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AT Nordic Ski Systems: Discovering the Best of Backcountry Nordic and Alpine Touring Systems Through Hybridization


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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable AT Nordic Ski Systems: Discovering the Best of Backcountry Nordic and Alpine Touring Systems Through Hybridization

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  • #2075964
    Dan Durston
    BPL Member

    @dandydan

    Locale: Canadian Rockies

    "[fish scales on fat non xc cambered skis] add a ton of drag and don't climb well in untracked snow….On lower angle logging approach stuff I couldn't keep up with people on….flat bottomed at skis using skins…."

    Thanks for the first hand experience. Are you saying that on a low angle approach, Voile Vectors with skins would be faster than fishscale Voile Vector BC's without skins? My expectations are that the fishscale skis would be faster on the ascent. Both would have sufficient grip for low angles, but the fishscales would be lighter without skins and they'd glide better than skins for short downhills (where it's not worthwhile to rip skins). They would allow skating or double polling on flat sections (again, when it's not worthwhile to rip skins). They would also allow the skiers to "save" their skins for when they are really needed during multiday trips (ie. not get them wet on low elevation snow).

    Ryan, what are you thoughts on this situation: I'd like a ski where I can do a 100 mile 5 day traverse – much of it on low angle rolling terrain but with a few big steep lines along the way. So the setup needs to be big mountain capable, but also reasonably efficient for long distances. The goal is not maximum speed, but maximum fun. I'm hesitant to rely solely on skins for something like this in case I hit miles of clumping spring snow at low elevations, or get the glue wet dropping them in a creek. A ski like the Vector BC's (or Charger BC) but with skins along for steeper ascents seems like a good compromise.

    #2075981
    rOg w
    BPL Member

    @rog_w

    Locale: rogwilmers.com

    deleted

    #2075991
    Dan Durston
    BPL Member

    @dandydan

    Locale: Canadian Rockies

    Yeah I'm moving west in 6 weeks. PCT this summer then probably grad school in Vancouver

    #2076031
    Ryan Bressler
    BPL Member

    @ryanbressler

    Dan, first off my experience is limited to the guides (and various older cross country skis as a kid). I'd love to try the scaled voiles but would probably go with a flat bottom anyways as that better fits the style I do. I don't do multi day stuff regularly or do tours with truelly flat (ie lake) approaches but I have often skied miles up and down a flattish valley bottom or logging road.

    It is also worth noting that fish scales negatively impact hardpack performance as they hinder your ability to rotate the skis with flat bases to initiate turns. Not an issue in soft snow but definitely on wind pack or icy tobogan run ski outs where i like to be able to throw the skis sideways to stop on a dime. The guides also had bevel/base high issues and are really soft so you might have better luck with the vectors. Something to watch for if you demo.

    Smithbrook road (snowed in at the highway in winter) is an example of what I would consider a flatish tour I have done on both the guides and flat bottomed skis and much prefer the flat bottomed skis:

    http://www.hillmap.com/m/ag1zfmhpbGxtYXAtaGRychULEghTYXZlZE1hcBiAgICAoaTbCww

    I first did it on guides and on the way out thought "this is great I can just kick and glide these low angle sections." Without fish scales I discovered no kicking was required on the way down, you can ski the whole way from the lichtenwasser to the highway with just a bit of skating.

    Notably my wife got better glide but worse grip on her atomic rainers (she could cost along while I was running) which I attribute to differences in camber and pattern. Trail breaking on rough terrain on either ski will have you reaching for the skins quickly.

    MaxiGlide helps on the downs but takes more time then skins.

    I use g3 nylon skins which are pretty light and actually break free and glide pretty well (keep them waxed, hot wax the skins before sloppy spring tours, dry in the sun at stops). I hear mohair is even better and for long flat tours in cold conditions at least. Some people carry/use a pair of skinny skins for long flats. Fishschales might win for something like a lake crossing or circumnavigation.

    Fish scales are great for powder farming short slopes with minimal transition. But doing that I found it was best to set a low angle up track with skins on and then I could get away with out them for subsequent laps.

    Some good threads on the vector bc vs similar skis including people who love them and people who grind off the scales:

    http://www.tetongravity.com/forums/showthread.php/273801-Hut-to-hut-with-fishscales
    http://www.tetongravity.com/forums/showthread.php/272744-Skinny-ish-light-tip-rockered-touring-skis

    Obviously a contentious topic. I'll reiterate that I haven't skied scaled voiles and would like to but will probably stick with flat bases for now.

