advice on ski selection and other things

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trashcat
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advice on ski selection and other things

Post by trashcat » Mon Feb 24, 2020 8:56 pm

So this past weekend I skied Avalanche Pass in the Adirondacks on my new Ingstads and learned a few things that left me (as usual) with more questions. We actually did avalanche pass and then drove to the garden parking lot and skied into Johns Brook Loj for the night...getting in at 8:30 (but we weren't even the last group getting in, three Canadians came in after us after trying to ski/snowshoe Marcy).

1) Wax skis really are better than waxless, assuming you pick the right wax. From my very limited experience this seems to be erring on the side of the softer wax in a given temperature range. Does anyone else find this to be true?

2) Can anyone give me advice as to how they approach skiing narrow (six foot or less) trails in dense forests with a moderate slope (that are hard-packed and fast)? I think I may be doing the right things (if not well) i.e. just skiing to survive.

3) Has anyone left their kicker skins on for descents? They seems to slow me down a bit which is good in the aforementioned conditions, but they seem to grab hard whenever I shift my weight from one foot to the other which makes things a little dicey.

4) I think a better ski selection for these conditions would have been my hok style skis - they're so short and maneuverable and stable and the built in skins grip well and slow me down on descents. They would have been slower on the touring portion of the trip, but they just feel so "safe" for climbing and descending.

5) I wore some pretty floppy merrill leathers (because my girlfriend was wearing slightly stiffer alico leathers and I didn't want an unfair advantage). I have some fischer BCX 6's and they're a lot stiffer. How much of a difference could I expect from those stiffer boots?

6) Some people are ridiculous skiers. Coming from an alpine background I thought I was pretty good, but backcountry skiing just takes so much more skill. There were people bombing down the pass on skinny skis like they were on rails.

7) I feel bad for AT skiers. So heavy. So slow. And on reflection it seems like you're either limited to entirely free-heeling or completely locked down. In mixed terrain this seems like a nightmare.

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lowangle al
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Re: advice on ski selection and other things

Post by lowangle al » Tue Feb 25, 2020 9:35 am

I remember a trail that climbed from Marcy Dam towards Avalanche Lake that was narrow and steep like you described. It was packed and firm and remember having to do snowplow or wedge turns with everything I had to control speed. That was on long skinny skis then, but even today with T4s and vectors and almost 35 years of practice it's possible that I would still have to resort to wedge turns. The T turn I would try on that trail would use a very wide (side to side) and tight (for/aft) stance and skid turn to turn.

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Re: advice on ski selection and other things

Post by Musk Ox » Tue Feb 25, 2020 11:07 am

1) Wax skis really are better than waxless, assuming you pick the right wax. From my very limited experience this seems to be erring on the side of the softer wax in a given temperature range. Does anyone else find this to be true?
I prefer to get it wrong with a too-cold wax. It's more difficult to correct your wax for icing up than for slipping, I think, and I find slipping less of a pain in the arse than discovering you're wearing stilts.
3) Has anyone left their kicker skins on for descents? They seems to slow me down a bit which is good in the aforementioned conditions, but they seem to grab hard whenever I shift my weight from one foot to the other which makes things a little dicey.
Yes! I was just talking about this. I suppose the trade off is between a more controlled descent for one or two or many uncontrollable ''Oh shit' moments. I think I prefer the confidence of knowing that if I'm going to tumble it will be because of my own (manifest) lack of skill and confidence rather than because of the weird physics of kicker skins and ice. So I'm theoretically OK leaving them on down a reasonably smooth and hard surface but I've fallen once or twice too many times to be entirely confident on refrozen knobbles of dog-prints and snowmobile links. I took them off last week on a hill in those conditions and had a dicy moment on snowmobile ruts anyway.
6) Some people are ridiculous skiers. Coming from an alpine background I thought I was pretty good, but backcountry skiing just takes so much more skill. There were people bombing down the pass on skinny skis like they were on rails.
Speaking of not being very good, I'm constantly amazed and perpetually jealous at the courage and skill of strangers. I've also discovered that I'm improving season on season, genuinely enjoying things that would have once freaked me out.

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Re: advice on ski selection and other things

Post by Landscraper » Tue Feb 25, 2020 1:02 pm

Trashcat you’re reading my mind

I had the same experience on the Catamount Trail this past weekend.

Warm hard pack, hiking trail descents (10% can feel vertical in these conditions!) getting zipped past by AT gear folks forcefully pivoting their way down.

They didn’t see me of course, as I was off trail just trying to survive, listening to my bindings complain as I traversed down the adjacent landscape. In the moment I forgot I had my skins on hand, but those may have been useful. I usually just forget about the trail in the conditions you mention and try to find a way to use the surrounding context.

I’ve used skins to slow down in dryer powder conditions when exploring steep logging roads. Constantly wedge turning, heel stabbing, has also worked in these dry conditions.

With the Traverse 78 I find it hard to edge the center of the ski in faster packed snow. Dunno if that’s just my inexperience though

Most of these trails, that I see, have a cut side and a slope side which makes them hard to cross over. Better to pull out your map and seek gentler terrain in my experience (even it it means pushing aside saplings and judiciously using trees as balancing points). Luckily we’ve got high tide in Vermont right now, at least in my limited experience. The Sterling Forest of Stowe is also very well managed, clean and kept for visitors.

