All purpose backcountry/bushwack ski

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ddg
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All purpose backcountry/bushwack ski

Post by ddg » Wed Mar 11, 2015 12:31 am

I'm new to the site. Good to see some fellow NBers here! What an awesome year for snow, eh?

I do a lot of back country bushwack snow shoeing. I love it. We live in a rural area with 100s of acres of soft and hard wood forest and a few hilly fields. Everything is hilly here. You're almost always going up or down. While snow shoeing it occurred to me that I could get a lot more bang for by buck (in terms of distance and time) with a set of skis. And have a lot more fun on those down hill runs.

Question:
- What is a good all purpose ski, binding, boot?

I'm open to all options but I'm cheap. :-) Wax/waxless, NNN, 3 pin (w or w/o cable), new/used...

I'm leaning towards something like a short S88, maybe S98, based on some of the posts I've read here, and what I see for sale online, like REI. :) I need something fairly *short* that *climbs well* because of the denser softwood zones and hills. I'd rather sacrifice some speed for climbing ability, and have a bit less float in order to keep them short for easy manoeuvrability.

It's understood that the skis won't replace the snow shoes but I want to be able to get to most of the same places, even if the route is a bit more round about.

I've considered the Altais but want something more ski like.

I'm 6' but a rake at only 140 lbs. I figure something like a 180 would work for my purposes, maybe even 170. For fun I tried my 20 yo 3 pin 180 XCs tonight on more or less the same route I've been snow shoeing. Surprisingly they weren't bad, although the thin skis continually sinking through the light top crust was less than ideal, especially down hill. I wouldn't want any more length for sure.

I'd love to try some of the BC skis out first but BC XC gear seems hard to come by in this area. Not sure where to get it in Canada (esp NB), other than MEC, although their selection right now is limited. Any local retailers I've seen have a few basic XC skis and a wack of alpine and snowboards. Just the way the market is. I'm fairly near the US border so can have US orders shipped to a location at the border and pick it up myself. Done it many times.

Any advice is greatly appreciated!
Derrick

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CIMA
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Re: All purpose backcountry/bushwack ski

Post by CIMA » Wed Mar 11, 2015 4:40 am

Welcome, ddg!
ddg wrote: Question:
- What is a good all purpose ski, binding, boot?
I wish I had one, too. :-)

If you cherish the feeling of snow shoeing, your thinking of fish-scale skis, NNN boots and bindings seems to be in the right direction.
Adding climbing skins to your rigs would be still better.
After getting knack for skiing, you'll find more specific taste for skiing styles of your own: skiing downhill or walking.
Then you'll be able to fine-tune the rigs that match your BC style best.
The flowing river never stops and yet the water never stays the same.

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Re: All purpose backcountry/bushwack ski

Post by StormyMonday » Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:00 am

I live in a similar area and 99% of our skiing is on that wooded rolling terrain. In 2004 I got some Outtabounds (88/68/78) with pins and Excursions and have been happy as I could be. My wife during that time has been on Karhu Pioneers and NNN BC with Alpina boots of some kind. She found that setup to be OK as long as the snowmobiles has been around. Our usual was she would stay in the snowmobile track while I would take detours wherever the terrain got more interesting and fun. This year with all the snow a lot more terrain opened up, and the traditional snowmobile entrances were actually blocked off, so snow stayed ungroomed the whole year. Fun for me, but less for her. 2 weeks ago I got her some Garmont Estremos on the giant auction site, just to try (she had balked at tele up till now). I will probably never get my Outtabounds back from her :D The extra stability of the setup made the woods fun for her, and as a longtime alpine skier she enjoyed going downhill without the wobbles again. I ski a lot of tree runs that are short, between 10 and 25 turns but steep and this rig has done it for me there as well. That said now that the powder is gone I think I may prefer the 88-60-78 waist of the old Fischer Rebound (not sure what that is now) for the trees. As you can see I'm more xcD than XCd, probably a little OCD as well but hey...