    My 191 chargers are amazing on the down in powder and surprisingly good at carving too i would have been out on them for a tour this morning if the avi conditions weren't so sketch here. I'd love a shorter/lighter vector to comlement it. I think it is interesting to note as well that voile's skimo race ski (the wsp) has the same rocker profile as the 160 vector.

    #2076045
    Dan Durston
    BPL Member

    @dandydan

    Locale: Canadian Rockies

    Thanks a lot Ryan, I appreciate it.

    It sounds like the negatives are directly related to the increase in drag. I'll keep an eye on this, and I'll likely test anything before I buy. I'd be happier with a fairly low amount of grip (ie. up to 10 degree slopes) in exchange for a minimal loss in glide.

    "fish scales negatively impact hardpack performance as they hinder your ability to rotate the skis with flat bases to initiate turns. Not an issue in soft snow but definitely on wind pack or icy tobogan run ski outs where i like to be able to throw the skis sideways to stop on a dime."
    Good to know. I wouldn't have thought of this. Another good thing to test before I buy anything.

    Thinking about this more, I'm leaning towards the Voile Charger BC's rather than the Vectors BC's. It's a tough call, but I think I'd rather lug a bit more weight for a more powder capable ski. For a few years I've been touring with Rossi S7's, Marker Duke's and Black Diamond Factor boots, which is obviously very heavy (28 lbs total with skins). Two years ago I bought a lighter setup (Black Diamond Drifts, Dynafit TLT ST bindings, Black Diamond Factor boots) which dropped that to 20 lbs for the full setup but I was really disappointed with the skis on the descents (too floppy, and a bit skinny). Something like the Charger BC's, Dynafit TLT Speed Radical bindings and Black Diamond Quadrant boots would be 18 lbs with skins and pretty versatile. Obviously that's not super efficient for long traverses but I suspect it would be good enough.

    #2076067
    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member

    @rcaffin

    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    I have reservations about some of the negative claims made re fishscales.

    First, the amount of drag due to scales. I don't think the scales are nearly as significant as the width of the skis. The wider the skis, the more 'snow plowing' the tip will be doing through most conditions, and ime that is the main factor. I have shot past others while on 'skinny skis' with fishscales; they had wider skis and were leaving wider grooves.

    Next, and rather controversially, the weight of the skier is a major factor in drag. A light skier going downhill on narrow skis with a stiff camber will be travelling mainly on the tip and the tail, and both of these areas are smooth. Someone significantly heavier than me on the same skis may well be riding on the scale area, and will go slower.

    By way of example, I have some Bonner Conquests (Canadian) skis which are long, narrow, parallel-sided (very 'Nordic') and very stiffly double-cambered. At my weight (64 kg, 140 lb) they go very fast. However, trying to turn in them is hard. I have to be very aggressive to get any flex – a heavy pack helps!

    > fish scales negatively impact hardpack performance as they hinder your ability to
    > rotate the skis with flat bases to initiate turns.
    I simply do not agree with this. We get a LOT of hardpack and ice here in Australia: sunny daytimes and sub-zero overnight, and we are very used to travelling over ice. (That does not mean we like it! Clatter clatter clatter!) The problems we have had with turning is getting the metal edges to actually bite into the ice – without falling over. The idea of ANY skis being able to 'stop on a dime' under those conditions is, well, amusing.

    All that said, I should point out that we use far lighter skis here in Oz, definitely in the light Nordic class. Most of us used to use leather 3-pin boots, which are medium in weight, and rat-trap bindings, which are very light. The great big heavy AT class of bindings are rarely seen here. Sue and I have since moved to NNN-BC bindings on Rossignol BC65s and Fischer Explorer Crowns. Slower skis overall, more sidecut, and softer, but at least we can turn in them. :-)

    We ski in rolling country. If you were to match skins against fishscales here, you would find the scales spending lots of time waiting while the skins put them on and took them off for every hill. Very few use skins here today. Most people have never even seen them.

    Cheers

    #2076093
    David Chenault
    BPL Member

    @davec

    Locale: Queen City, MT

    It should be noted that the extruded base on Guides was pretty darn slow, fishscales or no. I've not skied the Vector or Charger BC, but given that the fore and aft sections are sintered and can be hot waxed, I would hope they'd be faster.