I think I may do the same run this weekend, but rent something with more side cut and ditch the NNNBC for something with a cable. Plastic boots?

I think the ideal skill would be to be able to hockey stop, side slip, and pivot turn, maybe forget about tele or go into a smearing t turn with a narrow stance... all of which I cannot do yet, and am not sure how possible it is with something as stiff as the Traverse 78 with NNNBC

Looking forward to the discussion here.

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Re: advice on ski selection and other things

Post by rongon » Tue Mar 03, 2020 10:54 pm

trashcat wrote:
Mon Feb 24, 2020 8:56 pm
So this past weekend I skied Avalanche Pass in the Adirondacks on my new Ingstads and learned a few things that left me (as usual) with more questions. We actually did avalanche pass and then drove to the garden parking lot and skied into Johns Brook Loj for the night...getting in at 8:30 (but we weren't even the last group getting in, three Canadians came in after us after trying to ski/snowshoe Marcy).
Ah, Adirondack trail skiing. A subject that is near and dear to my heart. Gnarly, nasty, loony-tunes Adirondack trail skiing. A friend of mine who is a much better skier than I am once said to me, "It's more like 'adventure skiing' than actual skiing."
1) Wax skis really are better than waxless, assuming you pick the right wax. From my very limited experience this seems to be erring on the side of the softer wax in a given temperature range. Does anyone else find this to be true?
I've ended up favoring pretty big skis and heavy-ish boots for trail skiing. I have a pair of Asnes-made USGI skis in 190 cm length, which are waxable. When I take those out, I usually use Swix Blue Extra, and I'll have some Purple or Red-Silver along in case I'm not getting enough grip. I mix them up as needed. It can be messy. But when I get it right, there's no feeling like being on a well-waxed ski. It's like they get 'greasy.' They slide so easy and smoothly. None of that fish scale 'rubbing' sensation.
2) Can anyone give me advice as to how they approach skiing narrow (six foot or less) trails in dense forests with a moderate slope (that are hard-packed and fast)? I think I may be doing the right things (if not well) i.e. just skiing to survive.
I hope you didn't ski *down* the Avalanche Pass *hiking* trail. The ski trail is a lot more fun to ski than the hiking trail. The ski trail switchbacks across the hiking trail, and is wide enough for some turns. The hiking trail is narrow and plunges pretty much straight down.

In general. Adirondack-style trail skiing is survival skiing you can be proud of. It's really tough. Shorter skis help. I figure 180 cm is about as long as you want to go. I look for turnouts or little places where I can leave the trail and scrub off speed in the softer snow to the sides. Sometimes I look for an open spot with room enough for a hard hockey stop or stopping in a telemark. After 12 years of trying and trying, I still can't link turns all the way down those crazy trails, like I see some people doing. I'm still kind of stop-and-go, but I don't fall much any more. That's progress, I guess.
3) Has anyone left their kicker skins on for descents? They seems to slow me down a bit which is good in the aforementioned conditions, but they seem to grab hard whenever I shift my weight from one foot to the other which makes things a little dicey.
No, I find I have better control going downhill without skins. The inconsistent grabbiness doesn't work for me.
4) I think a better ski selection for these conditions would have been my hok style skis - they're so short and maneuverable and stable and the built in skins grip well and slow me down on descents. They would have been slower on the touring portion of the trip, but they just feel so "safe" for climbing and descending.
I find that short ski-shoes like that get unstable as soon as you get any speed going. I tried a pair of the old LL Bean Boreal ski-shoes and found that every time I went from hard snow into soft snow I'd go right over the handlebars. The other problem is that those ski-shoes will wear you out on the long flat sections. Trail skiing is difficult, and it takes years of practice, but even a klutz like me can learn to ski narrow trails reasonably well, I think. It ain't easy. You really have to want it.
5) I wore some pretty floppy merrill leathers (because my girlfriend was wearing slightly stiffer alico leathers and I didn't want an unfair advantage). I have some fischer BCX 6's and they're a lot stiffer. How much of a difference could I expect from those stiffer boots?
Stiffer boots help. My usual trail skiing setup is a pair of Fischer Rebound with 3-Pin bindings and old Asolo Extreme boots (stiffer than BCX 6 by a long shot). I need the ankle support the Extremes give me when I have to make those hockey stops.
6) Some people are ridiculous skiers. Coming from an alpine background I thought I was pretty good, but backcountry skiing just takes so much more skill. There were people bombing down the pass on skinny skis like they were on rails.
The thing I love about backcountry woods skiing (fjellski?) is that the snow is variable, the terrain is variable, the tree cover is variable, *everything* is variable. You're always reacting, adjusting, always alert. I find it exhilarating.
7) I feel bad for AT skiers. So heavy. So slow. And on reflection it seems like you're either limited to entirely free-heeling or completely locked down. In mixed terrain this seems like a nightmare.
I've never skied alpine. I don't know if I'd be able to deal with it. I came from a pure XC background and learned to telemark so I could ski the hiking trails in the Catskills and Adirondacks. Of course I got on the telemark gear hamster wheel and worked my way up to big alpine skis with plastic boots and beefy cable bindings. But some of the best days I have are on my trusty Rebounds. They're a hoot in any kind of soft snow, and can manage on hardpacked snow.