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Re: All purpose backcountry/bushwack ski

Post by MikeK » Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:29 am

I hope lilcliffy will comment as he's in your neck of the woods and an avid BC Nordic skier. He's also much more experienced so he might push you for something more performance orientated.

I got my wife on skis from snowshoes and the biggest factor in getting her going, especially in more intermediate terrain, was a good, solid boot and a stable ski.

Her preference these days for anything that has any significant downhill is an Excursion and Madshus Epoch. Broken trail or not, she doesn't care about speed, it's all about stability and control for her.

The S Bound 98, despite it's similar specs is a bit of a different beast than the Epoch. It's much harder to ski. It's like a bucking bronco that wants to go all over - the Epoch is way more tame, but still a challenge for the novice with a soft boot. The S 98 absolutely kills in climbing though... it's a climbing beast! Best climbing ski I own. I'm amazed when I go back to my regular waxless skis at how steep I could stomp right up with them. It's not even fair...

Anyway - the S88 might be a better compromise as it probably won't be as squirelly as the 98... can't say for sure as I haven't actually skied it... just guess based on the specs. It probably won't climb as well due to less width under foot, but for rolling terrain and in more of a distance covering mode, it might be the ticket. Even the 78 might be acceptable and should tour even better. The 78 is probably more comfortable on a broken trail or harder base with less soft snow just based on trends of these skis. For breaking trail and bushwhacking I'd want the extra width (also a shorter length for maneuverability).

I'd say the S88 or the Epoch would be what you should look into. The Epoch being a little wider, softer and straighter in the tail making it an easier ski to use. The S88 is really more for turns but is probably narrow enough to kick and glide reasonable well with a novice.

I would definitely recommend you start off with 3 pin bindings and change over to the NNN style later on once you've become proficient. That's what I did. My wife still prefers 3 pins for everything. I still use them on my wider skis.

As far as boots an Excusion plastic shell boot will give the most control and make these easier to use going down. You'll definitely pay a penalty during strides on flat and going uphill. It's slower, but not as slow as snowshoes. A mid-stiff boot like the Fischer BCX875 (or even the BCX675) or the Crispi Svartisen (if you can get it or aren't scared to order from Europe) would be acceptable, but more difficult at first. As you get better the leather boots will feel better and better.

Best of luck, and let us know how it goes!

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Re: All purpose backcountry/bushwack ski

Post by ddg » Wed Mar 11, 2015 11:49 am

Thanks for the info!
CIMA wrote: If you cherish the feeling of snow shoeing...
I may have unintentionally misled. I want to ski, not snow shoe. :) I want to be able to travel there faster/farther/easier and be able to spend time enjoying the downhill of a steep farmers field. It's the same reason I love cycle touring rather than hiking and running, although those are great too. Also, I do have experience on skis, both nordic and alpine, so no problem there.
Derrick

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Re: All purpose backcountry/bushwack ski

Post by MikeK » Wed Mar 11, 2015 12:01 pm

Oh - well if you are experienced that doesn't change much. It's still a different beast skiing away from Nordic centers or resorts.

Look into the S88 and the Epoch, most likely with pins (cheaper too) and some kind of mid-stiff boot (decent sole stiffness, and a cuff for ankle support). As much as I like the Alaksa, I think it would be a tad soft for what you want to do. You could always give it a shot as it's an available boot and great for touring with light skis.

Unfortunately finding those kind of skis used is a challenge - not many people sell them as they are good skis and most people like them. There is a pair of S88s on here in the classifieds.

Also don't go too short for your height. It might feel strange. Most of these skis are soft enough that a lighter person can get them to go flat. I would guess less than 180 wouldn't be a great idea for a 6' tall person.