    I've had a handful of instances were I missed fishscales on my BD Currents, almost always on rolling, 90% downhill exits with a few ups too long and/or steep to easily sidestep, and plenty of sections where gliding without skins would be ideal. Honestly, AT gear is at a disadvantage here anyway, as I find myself wanting to be locked in for stopping on the downs, and unlocked from the heel and in walk mode on the ups. All of which is to say that the weaknesses of AT and non-fishscale skis sort of complement each other well.

    Roger, comparing 90+ mm waisted alpine skis with nordic skis just doesn't work.

    #2076096
    Paul McLaughlin
    BPL Member

    @paul-1

    Broad statements about waxless ski performance vs. waxable tend to be just as accurate as any broad statement, and not much use unless the specifics are considered. Waxless bases vary quite a bit from one brand to another; snow conditions obviously vary enormously; the type of terrain you prefer or have to deal with also varies enormously. Certain generalizations can be applied reasonably well:
    1) Waxable skis, IF WAXED PROPERLY (very big if here), will perform better than waxless when the conditions stay consistent for a long-ish period of time/distance – so if the snow is consistent for most of the morning and several miles, a properly waxed ski will outperform the waxless ski most of the time. But you'll notice how many cavets are in that statement. If you have to deal with constantly changing snow conditions the story changes.

    2) Waxable skis are faster downhill. Not much to argue about here – but note that there is considerable difference in waxless patterns in this regard. the positive patterns – molded to stand above the rest of the base – tend to grip better but glide worse, while negative patterns – milled into a flat base – tend to glide better and grip less well.

    2) Waxless skis do their best gripping in corn and their worst in powder. This seems to be true across all the base styles.

    3) Each brand has a reputation as far as its waxless pattern. Karhu had (and Madshus now has) a positive pattern reputed to grip well and glide less. Alpina has the rep of being the best gripping pattern – though some of that is simply about the alpine flex of their skis. Fischer and Atomic have nearly identical negative patterns, which by reputation glide better and grip not quite as well.

    What I have observed in reading lots of posts about base performance on a number of forums is that where you are has a lot to do with it. Skiers in the rockies and New England seem to be more likely to like waxable skis; skiers in the PNW and the Sierra tend to go more for waxless. And skiers who tend to be out in the spring rather than the deep winter tend firther toward waxless it seems – not surprising to anyone who's ever done a week-long tour in the Sierra In April or May, where conditions change drastically every few feet if you get into the woods, and corn is on the menu every afternoon.

    And there's also a noticeable difference in preference related to the goal of the tour – those who are out to reach the top of a peak and ski down seem to tend toward waxable – not surprising since often the up is too steep for scales anyway – or for wax for that matter; they use glide wax and skins. Those who are out to traverse the miles over more mellow terrain seem to go for waxles more often.

    Again, this is just what I observe from reading lots of threads on this subject. You could say there's a spectrum/matrix here – at the one end, the steep-and-deep, ski a gnarly coulouir guys in deep winter are all on waxable skis – and practically never use kick wax either. They skin up and ski down. At the other end, the long mellow tour in spring conditions crowd are almost all on waxless.

    Personally I'm in the latter group – a week of mellow corn touring is my idea of skiing, and I do int in the Sierra in the spring. For what I do a waxless ski is the way to go for sure. I'm in the conditions where waxless generally performs at it's best, and where wax is at it's worst – changeable and corny/slushy. So that's what I use. If were into different skiing or in a different time and place I might want something else.

    So if you're trying to decide what's going to work best for you it seems to make sense to look at what works for people who do the same kind of trips you want to do, in the same area, and at the same time of year. change any of theose variables and you get a different answer.

    #2076099
    Bob Gross
    BPL Member

    @b-g-2-2

    Locale: Silicon Valley

    I could not agree more with Paul's statements about geographic variability.

    In the springtime in California, we often go through several changes of snow texture _per_hour_. That makes it tough on waxers, so the waxless crowd is big. That is, except for this year. Since there is almost zero snow, we've had to learn to do the granite telemark.

    –B.G.–

    #2076153
    Michael Matiasek
    Spectator

    @matiasek

    I too have been considering enlarging my quiver with a pair of waxless AT skis. The Madshus Annum (formerly the Karhu Guide) or the vector BC were skis I have been considering. I appreciate all the discussion here to help me make the decision. Being in California it seems like it will be a good choice for multi day or long day tours in the spring… though spring conditions present throughout the winter.

