The Legendary Karhu XCD Guide/Madshus Annum

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lilcliffy
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The Legendary Karhu XCD Guide/Madshus Annum

Post by lilcliffy » Sat Feb 07, 2015 7:47 pm

I here have decided to offer my humble “review” of the famous, and now legendary (in its own time), Madshus Annum/Karhu XCD Guide (my newest pair are the 2013/2014 model year).

(I apologize if I end up annoying anyone by blabbering on about stuff you already know about this ski! I thought I might be able to offer my own perspective, and stimulate a discussion about the Annum/Guide)

The Madshus Annum is the replacement for the Karhu XCD Guide (the two are essentially identical). With a 109-78-95mm profile; the Annum/Guide is one of the fattest xcountry skis on the North American market (only the Fischer S-Bound 112 (if only slightly), and the Rossignol BC125, are fatter). The “XCD” stands for “xcountry-downhill”. These skis are hybrid xcountry-telemark skis- designed to offer a balance between off-track xcountry touring, and downhill-turning performance. As far as truly dedicated single-cambered XCD skis; Fischer’s S-Bounds, Rossignol’s fattest BC skis (BC90, 110&125), and Alpina’s fattest backcountry skis (e.g. X-Terrain/Discover 110); have a somewhat similar design and intent to the Madshus/Karhu XCD line.

The Annum/Guide is an obvious choice for XCD (i.e. telemark) skiing in deep snow, in mountainous terrain. I also highly recommend the Annum/Guide as a backcountry-xcountry trekking/touring ski (i.e. classic kick & glide) in deep snow. The Annum/Guide is typically overlooked as a straight forward xcountry ski. IME the Annum/Guide is the best deep powder, xcountry kick and glide ski available in North America. Don’t let the width scare you off- if you regularly xcountry ski in deep, soft snow- consider the Annum!

Here is a brief summary of the Annum/Guide specs:
• 109-78-95mm profile
• Progressive sidecut, with a relatively straight tail
• Full-length metal edges
• Single-cambered (it has been described as having a “traditional” single camber)
• Relatively soft tips/tails (but not alpine-powder “rocker” (reverse camber) soft)
• Waxless base under foot (Karhu’s “Omnitrack”)

First of all- no matter what the intended use- the Annum/Guide is (IMO/IME) first and foremost a ski designed for relatively deep powder snow. As a xcountry ski, the Annum/Guide is brutally inefficient on dense and/or hard snow. IME, as a telemark ski- you need some pretty rugged boots-bindings to control this ski on dense and/or hard snow, in a downhill turn. However, put this ski in the pow- and it becomes the ultimate XCD ski! In deep, soft snow this ski tracks, strides, kicks and glides, smoothly and efficiently. In deep, soft snow, you can stride/drive this ski through a sweet telemark- even with relatively light Nordic boots (and even system (SNS/NNN) bindings).

I have 195cm Guides and Annums in both a 3PC setup and a NNNBC Magnum setup, respectively. Although the Guide/Annum is the least versatile xcountry ski in my “quiver” (i.e. only for the pow); it is my favorite ski- allowing me to fully enjoy XCD skiing in deep, soft snow.

This ski is most commonly used as a light telemark-touring ski (with 75mm tele bindings) - and for good reason. As a light “mountain” telemark ski, the Annum does it all in deep pow: climbs, turns, and strides.

I have rigorously tested the Guide (195cm/109-78-95mm) against the Fischer S-Bound 112 (189cm/112-78-95mm) in deep snow, in relatively extreme mountainous terrain. Here are my current observations/conclusions:
• The S-112 climbs more efficiently than the Annum/Guide.
• The S-112 turns more efficiently than the Annum/Guide, in a carved downhill turn.
• The Annum/Guide has better traction than the S-112, in kick and glide xcountry striding.
• The Annum/Guide seems to track straighter than the S-112.
These impressions are very similar to my comparative tests of the other S-Bounds and Madshus XCDs. The Madshus/Karhu XCDs seem to have a balance of performance weighted a little more towards xcountry touring (perhaps a legacy of their Finnish designers?). The S-Bounds seem to have a balance of performance weighted a little more towards climbing and downhill turning (perhaps a legacy of their Austrian designers?).

In recent years, I have changed my perspective on the Annum/Guide…My current perspective of this ski is that it is first and foremost an off-trail xcountry touring ski- with some moderate downhill performance.

A bit of background here. In the past, I have always assumed that something as fat as the Annum is really a telemark ski, and have reserved them for that use alone (with 75mm 3PC telemark bindings). I have used the 195cm Guide with 3PC bindings, and T-4 boots as my go to “mountain” setup for skiing in areas that tend to have a lot of deep snow, and extreme terrain (e.g. Gaspe Mountains, Laurentians). In recent years (I don’t get out much- I have 4 young children!); I have only needed my “mountain” XCD gear a few times per season (heck- my wife and I haven’t even made it to QC for two seasons now (our youngest 2 children are under 3 years old)).