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Re: All purpose backcountry/bushwack ski

Post by ddg » Wed Mar 11, 2015 12:12 pm

Thanks MikeK.
MikeK wrote: The S Bound 98, despite it's similar specs is a bit of a different beast than the Epoch. It's much harder to ski. It's like a bucking bronco that wants to go all over... The S 98 absolutely kills in climbing though... it's a climbing beast! Best climbing ski I own. I'm amazed when I go back to my regular waxless skis at how steep I could stomp right up with them. It's not even fair...
...
The 78 is probably more comfortable on a broken trail or harder base with less soft snow just based on trends of these skis. For breaking trail and bushwhacking I'd want the extra width (also a shorter length for maneuverability).
Almost all of my travels will be on unbroken paths. The exploring of new zones in the same area is half the fun. :) For this reason the S98 really intrigues me. And I love the idea of being able to climb easily and control those down hill runs securely. It would be great to hear a comparison from someone who has tried both the S88 and S98.

Just wondering what is meant by "squirrelly". Is it that the skis don't naturally want to stay straight on flat/rolling terrain requiring constant effort to keep them that way? If so, I assume the opposite is true on downhill runs.

In terms of 3-pins does it make sense to get something with the cable, like the Voile 3-pin? Does it make much difference on the downhill? I guess they are usually removed for other terrains.

Thanks again.
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Re: All purpose backcountry/bushwack ski

Post by ddg » Wed Mar 11, 2015 12:22 pm

Thanks StormyMonday and MikeK. How do the Excursions compare to the SCARPA T4s? The T4s are cheaper. :-)
Derrick

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Re: All purpose backcountry/bushwack ski

Post by MikeK » Wed Mar 11, 2015 12:27 pm

If you are always breaking trail, the squirelliness of the 98 will be much less.

I honestly don't mind it at all even skiing in a broken track or in light snow - I really only despise it when it's hard AND flat (if that makes sense) - say like a groomed dowhnill run or a trail that has been packed by skis AND snowshoes (not just ski tracks). It tends to wander all over i.e. sideslip and catch it's curvy edges. The ski doesn't want to go straight and it's stiff, light and undamped enough that it wants to bounce all over.

If fresh snow it's A BLAST! In a backcountry track it's tolerable.

Breaking trail I don't notice the wiggles at all. The snow supports the ski. But when you go down a hill and edge it, it IMMEDIATELY reverses and turns - it's uncanny how willing it is to turn. Once the snow gets wetter and stiffer it slows down a bit and you have to work a bit to get it initiate, but it's so much better than any ski I've tried.

Cables... meh. I don't use them. More of a hassle than they are worth if you ask me. It's nice to have a redundancy if you were doing long, multi-day tours... but for kicking around in the hills - I'd forget it and just go with the pins only (either Rotte or HD Mountaineer).

I'd strongly suggest something stiffer than the Alaska (the Alaska in my gold standard for BC Nordic Boots) for the 98 - it's not all that light a ski (2.5kg+) and it can generate a lot of turning force. I'd recommend something with a thicker duckbill, like 17mm + and at least an ankle cuff. You COULD ski it with a slipper like the Alaska, and I have skied mine that way - but it's NOT easy. If the snow and deep, soft and dry, it's not bad. Anything else you kind of want just a tad more torsional stiffness in the sole and some drive from the ankle. For me, the Crispi Svartisen is the perfect match. If you really wanted downhill power then the Excursion would put this ski anywhere you want it I'm sure. But you have to decide on foot freedom vs. turning power.

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Re: All purpose backcountry/bushwack ski

Post by connyro » Wed Mar 11, 2015 12:28 pm

ddg wrote: Almost all of my travels will be on unbroken paths. The exploring of new zones in the same area is half the fun. :) For this reason the S98 really intrigues me. And I love the idea of being able to climb easily and control those down hill runs securely.
For climbing and descending, IMO the Vector BCs and light plastic boots like Excursions and a light tele binding (Voile 3-pin HW or Switchback) are a great tool for the job. The group that I ski with are all on either Guides, Rossi 125s, Alpina XTerrains, or Vector BCs with light plastic or leather boots, and the Vectors out-climb them all by a long shot. We'll do several hours at a time and cover anywhere from 5-10 miles stomping around looking for good downhills/laps in terrain that ranges from rolling hills to steep, sharp, wooded bowls, most likely not all that different than what you have in NB.

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