    For me if it is a powder day, I think I would be focusing on skiing more vertical to get more turns in which would likely not have as much terrain that the waxless ski would excel. However, for long day tours or multi day tours where corn conditions are typically present I think I am leaning towards a lighter more modest waxless ski such as the Annum. I really don't see the advantage of a fat ski to ski corn. Corn conditions seem to ski well on most AT any ski.

    I have found this trip report of a fast ski tour of the JMT to be interesting. Towards the bottom the author claims that without waxless skis that route would have taken an extra day.
    http://www.wildsnow.com/5566/skiing-muir-trail/

    It really does seem to come down to the conditions we expect to be skiing.
    Thanks again for all the good discussion points.

    #2076159
    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member

    @rcaffin

    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Hi Dave

    > Roger, comparing 90+ mm waisted alpine skis with nordic skis just doesn't work.
    Oh, I totally agree.
    My argument was against blaming the fishscales.

    Cheers

    #2076172
    Bob Gross
    BPL Member

    @b-g-2-2

    Locale: Silicon Valley

    Some people have to blame something.

    A friend and I were skiing along on a Yosemite trail. We had the exact same skis, except that hers were the waxable version, and mine were the waxless version. We had been skiing through different textures of snow, and then her skis were not working at all. They were not iced over, but she had no grip on the uphill and no glide on the downhill. She blamed the skis. So, we stopped and switched skis. I got on the waxable skis and skied off in a flash. She was thrashing around on the waxless skis.

    –B.G.–

    #2076221
    David Chenault
    BPL Member

    @davec

    Locale: Queen City, MT

    The really intriguing question is whether Voile is going to give us a fishscaled WSP for next winter.

    #2076237
    Ryan Bressler
    BPL Member

    @ryanbressler

    A fish scaled 170 or 180 cm wsp would be an interesting ski…

    I'd love to do more of the consolidated snow fish scale touring lots of you are describing. Maybe I'll make a spring trip to the sierra or some high plateau in the rockies after consolidation some year…

    My concerns about fishscales are restricted to fatter, downhill oriented skis as Dan is interested in used in conditions that warrant a fat ski.

    Also most of my spring experience comes more from the cascades where spring conditions involves a lot of sloppy snow, occasional powder, crust, tree bombed and sun cupped snow and grabby brush. Consolidated corn doesn't really show up till summer. This will be similar to the conditions dan will experience if he ends up in the Vancouver area.

    As far as I know the most prolific traversers in this environment at the moment are Kile Miller (Split Board), Jason Hummel (Tele) and Forest McBrian (AT). Some inspiring pics/blog posts all of which appear to be done of fatter skis/boards with skins:

    http://www.whereiskylemiller.com/?cat=4
    http://www.cascadecrusades.org/SkiMountaineering/pickettraverse/pickettraverse2010/pickets2010.htm
    http://www.borealismountainguides.com/forest-mcbrian-mountain-guide/139

    And Dan, I think you can do much better then the quadrant for a boot in terms of weight and ski and touring performance…it is an old design from before the revolution in at boots sparked by the tlt5/6 and the maestrale.

    #2076265
    Dan Durston
    BPL Member

    @dandydan

    Locale: Canadian Rockies

    Good discussion guys.

    Yeah I'm out of the loop right now on boots. I've been east for 2 years so I've fallen behind. Thanks for the suggestions. I'll do lots of research before I actually buy something. I'll probably buy boots last, as my BD Factors are great except for 25% heavier than necessary.

    Then again, these used Dynafit ZZero 4 Carbon boots are a mere $75 Buy It Now. Tempting but I'm not really informed enough to start tossing money around.
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/331135611919?_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

    #2076311
    Ross Bleakney
    BPL Member

    @rossbleakney

    Locale: Cascades

    @B.G. — My guess is that she doesn't weigh the same as you — am I right? If so, the problem is that her skis weren't the appropriate size for her weight. If not, then yes, it is about technique. If you get Nordic skis with lots of camber and you are a bit light for them, then you need to really jump on the skis to get them to move. I have a pair that I struggle with unless I am on really flat ground (or I'm wearing a heavy pack).