My everyday backyard skiing in central New Brunswick (Stanley) offers endless 100s of kms of backcountry touring through fields, woods roads, trails; over gentle to moderate rolling terrain- with only the occasional steep climb and descent. So- my everyday skiing has much more of a backcountry-xcountry tour, than a downhill climb/turn focus. In this context- I am in love with NNNBC manual bindings and boots. But, until very recently I had never considered using the Annum with NNNBC bindings as an off-trail xcountry ski. In the past, I have assumed that the only best choice in a backcountry-xcountry ski is a long, relatively narrow, metal-edged, double-cambered ski. However; I have never been impressed with the xcountry performance of double-cambered skis in deep snow. We get a lot of snowfall in central New Brunswick. And; unlike the more coastal areas of the Maritimes- our snow survives winter warm spells (for example, I skied at least once a day last season (2013-2014) from late November until the second week of May!- and I am well on my way to the same this season!). The typical snow pattern here starts with a huge dump of fresh, soft snow (sometimes as much as 50cm), which gradually condenses into dense, hard snow (caused by warm spells, wind, and the occasional ice storm); all leading up to the next fresh dump!

For a few years now my everyday choice in fresh snow has been a 205cm Madshus Eon/Karhu XCD GT (83-62-70mm) with NNNBC bindings. I have always been very pleased with the Eon, especially when I manage to maintain my own backcountry "track." I have never been thrilled with the Eon when I am breaking trail- especially through deep snow (this happens to be my passion).

At the beginning of the 2013-2014 season, I bought a fresh pair of Annums and mated a NNNBC magnum binding to them. The result? Pure, thrilling, efficient, stride, kick, glide, and light telemark. I am actually blown away to discover that the Annum is truly a classic off-trail xcountry ski- in disguise as a tele ski. In deep snow, it has smooth and snappy kick and glide, breaks trail effortlessly, and tracks very well.

The NNNBC binding brings out this stride, kick and glide performance more completely. The design of this ski is brilliant. There is just enough progressive sidecut in this ski to be able to turn it when you need to. But, it has quite a straight tail and tracks beautifully.

Although the Eon has always been marketed as being "more about the tour than the turn," I would argue that the same goes for the Annum; and that suits me just fine.

The performance of this ski is fundamentally tied to the binding/boot system.

75mm Nordic/telemark bindings are without a doubt the most versatile and flexible setup- ranging from classic xcountry, to light telemark.

However; (IME/IMO) NNNBC binding/boot systems offer much more efficient classic xcountry performance (i.e. stride and glide) - allowing the complete extension of the Nordic stride.

For my everyday skiing- rolling terrain with only the occasional steep descent and climb- I much prefer the NNNBC system. If my backyard skiing had much more vertical to it- I would probably be on 75mm.

In the mountains (in deep snow), my touring setup is a 195cm Karhu XCD Guide with 3PC cable bindings and Scarpa T-4 boots.

My every day, gentle to moderate terrain setup (in deep snow) is a 195cm Annum with NNNBC-magnum bindings, and Alpina Alaska boots. As a xcountry ski; the only thing I could wish for is an even longer length…say 205 or 210cm…

Hear that Madshus? We need a 200+cm Annum for backcountry-xcountry skiing in the pow!

In conclusion- if you want to- or find yourself- routinely xcountry skiing in deep pow- consider the Annum!
Last edited by lilcliffy on Sun Feb 08, 2015 12:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Cross-country AND down-hill skiing in the backcountry.
Unashamed to be a "cross-country type" and love skiing down-hill.

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Johnny
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Re: The Legendary Karhu XCD Guide/Madshu Annum

Post by Johnny » Sun Feb 08, 2015 9:57 am

Thanks for that GREAT review Cliffy! This should be the stuff we read on manufacturers sites. I can't believe the only info Madshus will provide about the ski is "The Annum blends our Nordic heritage but with a wider, turn oriented platform to create a completely unique, lightweight backcountry touring nordic ski."

For years, the Guides were my to-go skis for the woods. (Until I got a pair of 10th Mtns... ; )

While I find myself using the Epochs most of the time now, the Guide is the perfect powder ski. Everyone should own a pair. It's the fattest ski you'll ever need. The ultimate powder ski. I never skied them with plastic boots, no matter if it's steep or deep, as I don't see what could be gained from doing so. As long as the snow is bottomless, the Guides can be controlled with any leather boots.

I remember the first time Bri7 saw me with the Guides on a fresh powder day... (He had some super fat Black Diamond skis back then...) He said "Dude, you're gonna sink with your XC skis!"