Keep at it. Someday you'll go to ski the Avalanche Pass Ski Trail and wonder what all the fuss was about. That happened to me, and I'm a complete hack!

Ski the Dacks!

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Re: advice on ski selection and other things

Post by Cannatonic » Wed Mar 04, 2020 3:28 pm

kick-waxing is your personal preference - some people want a stronger kick, others want more glide. I usually like a grippier kick and find myself using softer waxes as well. It's all good until the snow starts sticking, then you'll wish you had colder wax. But rubbing blue over the warmer wax usually works OK if things get sticky

descending narrow trails...I usually snowplow, flail around and struggle, I don't know how people do long, narrow approaches in the Adirondacks with XC skis. Lean back and try to drag the tails into the softer snow? another technique is to keep one ski in the middle and put one into the deep snow which acts like a brake.

"monorail of death" is what I call these descents....Hoks would be good but then you can't tour with nice long XC skis.
"All wisdom is to be gained through suffering"
-Will Lange (quoting Inuit chieftan)

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Re: advice on ski selection and other things

Post by phoenix » Wed Mar 04, 2020 7:44 pm

Like Rongon, I love the skiing in the High Peaks & vicinity; it was my home turf for 20 years.I fact I was just thinking about the Avalanche Pass trail a couple of days ago... still one of my very favorite trails anywhere.
Lots of good advice has been offered, I'll just add my take on each question. Won't be much new, but some validations maybe.

1) I do find waxables preferable & "superior"... most of the time. For genuinely wet snow, or worse, spring conditions when there's wet snow in the sun, and dry in deeper shade, I'd rather have a good pair of waxless. An exception might be consistently wet conditions, when blister can provide a wonderful day, but lots of people have an aversion to using klister. For me, it's part of a quiver of waxing skills. Like Musk Ox, I prefer to err on the side of colder rather than warmer, when in doubt. The reason is simple: it's way, way easier to add wax, or apply a warmer wax over cold, then the other way around.
2) Kind of a long story here, and again, much good advice has been given. I came to freewheeling from a strong alpine background, and have always had a blast on those downhill trail runs, and could/can run them well. Fundamental skills are quite important; when I'm in need of checking my speed, snowplowing, semi sideslipping, hockey stops, stepping over to softer snow... whatever works, as has been said. Sometimes I've had to bow my knees way in to manage a snowplow on such trails, that aren't wide enough for a proper "wedge. Step turns, stem turns, whatever. Keep in mind: on such narrow trails, it's not about the "telemark" turn, it's about staying upright, staying safe, and maybe doing so with some grace if & when possible.
3) Like Rongon, I don't like relying on skins, for same reasons. I make do with 'em on if they're staying on for awhile, but rarely, if ever, for slowing me down. That said, I totally understand it's helpful for many, and don't suggest there's anything wrong with it if you find it's better than the alternatives.
4) Skier's choice for the boards you choose. I imagine the Hok's work well for many skiers. I skied either Avalanche Pass or Marcy trail once with a local Ranger friend who was on Trak Bushwhackers; sort of a forerunner to the Hok's/Kom's. He did very well with them. Again, he employed parallel skills...this is not really tele territory.
My ski of choice then (circa 20-30 years ago), and now, is/was a kind of classic length, skinnyish full edge ski. My personal favorite, which I still ski quite often, being the old Karhu XCD-GT's, 190cm than you, for my 5'7" skinny self. I think an important consideration is the quicker, easier edge to edge ability of the skinnies. I don't want to be surfing such trails; good edging is your friend.
5) A stiffer boot should give you quite a noticeable difference in control. I like a good, but broken in leather for this category... but most any full leather/vibram soled boot, or currently the Alaska or such, should work. Again, whatever helps... but not so stiff as to lose your forward flex.
6) I would be considered a ridiculous skier. But, not a stupid one; it's a rule for me to always stay within my control limits, and ski responsibly. For the sake of others on the trail, as well as myself. I was disturbed and embarrassed on same trails one day with another ADK skier, now widely known for his devotion to the sport (who will remain nameless). We were enjoying the downhill at the full tilt pace; he ended up blowing someone off the trail and causing him to lose the bail on his binding. This was after he lectured the same guy earlier on the trail for wearing jeans, or some such thing.
7) No judgement from me here. It's all skiing. Don't ever need to use AT myself, but again, skier's choice.

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Re: advice on ski selection and other things

Post by lowangle al » Wed Mar 04, 2020 8:53 pm

My wife and I summited Marcy back in the mid 80's. It was her first season xc skiing and she ended up sliding down on her ass almost the whole way. She ended up with two black and blue swollen butt cheeks. I felt terrible because even though she agree to give it a go, I didn't think she had enough skiing experience. Ever since then when I'm the most experienced in the group I make the decisions that affect safety and not leave it up to the newby.

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