AT Nordic Ski Systems: Discovering the Best of Backcountry Nordic and Alpine Touring Systems Through Hybridization
Feb 18, 2014 at 7:28 pm #1313490Stephanie JordanSpectator
@maiaLocale: Rocky MountainsFeb 18, 2014 at 8:45 pm #2074946
Good project Ryan.
The latest generation of tech race and race-ish boots are quite amazing. The warmth and waterproofing advantages are enormous, especially for multiday stuff in crappy conditions. My own objections to the system, and continued use of 3 pin bindings and duckbill boots for nordic touring, are twofold. First, the lack of metatarsal bend in the boot and any friction in the binding system results in sub-optimal kick during a diagonal stride. I'd spitball a 30-40% reduction, average, depending on conditions. Obviously, not so relevant when breaking trail. Second, hiking and doing camp chores in plastic boots, even heavily rockered, short BSL race boots, sucks. My favorite routes over on the east side of the divide always seem to feature a decent amount of hiking in wind scoured areas.Feb 19, 2014 at 2:09 am #2074993rmeurantBPL Member
Very interesting article; but what can compare with the all-too-occasional grace and elegance of fluent telemarking?Feb 19, 2014 at 9:14 am #2075071
"but what can compare with the all-too-occasional grace and elegance of fluent telemarking?"
As a longtime fluent, graceful, and elegant backcountry telemarker who just this year switched to Tech gear, at first I asked the same question. I missed the telemark. However, after a few days of skiing yet more gracefully, elegantly, and fluently both uphill and down, I am a convert to this new religion. Lost many pounds from my feet, and can ski much farther without stopping, due to greater efficiency. I hope my life of skiing has been thus extended many years.Feb 19, 2014 at 9:17 am #2075074
Excellent. I've been pondering something similar, just a bit more powder capable. I'm thinking Voile Vector BC skis (fishscales, 117-94-107, 6 lbs) and up a level for boot stiffness.Feb 19, 2014 at 9:29 am #2075083
"hiking and doing camp chores in plastic boots, even heavily rockered, short BSL race boots, sucks."
I'm using the La Sportiva Sideral boots, lightweight nylon mostly with a little bit of carbon, short rockered soles, freely pivoting cuffs. Super comfortable. Uphill, like comfy house slippers. Downhill, like alpine boots. Walking, like hiking boots. And they're warm. Walking in my old duckbill telemark boots was intolerable, though they were comfortable for skiing.
Dave's point about diagonal stride is valid. Also, the lack of resistance at the toe when in touring mode can be annoying at times in deep snow maneuvers. Not perfect.Feb 19, 2014 at 9:37 am #2075091
James, I have the Siderals as well. A great boot with a perfect fit after I got the sixth toe punched a bit. They walk about as well as a rigid boot could be expected to, but compared to mid-weight fabric/leather jobs, I would not call them comfortable in this respect.
My trip this past weekend had 6 miles of dry hiking and 29 of skiing. Plastics would have worked, but I prefer a flexible sole.Feb 19, 2014 at 9:38 am #2075093
"Excellent. I've been pondering something similar, just a bit more powder capable. I'm thinking Voile Vector BC skis (fishscales, 117-94-107, 6 lbs) and up a level for boot stiffness."
Thumbs up, Dan. I've been thinking of adding the Vector BCs with a set of machine screw inserts so I can transfer bindings from ski to ski. Skins in rolling low angle terrain are a total pain, as Ryan notes. With the Vector BCs you could get down most anything in most any conditions, if you have to.Feb 19, 2014 at 10:05 am #2075104Sam HaraldsonBPL Member
@sharaldsLocale: Gallatin Range
+1 on Dave's comment regarding a flexible sole. Granted I'd love to put a bit more grace into my attempts at tele turns but being able to comfortably tour and walk while off ski are more important.
Ryan, why the new terminology, Nordic AT? XCD seems to be the phrase of the times, or at least was two years ago when I was building my setup (Madshus Epoch, 3-pin Rotefella, and Rossi BCX10).Feb 19, 2014 at 10:49 am #2075119Tim DrescherBPL Member
@timdcyLocale: Gore Range
Thanks for sharing your setup with us, Ryan. I’m still trying to strike a good balance with my equipment for at the resort and in the backcountry. I unfortunately need beefy gear due to my style of skiing. I also have feet like a duck, so trying on a wide variety of AT boots is a must for me. The problem is finding them in-stock at retail stores.
“As I get older, I find myself needing steep and deep less and less”
Quite the opposite here. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of ripping huge powder lines!Feb 19, 2014 at 1:26 pm #2075158Roger CaffinBPL Member
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> With the Vector BCs you could get down most anything in most any conditions, if you have to.
Oh, I can get down anything if I have to. I just might not be upright (or conscious) at the bottom!