    I think Ryan has a point, but there are a lot of other factors. As Roger suggests, a lot has to do with camber. Ryan emphasized this (he said "fish scale skis without camber") but it might have been lost in the comment. I have a pair like this (Atomic Lite Terrain) and they are extremely slow. But they are also short and sculpted. There are so many factors involved that it is hard to make generalizations, although I think Paul's comments are spot on. I agree with Ryan that a ski without much camber (or none at all) will be slower than a flat bottom ski. It is also harder to wax that area (most people, including me, don't). This means that you have a ski that is great when first bought, but gets slower over time. Cold waxes and products like maxiglide can help a lot, but they are nowhere near as fast as a hot wax (I'm not sure what is applied at the factory, but it is really fast as well). Plus, when you add the stuff, you can mess up your uphill grip sometimes.

    That being said, I really like fish scaled skis — I think with most skis, the difference in speed between fish scales and flat bottoms is minimal. Meanwhile, if the terrain isn't too steep for them, then fish scales are much faster than skins or kickers (in my experience). I have done Smithbrook several times, and I cruised along just fine with fishscale skis (both up and down). Like I said, there are so many other factors involved (like the last time you waxed your skis) that could easily contribute to the feeling that your fishscale skis are significantly slower.


    @Dan
    — I would get the wider ski. Generally speaking, wider is better. They are called "powder skis" but really, the biggest difference is on wet, sloppy snow. Snowboarding became really popular at Mount Baker, which is not known for powder, but for huge, wet, sloppy snow dumps. A big ski (or snowboard) allows you stay above the mess, and carve nice turns. I've tried skiing sloppy snow with the aforementioned Atomic Lite Terrain and it was a disaster. I sunk too much so I was trying to push heavy snow with boots that weren't up to the task. On the other hand, with powder, you can ski it with anything — it's just that you can ski it more enjoyably with wider skis.

    Back to the original article, for the most part, you can put any binding on any ski. For example, I have a pair of Atomic Rainier skis with NNN BC bindings on them. There is no reason why I can't replace those bindings with a Telemark or Randonee binding. So the idea that a BC Nordic system is lighter because the ski is lighter (which was suggested more in the referenced article and not this one) is silly.

    With that in mind, high quality Randonee boots and bindings are simply lighter than Nordic BC boots and bindings. However, there are plenty of (relatively) cheap Randonee (and Telemark) boots that are heavier than BC boots.

    Comfort is a different story. It is hard to generalize on the subject of comfort (put your trail runners on the wrong feet and suddenly those heavy hiking boots seem a lot more comfortable) but ankle motion is only one type of motion. As David mentioned, the lack of metatarsal bend means there will be less efficiency to each stride and, in my book, a lot less comfort. Likewise, the main advantage of plastic boots becomes a disadvantage when you are talking comfort. Soft boots flex in various areas, which is really nice when hiking or skiing. The price you pay, of course, is that they have less control. If you manage to find enough control with a soft, flexibly boot, then you are in heaven (e. g. I've skied the aforementioned Smithbrook on regular (non-BC) Nordic gear and it was a blast). But if you misjudge the conditions, you start wishing for a plastic boot. A good compromise may be Telemark gear. They have the metatarsal bend, but all of the control (or at least almost all) that a Randonee system has. You pay a big price in weight, unfortunately. Just as no one is making big advances in Nordic BC gear, the same can be said for Telemark boots. Even if the boots matched the weight of the fancy Randonee boots, you would still pay a sizable weight penalty for the bindings (and it might be impossible to rectify this, give the design limitations).

    Unfortunately, Randonee race gear is designed to win races, not be more comfortable. The range of ankle motion and relative comfort advantage is a side benefit. Most of the people who find the boots surprisingly comfortable come from an alpine skiing background. There are very few cross country skiers who will say "Wow, these plastic boots are really comfortable". They will, on the other hand, comment on how surprisingly light and expensive they are. I think the ideal boot would act like a Nordic boot on the way up, but an AT (or even Telemark) boot on the way down. I could see having a basic inner boot much like a regular Nordic boot, but with a plastic shell that could be applied for the way down. Since there is a transition with AT gear anyway, this would be a small price to pay. Such a system would weigh more (and not win any races) but would be fairly light going up and would basically be my dream system.