Thanks for nicely building up this customer review database!!
/...\ Peace, Love, Telemark and Tofu /...\
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lilcliffy
Posts: 4114
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2015 6:20 pm
Location: Stanley, New Brunswick, Canada
Ski style: backcountry Nordic ski touring
Favorite Skis: Asnes Ingstad, Combat Nato, Amundsen, Rabb 68; Altai Kom
Favorite boots: Alpina Alaska BC; Lundhags Expedition; Alfa Skaget XP; Scarpa T4
Occupation: Forestry Professional
Instructor at Maritime College of Forest Technology
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Re: The Legendary Karhu XCD Guide/Madshus Annum

Post by lilcliffy » Sun Feb 08, 2015 1:30 pm

Ahhh- XCD 10th Mtns...what an incredible and versatile ski...

At least in deep powder; I too find I do not need a stiff plastic boot with the Annum/Guide.

I was just out this morning for a few hours in deep pow on 30 to 70% slopes through fields and woods..When I am in the pow I can stride and carve the Annum clear through the telemark- even with my NNNBC Alaskas.

On hardpack...different story...I have been in many hairy situations with the Guide on hardpack slopes, with leather boots, and had no control what-so-ever. On hardpack I cannot hold the Annum on edge and carve- I just end up skidding sideways as the boot refuses my attempts at BOF control.

Obviously this lack of Annum/Guide control on hardpack is mostly due to poor application, not boot strength- powder skis are not designed to perform on hardpack. (As an aside- I occasionally take my kids to the local Alpine hill (groomed); and I am amazed at all the $1000 ultra-fat, reverse-camber powder skis, on hardpack, icy snow! People need $700 iron-rigid alpine boots to control those fat noodles on hard snow! :? )

On the other hand- on hardpack- with a narrower ski like the Eon, or even better S-Bound 78- I can carve through the telemark.

The reason I have used plastic boots in the past is my anxiety of touring in the mtns, and ending up on an exposed wind-blown hardpack slope. That being said- I actually HATE touring in plastic boots. Once you have felt the true freedom of movement in a trad leather Nordic boot- I find it is very difficult to accept the brutal inefficiency of plastic boots while touring.

I come from a xcountry skiing background. As a teenager I spent some minimal time on alpine skis with friends and family. During the mid to late 90s I had a brief love-hate affair with Alpine Touring gear in the mountains of BC. Although I will never regret my big mtn ski experiences- my eventual conclusion is that I hate AT- with a bit of a passion. Although I understand and appreciate the ability to make alpine turns on extreme terrain- touring in AT gear is MURDEROUSLY inefficient. So- I flirted with the Dark Side and then returned to my passion- Nordic (free-heel) skiing.

I want to be able to free-heel fly on skis- no matter what the conditions. The only time I want to accept slowing down is when I am climbing. Unless I am screamin down a steep slope- plastic boots always make me feel like I have an iron ball and chain attached to my ankle! :evil:

I haven't used plastic Nordic boots in almost 4 years! I am inspired to never go back to them!

LoveJohnny- I couldn't agree with you more- everyone should have a pair of Guides/Annums to fully enjoy the powder!
Cross-country AND down-hill skiing in the backcountry.
Unashamed to be a "cross-country type" and love skiing down-hill.



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lilcliffy
Posts: 4114
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2015 6:20 pm
Location: Stanley, New Brunswick, Canada
Ski style: backcountry Nordic ski touring
Favorite Skis: Asnes Ingstad, Combat Nato, Amundsen, Rabb 68; Altai Kom
Favorite boots: Alpina Alaska BC; Lundhags Expedition; Alfa Skaget XP; Scarpa T4
Occupation: Forestry Professional
Instructor at Maritime College of Forest Technology
Husband, father, farmer and logger

Re: The Legendary Karhu XCD Guide/Madshus Annum

Post by lilcliffy » Sun May 17, 2015 1:35 pm

Just a product testing update...

I recently realized that the S-Bounds I have tested in recent years are NOT the latest models with the much-improved waxless bases.

So- I wouldn't put much weight on my traction/climbing comparisons between waxless Fischer S-Bounds and Madshus XCD skis.

Fischer seems committed to continuously improving the S-Bound line.

Madshus has not been updating the XCD line (e.g. Eon, Epoch, Annum)- I do not get the impression that there is any immediate plans to do so. The product development of this line of skis seems to have temporarily ended with the demise of Karhu skis.
Cross-country AND down-hill skiing in the backcountry.
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Lhartley
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Re: The Legendary Karhu XCD Guide/Madshus Annum

Post by Lhartley » Fri Oct 27, 2023 5:20 pm

Can anyone tell me the first year the Guides were produced?



