with a new-ish dog in the house and risk of cutting his legs with steel-edged skis, I decide to invest in some edgeless "hunting" skis:
IMG_1070.jpgKongsvold is a place on the old king's road to Trondheim, long used as a stopover for pilgrims dating back to the middle ages. There's an upscale hotel/restaurant there now, but in buildings that are a couple hundred years old. "Jakt" means "hunt" -- the turned over ski has a graphic of a setter's face on it, so the basic idea is that this is a ski you can safely use with a dog for hunting in the forest. But with a 96-66-85 profile it's also built to float and do some turns. Unfortunately a little stiff for my taste, as most Åsnes skis are in my experience, but I've had them out in powder and on windpack and I think they turn better than my old, edged Fischer Outabounds, although they skid quite a lot on the harder surface, of course.

Like all Åsnes backcountry skis (Fisher has it's own version), they take partial skins (the blue-tipped gray strip in the photo) with a forward anchor that inserts into small slots in the base of the ski. They're good enough for climbing up to maybe 20˚ with a flat ski, and allow for better glide than a full length skin. Big weight saver. The skins also come in different widths for different grip/glide ratios -- my wife has a pair of much skinnier, steel-edged Åsnes Cecilie Skog skis and a couple pairs of skins for them, so I can just borrow her skins. With the skins off, I can go on wax. There's not much of a wax pocket so they won't hold wax well, but a wax pocket compromises turnability, so I'm fine with that.
IMG_1072.jpgTo go with them, I got a pair of Crispi Svartisen BC boots (Svartisen is a little ice cap in northern Norway), well over the ankle with a gusseted tongue, plastic ankle cuff, and ratcheting instep and ankle straps. Very nicely made. Haven't tried those yet except to wear around the house, but I'll be going out for a night ski tonight and we'll do a two-night hut trip this weekend. Psyched!
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6:34 p.m. on February 27, 2020 (EST)
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Interesting, the partial skin innovation.  Likewise the substantial side cut, but no metal edges.  I can see by the tracks in your photo that the turn is closer to the appearance of a carved turn than a skidded traditional tele turn, at least on soft snow.

Ed

3:51 a.m. on February 28, 2020 (EST)
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In the photo, it's tele turns on the viewer's right and alpine/parallel turns on the left. I mostly use alpine technique these days regardless of what's on my feet -- more centered and efficient.

The partial skins have been around for maybe 10 years, but it took me a while to get around to trying them. They work great, but climbing powder, especially in loose snow, is limited. I'll be bringing full length skins this weekend just in case, but we have a pre-easter hut-to-hut tour planned and it's tempting to try to make the partials work to keep it simple and save weight.

4:13 p.m. on February 28, 2020 (EST)
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Yea, innovations to "XC" ski gear since the late 1970s, have made alpine technique easier than tele technique in many situations.  I am left wondering why I still see folks cranking deep knee, skidded, tele turns on well groomed piste, when a crisp, well cut parallel turn is easier, feels better, and has more control.  I regularly see the Army 10th Mountain Division at Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort, in the Sierra.  They are using modern tele equipment, but still exclusively train tele turns - I haven't seen these guys make one alpine style turn.  Go figure. 

But you have to agree, nothing more fun than tele turns in deep powder. 

Ed

10:29 a.m. on March 1, 2020 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

Yea, innovations to "XC" ski gear since the late 1970s, have made alpine technique easier than tele technique in many situations.  I am left wondering why I still see folks cranking deep knee, skidded, tele turns on well groomed piste, when a crisp, well cut parallel turn is easier, feels better, and has more control.  I regularly see the Army 10th Mountain Division at Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort, in the Sierra.  They are using modern tele equipment, but still exclusively train tele turns - I haven't seen these guys make one alpine style turn.  Go figure. 

But you have to agree, nothing more fun than tele turns in deep powder. 

Ed

 Agree. Had some nice tree and open slope skiing this weekend where I mixed both techniques. I love my rando rig when the going gets tough, but you can have a lot of fun on light equipment in friendly conditions!

10:19 p.m. on March 1, 2020 (EST)
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I wish I was graceful/coordinated enough to ski well, but every time I’ve tried I couldn’t loosen up enough to control the skis instead of fight them. I can’t ice skate/roller blade, either, pushing off with one foot while gliding on the other is apparently too complex for me. So now you know why I stick to snowshoes LOL

10:32 p.m. on March 1, 2020 (EST)
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Light equipment...