    Speaking of transitions, that is one of the other key advantages to BC Nordic. Ryan eluded to this, when he said that the fish scales slowed his skis too much going down, and he was forced to skate, or stop and switch to uphill mode. With BC Nordic, this isn't an issue. I've gone on rolling hills where switching between uphill and downhill occurred every couple minutes and BC Nordic with waxless was extremely fast. Of course you can ski those sections without going into downhill mode, but I think with BC Nordic you have more control (since those are designed for that).

    #2076351
    Bob Gross
    BPL Member

    @b-g-2-2

    Locale: Silicon Valley

    "@B.G. — My guess is that she doesn't weigh the same as you — am I right?"

    Oh, she was a lot fatter.

    I didn't say that, did I?

    Seriously, she was on 183cm waxable skis, and I was on 203cm waxless skis. Her skis were right for her weight, height, and leg reach, as were mine. She could not make the 183cm skis work, but she couldn't make the 203cm skis work, either.

    –B.G.–

    #2076436
    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member

    @rcaffin

    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    I have worn plastic boots (Scarpa T3s) just once. I hired them to try them out. After about 2 hours of puttering around, I was in agony. The constant rubbing pressure on the front of my shins nearly crippled me. I had to completely unclip the boots just to get back to the lodge we were staying at that week.

    Fortunately, I had also rented some skating gear for the week, and that was fine. No fish scales and no metal edges though, so we had to skate. Um – I had better add that skating uphill is [email protected]#$%^&*<>?":~ hard work!!!!!!!

    I very seriously doubt I will ever go near plastic boots which have high fronts again. Ever.

    Cheers

    #2076442
    Jim Milstein
    Spectator

    @jimsubzero

    Locale: New Uraniborg CO

    "I have worn plastic boots (Scarpa T3s) just once."

    Bad fit it sounds like, Roger. With well-fitting, well-baked liners you would have been overcome with ecstasy instead of with pain. Rather than becoming crippled, you would have taken wing and flown. Also, you would have won a great lottery and been mobbed by good-looking people of your preference eager for your company. No doubt of this.

    #2083993
    Mitchell Rossman
    Member

    @bigmitch

    Locale: Minneapolis-St. Paul

    Yes, may be a bad fit on those Scarpa T3s.

    I have used mine maybe 150+ days since '97 and they always felt great using the original liners.

    At first, I used them on long, straight, skinny telemark skis, then with snowshoes, and now with my Rossignol BC 125s with old Riva 2 cable bindings.

    To bring them into this century, I am upgrading the original felt liners to thermomoldable liners.

    They may well last another 10 years.

    BTW: I never met a pair of Scarpa boots that I did not like: my Scarpa quiver includes: T3, T2, T2x, T1, and Hurricane Pros.

    #2089475
    Steven Duby
    Spectator

    @jhypers

    Locale: Interior Alaska

    I realize they were a rental, but the nice thing about plastic boots is, for some models (Scarpa is one of them) you can take the tongue off. Dynafit TLT 5/6s also have that ability. I'm intrigued that nobody on here has discussed the "franken-boot" concept, which is basically a Dynafit shell carved down to the bare essentials (i.e. one buckle, no tongue, cuff removed, etc.) Doing this usually warrants the creation of some sort of gaiter to keep snow out of your boot, not to mention the realization that your boot doesn't have much downhill stability…but you've got what you need: a lightweight, warm, waterproof boot that can tour resistance-free.

    Regarding skateability…if you mount the Dynafit toe pieces 1" forward of the balance point, this has shown to improve skating with this system. I've skated on 205cm skis (nearly 20 cm longer than properly sized skate skis for my height – 5'10") with this mount job, and I didn't have any problems with it. Anyone looking to build an AT Nordic setup should consider this forward mounting position.

    Rest assured, there is no perfect ski boot. In fact, it's a completely accurate statement to say that they all suck in their own way.

    3-pin/Tele: as one of the forum guys has stated in the past, it's like driving with the parking brake on. Plus the pin holes are known to rip out and duckbills have cracked in lesser quality boots.

    SNS/NNN BC: Toe bar is prone to ripping out, not what you want to happen on a long tour. And the boots themselves, not having a removable liner, are prone to freezing up (again, from a multi-day touring perspective).

    TLT/Dynafit: You don't get that ideal kick when your boot is totally rigid, resulting in a less efficient diagonal stride. Hard boots can be rough on your feet…and if you don't have a heel piece, skiing downhill can be a bit nerve-wracking.