CheersFeb 19, 2014 at 1:33 pm #2075163Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
I haven't kept up with Nordic bindings since moving to Nevada in 2004. Interesting AT setup you have. I'll have to read this a few times to understand the combos.
My track skis use NNN bindings and either racing shoes or touring boots.
My BC touring skis are Asnes Combat Combi (Norwegian Army skis) and releasable Voile' bindings W/3 pin heavy duty plates.
BC boots are old Vasque leather W/ vibram soles and SCARPA T3 plastic tele boots.
Tele skis are Atomic TM 22 195 cm and the same Voile' releasable bindings
So far this setup has worked and I don't plan to change unless somebody gives me a pair of NTN releasable bindings. ;o)
NOTE: After reading the comments here I noticed that nobody but me has mentioned RELEASABLE BINDINGS!. C'mon, BC skiing ain't like skiing on-piste groomers. Only the true AT bindings have release (or the NTN bindings).
Suffering a torn ACL, tib-fib fracture, etc. 20 miles from the road quickly becomes a big problem for timely evacuation.Feb 19, 2014 at 1:34 pm #2075164Paul McLaughlinBPL Member
On cost – the really nasty part is the boots, and with the constant improvement at the top end of the rando race food chain, a fair number of pretty light boots are showing up used, such as Scarpa F1 race, F1 carbon, and even a few Aliens and PDG's. Caveat is that you better be a 26.5, 27 or 27.5 mondo, because that's about all I see out there used. I'm waiting to find some aliens in 29 used – probably won't see them this year.
Ryan – Did you mount your Eons yourself, or did you have a shop do it? I have wondered about binding screw retention at the heels in XCD skis, as I believe they don't have any reinforcing in that area like they often do at the toe.Feb 19, 2014 at 1:58 pm #2075173Damien TougasBPL Member
I remember looking into the lighter AT race boots some time ago. One major issue I found was that the lighter (i.e. more race-oriented the boot), the narrower and more uncomfortable they were. I have wide feet, and it would seem that race gear manufacturers assume that if you are going to be racing in them, you are probably willing to sacrifice some all-day comfort in exchange for lighter weight. Not only that, but the liners get thinner as well, which means that there is little room, if any to get more space from a thermo-moldable liner.Feb 19, 2014 at 3:52 pm #2075206
"I've been thinking of adding the Vector BCs with a set of machine screw inserts"
Yes inserts are awesome. I put some in my wife's DPS skis and they'll be going in my next pair whenever that is – likely this fall.Feb 19, 2014 at 3:54 pm #2075207
Tim, if you want steep and deep capable check out the Voile Charger BC's. They're basically a fishscale version of the Rossi S7's. Pair that up with some Dynafit bindings and decent stiffness boots and you've got a beefy freeride setup that you can still do some big tours with.Feb 19, 2014 at 4:23 pm #2075219Ian ClarkBPL Member
@chinditsLocale: Cntrl ROMO
So any issues with skins not holding on the waxless patterns during steep climbs?Feb 19, 2014 at 4:33 pm #2075223. .BPL Member
@biointegraLocale: Puget Sound
Thanks for sharing your setup and progression, Ryan.
To quote Damien's 2013 article: "With the trends in lightweight alpine touring moving toward lighter and more flexible boots, it would be nice to see this theme trickle down more to the Tele market."
Since I learned to ski on downhill tele gear, alpine turns feel really awkward to me, so I am really hoping for tele boots/bindings catching up with skis and AT boots/bindings. Having poked fun at "rando commandos" too much in the past is apparently making me eat snow now.Feb 19, 2014 at 5:43 pm #2075248Damien TougasBPL Member
Some of that AT technology might soon be trickling down to tele gear. This new telemark binding from ATK looks interesting, although I don't think they are out in the wild yet, so their efficacy remains to be seen…Feb 19, 2014 at 11:02 pm #2075334Steven DubySpectator
@jhypersLocale: Interior Alaska
As demonstrated by some, an AT Nordic setup can be lightened even further if you consider some of the "BC Classic" skis on the market, such as the Madshus line (Glittertind & Voss) which features a choice between sintered and waxless bases. I prefer to go with a sintered base for the increased glide performance it provides, but this requires attention to details regarding the snow and temperature trends, which can get complicated if you are out on a multi-day trip in variable snow conditions. Then of course there's the wax you would need to bring along. The problem with using TLT bindings on the Glittertind or Voss rests in the heel piece, which I've heard is too big to mount on these narrow skis (~50mm waist). No heel lock means less weight, but is significantly less secure on the downhill.