The set up I currently ski consists of very recent equipment purchases: Atomic Backland 95 skis, Volle HD Mountaineer binding, and Scott Excursion Telemark Boots.  (Scott acquired the boot design and name, from Garamont.)  This set up gets me down any run I want to ski at a resort, and is perfect for anything I ever skied in the BC, far from help.  I don't use a cable binding, finding I don't need whatever additional control they offer.  A good stiff 3 pin boot and toe binding suffices for me.  These boards can ski way better than I currently am able.

I have skied free heel on similar equipment, going back to the days of yore.  My first BC skis were metal edge Bonna 2400s, paired to Asolo expedition 3-pin double boots.  I still prefer these boots for comfort, but skis - well they have come a long way.  Skis can now turn at the mere thought of doing, so effortless is control.

When I go off into the BC snow, skiing is primarily a means of transportation.  Most of my BC skiing is in the High Sierras, with a pack.  Mostly solo on conservative routes, at least by Sierra standards.  The snow is rarely great at higher elevations; final approaches to passes are often on crampons at day break, sometimes the wind or sun make large areas un-skiable.  Sometimes it is the stairway to heaven...

Some of the modern BC binding/boot systems are lighter that the above mentioned 3-pin.  I see a lot of it in the BC, compared to traditional 3 pin equipment.  It is really impressive the control these tech designs offer.  Great equipment for an adventurous day out skiing.  But I prefer the simpler 3-pin, with less to go wrong, for multi day treks.  The boots of the hi tech systems don't flex at the ball of the foot; instead they have a rocker soul.  I prefer the flex at the ball of the foot  of the 3-pin boot for its comfort along walking sections of a trek.  My set up isn't the lightest, but it is still very light, compared to what many use in the BC.

Ed

2:11 a.m. on March 2, 2020 (EST)
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My rando boots are 10 year-old Scarpa F3 with a flexi toe for climbing. I have to use a toe block on my Dynafit bindings to avoid unwanted flex leading to a release. The newer Scarpa TX Pro can go both ways, compatible with NTN and derivatives (i.e. Meidjo, 22 Designs Lynx -- my daughter just bought into the latter)  for telemarking and Dynafit type bindings for rando. But it's a beefy 4-buckle boot and there aren't a lot of other options for NTN, so that and price have kept me from buying into NTN. My daughter and son in law rebuilt their TX Pros with a lighter 1-buckle cuff from a rando boot, but I have no idea what it cost them.

Since my earliest telemark days (winter 81-82) I have thought that 75mm/3-pin was retro-engineered (sorry Ed) from what was originally a light touring system, never conceived for turning at speed, where the boot has to do all the bending, and I've tried a lot of the alternatives. For two decades they just kept beefing 75 mm up, with cables, springs, plastic boots, so that it is more complicated and way heavier than today's rando setups. By all accounts NTN is a big improvement, and the new bindings noted above cut weight, but modern tele binding still require springs and springs are heavy, and I'd like to see a lighter boot. 

I get the retro-charm of 75mm 3-pin, if you are willing to accept performance limitations, but not for me.  If I'm using plastic boots I want safety release and tour mode -- I use 7TM bindings with my T2s. I adopted NNN-BC as soon as it appeared (ca. 1990), used it exclusively in the BC for over a decade, for a while with a cable add-on. With the often demanding conditions in Norway I finally went over to plastic boots (T2s) and cable bindings and eventually rando for big mountain day tours, but for hut-to-hut and good conditions I'm on NNN-BC. They tour way better, and turn just as well, the main limitation is that the boots could have more torsional rigidity for driving bigger skis or on harder snow.

On Saturday on top of Kufjellet (Cow Mountain) we met up with a group on full-on rando gear, super wide skis, a couple on reverse camber powder-only skis, while I was on my edgeless dog skis. They skied off ahead of us and stopped partway down below a drop. The dog bounded ahead to greet them so I figured I better catch up, started popping rhythmic parallel turns straight down the fall line in the heavy powder, pulled to a tele stop in front of them -- on gear that weighed and cost half of their rando gear <grin>. I can still pull that off in good conditions -- but the wind came up during the night, and on a morning run a light windpack crust at treeline had me struggling where I would have been shredding on my rando skis. Still good powder in the trees, though. Tradeoffs...

7:04 a.m. on March 2, 2020 (EST)
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I understand your perspective on the development of the 3-pin binding.  I shed my cables after those Bonna 2400s.  I like the basic 3-pin.  If I were wearing a high top boot of any material, I'd want release bindings, too, but my boots are low on the calf, and those 3-pin bindings do spit out the boot when torqued. 