    #2090605
    Jonathan Shefftz
    BPL Member

    @jshefftz1

    Locale: Western Mass.

    "I'm intrigued that nobody on here has discussed the "franken-boot" concept, which is basically a Dynafit shell carved down to the bare essentials (i.e. one buckle, no tongue, cuff removed, etc.) Doing this usually warrants the creation of some sort of gaiter to keep snow out of your boot, not to mention the realization that your boot doesn't have much downhill stability…but you've got what you need: a lightweight, warm, waterproof boot that can tour resistance-free."

    That was all the rage for awhile:
    http://www.wildsnow.com/2180/scarpa-f1-backcountry-skiing-boots/
    … but then became obsolete with the increasingly widespread use of carbon fiber in rando race boots.
    Most race boots are about 3lb/pair (for size 27), with the more exotic models down around 2.5 lbs, and the more economy-minded models (like the one reviewed here) at about 3.5 lbs.
    My own rando race boots weigh less than the nordic backcountry boots that I use on the golf course behind my house, tour with less resistance than my nordic backcountry boots, yet are impressively stiff (almost too stiff actually) for all sorts of steep and frozen ski mountaineering terrain.

    "TLT/Dynafit: […] and if you don't have a heel piece, skiing downhill can be a bit nerve-wracking."
    Why would you not have a heel piece?
    (And entire pair of race bindings weighs only about eight ounces…)

    As an example of the kind of essentially nordic touring that can be done on this kind of gear, the winning time in this year's EMGT traverse (or actually, reverse) was just under eight hours, for about 40 miles and over 8,000' vertical ascent/descent, with competitors burdened by a pretty long emergency gear list.

    #2090851
    Steven Duby
    Spectator

    @jhypers

    Locale: Interior Alaska

    I hear a whole lot about these rando race boots, but I have to ask…have you personally toured in them for multiple consecutive days over 100+ miles? Are they warm enough on their own when it's -30F? I don't for a second doubt their downhill performance superiority over a franken-boot. I question whether they will provide long-term, multi-day/week+ comfort and warmth while mostly touring.

    Why would you not have a heel piece? When your ski is potentially too narrow or otherwise ill-designed for it. I posted about this concern a while back. It's likely that 50mm-wide-at-the waist BC skis like Madshus Glittertind/Voss can accept the smallest/latest tech heels…but again you run into a price wall.

    For me, it's not about having the "best" or absolute lightest setup available. It's about what will work under the conditions I ski in, with the emphasized value of continuously increasing efficiency & decreasing weight based on what's proven, and what I can afford to upgrade. My most recent AT Nordic setup includes Dynafit relics (TLT 4 Pros) elegantly carved down to one buckle & power strap to support the power stringer/heel lock (in case I get heel pieces eventually). After swapping the liner you're looking at just about 5 lb./pair (if nothing else is shaved, snipped or stripped), but with the skis under 4 lb./pair, and the TLT Radical ST toe pieces at 10 oz/pair, the entire system (w/o skins) is less than a pound heavier than the author's advertised setup…all for less than the author's bindings ($180 skis, $200 toe pieces, $125 boots). I will take the minor "obsolescence" weight penalty if it saves me from financial embarrassment.

    #2090873
    David Chenault
    BPL Member

    @davec

    Locale: Queen City, MT

    The stock liners in my Sportiva boots are comfy and tour great, but if I were going to take them on the winter Classic I'd want to upgrade them to something warmer.

    #2090874
    Jonathan Shefftz
    BPL Member

    @jshefftz1

    Locale: Western Mass.

    Sure, if you can't afford a ~$550 Dynafit PDG or Scarpa Alien on sale, then yes, a hacked-up old Dynafit TLT4 or Scarpa F1 will be nearly free.
    But:
    "I will take the minor "obsolescence" weight penalty […]"
    – Your setup weighs 47% more than mine (Scarpa Alien 1.0 + Hagan ZR bindings + Hagan X-Race skis w/ tip rocker), and the most important element weighs 67% more than mine (i.e., the lifted/pivoted weight of the boots).
    – Furthermore, my setup can go anywhere, no matter how steep, whereas yours is limited to very easy terrain (lacking a heel piece and rigid boot cuff).
    – As for long-distance touring in arctic temperatures, yes, if I sized up a shell and substituted in a thicker warmer liner, they would be just as warm as a ski boot could possibly be.

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