But that setup (Glittertind w/ Dynafit toe piece + hacked up TLT boot) has been consistently winning the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Ski Classic for the past few years….although as most of you know, the skier has a lot more influence than the skis themselves. That said, one has to acknowledge the significant touring advantage with an AT Nordic setup.Feb 20, 2014 at 1:47 am #2075344Serge GiachettiSpectator
@sgiachettiLocale: Boulder, CO
Nice article. I don't have much experience with cross country skis, so I can't make a comparo, but I will say that my friend on XC skis was struggling to keep up with me on a classic XC trail in Indian Peaks, and I had the strange feeling that it would be very hard to get out of breath on moderate terrain with this setup. It was pretty clear that the skis were a huge factor, since he has a similar fitness to me. Specifically, the skimo race setup was clearly a better tool for the same type of terrain.
I've used Volle Vector BC skis for the last two years for the same types of rolling tours, resort skiing, winter bc, and spring ski mountaineering in CO rockies and WA volcanos, and for the type of skiing described in this article, hands down the race skis, with race boots/bindings and glidey race skins are better. If you want just a single ski for rolling terrain, as well as steeper stuff with varied winter and spring snow, then the BC is a good choice, but there are plenty of downsides. As a newly obsessed skier with the intention of skimo racing and a pro deal, it was a no brainer to expand my quiver of one. (I had a season ending injury, so no racing this year, but I'm crossing my fingers for spring).
Using a race ski (or similar) on rolling xc terrain is faster, lighter and more maneuverable, with better kick and nearly as good glide on most types of snow. And on spring approaches when the snow is still hard, skinning is a no brainer. On backcountry day tours in steeper terrain, you need to use skins on the way up anyway and if there's any sort of approach trail in, I would struggle on the way out, switching between making a few turns with a stiff boot, skate skiing and switching out of ski mode to kick and glide as my unwaxless friends would mostly just glide all the way back to the car. The wax pattern slows you down considerably on mellow terrain. I've skied laps at a backcountry slope which had nearly the perfect skin track for the waxless pattern, and using skins was still faster and more fun on the way up. Learning the art of transitions is well worth the effort. On sticky gloppy snow, the waxless patter, especially after developing some scratches, would pick up absurd amounts of snow, which lead to some awkward faceplants and frustrating tours. I had a ton of fun on the vector bc's, and as my only ski, they were just about the most versatile thing I could imagine, but if I had it to do over again, I'd buy either a race like ski to begin with or a superlight midfat (no waxless pattern) and save up till I could afford the other.Feb 20, 2014 at 5:16 am #2075358Jonathan ShefftzBPL Member
@jshefftz1Locale: Western Mass.
"The problem with using TLT bindings on the Glittertind or Voss rests in the heel piece, which I've heard is too big to mount on these narrow skis (~50mm waist)."
— I have no idea what the max mounting pattern width is for those skis, but the Left<>Right hole spacing for most AT race bindings is 25mm, and the Plum 135/145 is even narrower at 20.5mm. (Dynafit Low Tech race and Speed Superlight are both 23mm.)Feb 20, 2014 at 9:43 am #2075412Steven DubySpectator
@jhypersLocale: Interior Alaska
I'm likely confusing mounting width with something else. See comment further above:
"I have wondered about binding screw retention at the heels in XCD skis, as I believe they don't have any reinforcing in that area like they often do at the toe."
I'm not familiar enough with tech bindings to know where problems might surface in mounting. I just know that some folks have opted to only mount the toe piece on narrower skis. It could be due to the fact that these setups were built before the minimalist race bindings became more widely available, when the heel piece was considerably larger (i.e. original TLT Speed).Feb 20, 2014 at 10:21 am #2075422
Serge, there probably is a lot to be said for light skis and fast, full-ish coverage skins in mixed terrain. Most of us probably don't have good enough technique and fitness to maximize the grip of scales or wax in that terrain.
Heel piece retention is an interesting issue in nordic skis. I'm thinking of my favorite 2007-2010 S Bound models, which have hollow areas running parallel with the long axis of the ski back where the heel piece would go. If anything, narrow 4 and 3 screw arrangements would exacerbate this.Feb 21, 2014 at 9:53 pm #2075891Ryan BresslerBPL Member
Dane over at cold thistle has an interesting comparison of a chopped dynafit one and the tlt6:
Moding this boot might provide a cheaper and warmer/wider light boot alternative though I personally would be be loath to give up any downhill performance over by maestrales in wet and heavy snow conditions.
My personal experience with fish scales on fat non xc cambered skis (karhu guides) is that they aren't worthwhile. They add a ton of drag and don't climb well in untracked snow. I found them really only useful for short, mellow powder laps once a low angle skin track had been established with skins. On lower angle logging approach stuff I couldn't keep up with people on either true cambered xc gear or flat bottomed at skis using skins or skating without skins for short ups. Both will glide much better on the way down and drag is less of an issue on the way up. Voile does make great skis though, I have the non fishscale charger.
Fish scales might be superior on truly flat terrain with a groomed or crusted/packed surface but then true double cambered xc skis would glide better (though i'd be tempted flat bottomed skis and a power kite…).
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