The thing is I don't need more than my charming 3-pin set up.  I have used this basic set up for decades in the High Sierra, PNW and Rockies.  It gets me anywhere I want to go, and I can keep with most folks no matter what they are skiing.  The equipment tops out on 37 degree inclines, as that is when the side of toe binding finds the slope on a traverse.  That is still plenty steep.  My limits are determined by age acquired wisdom, and less endurance.  I no longer ski moguls or the steeper of the Black Diamond runs at resorts.  The vast majority of my wilderness skiing has always been shuffling along under a pack, limiting whatever passes for shredding.  It only takes a good fall or two with a pack driving your face into the snow, to realize you can't ski like those guys in the Warren Miller movies when you are hauling 10 days of gear on your back.

Ed

3:08 p.m. on March 2, 2020 (EST)
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That looks like some fun skiing, BigRed! I've been thinking about a new AT ski setup myself...

It's good you've thought ahead about sharp edges and your dog. My kids have both suffered cuts that required stitches from sharp race ski edges. They can do some serious damage.

10:08 p.m. on March 4, 2020 (EST)
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I don't know much about BC/backwoods skiing, but I do know that metal edges can do great damage to a dogs legs. I cringe when I see so many folks taking their dogs BC skiing, romping around them as they ski, on BC skis with very sharp edges. I was not aware of a "hunting" ski that does not have such edges....maybe I will have to give BC skiing a try, especially since Vermont is developing quite a hut to hut ski network!

https://www.rgj.com/story/life/outdoors/recreation/2014/12/30/skiing-safety-dogs-lake-tahoe-backcountry/21069913/

Thanks for the great and informative review!

2:20 a.m. on March 5, 2020 (EST)
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Many years ago I had "Madshus" X country skis (I hope the spelling is OK) and a 7 wax pack which I used in Scotland and Scandinavia with the traditional low boots and Swedish military Kandahar type bindings. Many trips and journeys were accomplished in style and comfort. The steel edges were a vast improvement on the older solid hickory skis with no edges at all. All this modern jazz just blows my mind!

2:20 a.m. on March 5, 2020 (EST)
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Fisher also makes a wide edgeless ski for skiing with dogs/hunting, but it has a "crown" waxless base which might be right for some people but not for me -- too slow and noisy. Widely available here in Norway but oddly not on their web site, don't know if it's available in the US. It is called Fisher Jakt Crown Easy Skin, takes partial skins like the Åsnes. I imagine Åsnes skis are even harder to find in the US, ironic because when I worked at EMS in Boston in the 70s the Åsnes Turlangrenn was by far the biggest seller.

8:07 p.m. on March 5, 2020 (EST)
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What a nice post and thread! To add my share, army units stick to tele turns training for the heel free use, plus they have to carry everything on skis, no vehicles at all. Heavy or uneven loads to carry, slow speeds off-piste, and so on.

7:54 a.m. on March 6, 2020 (EST)
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I remember seeing military units on winter maneuvers in the 80s when I worked at Cannon Mountain in NH, learning to downhill ski and humping around huge sleds and also camped out in the Pemi Wilderness one time when I skied through there. I think they were up from Georgia and many of them "not overly familiar" with snow and cold.

Åsnes also makes the Combat Nato ski, an all-white "snow camo" version of its Ingstad ski. Probably used by the Norwegian military and maybe others as well. A bit skinnier and less sidecut than my new skis.

Heathcote: Were those skis wood or fiberglass? What decade(?). Madshus is still around and making very good xc skis and boots, including some skinny, more traditional Norwegian mountain skis but unfortunately nothing that suits my needs in that department. One of my first pairs of xc skis back in the 70s was the all-wood, natural finish Madshus Birkebeiner, and in the 2000s I had and updated fiberglass version under the same name, what they call a marka ski mostly for in-track touring. I also have an old, pretty beat pair of Madshus citizen racing skis, and I recently reviewed the Madshus Nanosonic Intelligrip waxless "skin" ski. I've been putting a lot of mileage on those this winter, it's so easy to just grab them and go out the door, and they perform better than any other waxless ski that I have tried.

3:35 p.m. on March 6, 2020 (EST)
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Savvas Hiker said:

What a nice post and thread! To add my share, army units stick to tele turns training for the heel free use, plus they have to carry everything on skis, no vehicles at all. Heavy or uneven loads to carry, slow speeds off-piste, and so on.

But you can perform alpine style turns on free heel tele equipment!  Often the alpine turn on modern tele equipment is less strenuous to execute, and provides better control.  Performing tele turns on groomed slopes will not have much impact on how well one can tele turn on un-groomed slopes.  Most of my BC touring is with a heavy pack on free heel skis.  There are definitely conditions where a tele turn is preferable; but a lot of BC terrain - especially conditions where the skis stay on the surface of the snow, like groomed resorts - can be skied more efficiently using alpine techniques.

Ed

April 4, 2020
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