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Re: The Legendary Karhu XCD Guide/Madshus Annum

Post by Manney » Fri Oct 27, 2023 8:00 pm

Not sure. My first recollection was early 2000s. Maybe ‘06 or ‘07?

Good ski… no doubt. Much of the legendary status comes from their innovative dimensions at the time, which did a better job than most in the burgeoning Backcountry XC(d) scene. Idk when the NNN BC came out… must have been around the same time.

Super well made? Not sure about that. Karhu had a spotty record as a company and manufacturer. It showed in some of their skis 20 years ago… but was new to the classic XC game back then, having begrudgingly transitioned from DH.
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Re: The Legendary Karhu XCD Guide/Madshus Annum

Post by Lhartley » Fri Oct 27, 2023 11:48 pm

I only ask because I was thinking today that there is some parallels between the karhu guide xcd and the suzuki drz400s. I own both. Both of them do everything ok but nothing really well. Both have been made for a very long time without serious advancements. Both are pretty utilitarian, durable, and good value. There's better skis, they're meat and potatoes



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lilcliffy
Posts: 4114
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2015 6:20 pm
Location: Stanley, New Brunswick, Canada
Ski style: backcountry Nordic ski touring
Favorite Skis: Asnes Ingstad, Combat Nato, Amundsen, Rabb 68; Altai Kom
Favorite boots: Alpina Alaska BC; Lundhags Expedition; Alfa Skaget XP; Scarpa T4
Occupation: Forestry Professional
Instructor at Maritime College of Forest Technology
Husband, father, farmer and logger

Re: The Legendary Karhu XCD Guide/Madshus Annum

Post by lilcliffy » Sat Oct 28, 2023 9:43 am

My memory suggests that the XCD Guide (along with the sibling XCD 10th Mountain and GT) date back to the turn of the century...

Karhu XCD Guide = Madshus Annum
Karhu XCD 10th Mountain = Madshus Epoch
Karhu XCD GT = Madshus Eon

My understanding is that these skis were originally designed by Nils Larsen and Francois Sylvain (of Altai Skis) and were made in the Karhu Quebec factory. Production was moved to China after the Karhu QC factory closed and Madhsus (K2) bought the designs.
........
Madshus clearly began temporarily working on redesigns of these skis with smooth wax bases and an integrated skin- as well as a rockered shovel-
.........
All recent reports suggest that Madshus has returned to the original design- with Karhu's Omnitrack scale design:
Karhu XCD Guide = Madshus Annum = Madshus Panorama M78
Karhu XCD 10th Mountain = Madshus Epoch = Madshus Panorama M68
Karhu XCD GT = Madshus Eon = Madshus Panorama M62
Last edited by lilcliffy on Sat Oct 28, 2023 3:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Cross-country AND down-hill skiing in the backcountry.
Unashamed to be a "cross-country type" and love skiing down-hill.



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Lhartley
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Re: The Legendary Karhu XCD Guide/Madshus Annum

Post by Lhartley » Sat Oct 28, 2023 2:59 pm

Thank you, I did hear the Karhu factory was in Quebec but I see no Made in Canada markings on my pair. Glad to know the history. From what I understand if I were to update to the current M78 model I would see similar to identical performance as the original Karhu Guide XCD



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lilcliffy
Posts: 4114
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2015 6:20 pm
Location: Stanley, New Brunswick, Canada
Ski style: backcountry Nordic ski touring
Favorite Skis: Asnes Ingstad, Combat Nato, Amundsen, Rabb 68; Altai Kom
Favorite boots: Alpina Alaska BC; Lundhags Expedition; Alfa Skaget XP; Scarpa T4
Occupation: Forestry Professional
Instructor at Maritime College of Forest Technology
Husband, father, farmer and logger

Re: The Legendary Karhu XCD Guide/Madshus Annum

Post by lilcliffy » Sun Oct 29, 2023 12:23 pm

Lhartley wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2023 2:59 pm
Thank you, I did hear the Karhu factory was in Quebec but I see no Made in Canada markings on my pair. Glad to know the history. From what I understand if I were to update to the current M78 model I would see similar to identical performance as the original Karhu Guide XCD
Yes- and I have only ever seen the "62" and "68" in the temorary redesign with the wax base and kicker skin insert-
Madshus did post a "78" on their site at that time that indicated a redesigned "78" with a smooth wax base and kicker skin insert- I was super excited about that- but, I have never seen such a ski for sale anywhere...

Sport Conrad still had left over redesigned 62s and 68s last season...
........
Someone please correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is the current "Panorama M78" is the same design as the original XCD Guide/Annum (I have not seen the current model in the flesh). There is a video on the Aventure Nordique site that confirms this. And the UTE Magazine review does as well.
Cross-country AND down-hill skiing in the backcountry.
Unashamed to be a "cross-country type" and love skiing down-hill.



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