I will just not say that the season is over this year, there has been a dump this week out of the blue at sea level…..but todays tour on heavy, melting easter snow made me think about new gear.
Today my tour skis came into their own, being wide enough to tackle the soft condition, and having enough camber to allow me to maintain good glide. Some keen skaters came past us, but took time to disappear for once, and were out just in front of us at the layby on the road.
Very like in any equipment critical sport, xc skiing has some nuances. Like choosing different gear cassettes on bikes ,or sail sizes on boats, you can choose different gears in skis. For me that is just waxing or clistering, perhaps skinning again nect year. But in outset many fanatics have maybe ten core racing/race training skis in classic and four pairs for skating style. The ski collection for the Norsk national team is now a 40ft container, and that is being discussed as too much of an advantage! Andy Musgrave with a third and fifth this week in the country championships here kind of kills that idea!
Skating skis kind of show the way forward for choice of prebend. Because there is no need for a wax-contact kick, the camber is long and hard thus supporting your weight while allowing for edge contact and float from the half of the ski in full contact with the snow. Also at the high end, the tips of skis for soft conditions will lift, giving a bit of forward rocker to prevent the ski tip burrying. Rocker is the new black in alpine and powder skis right now.
For you and me Mr Miss average fun, family and fitness skier i think owning three skis to get cold, hard, soft condition optimised camber aka prebend. But you do have to get the right camber for your weight for your given choice of recreation – tour, BC, faster-training in tracks.
That then should include an idea of total weight with pack! Also your typical type of snow conditions : hard, icey, wet, new snow fall often. That will help modulate your choice between different lengths of standard mid priced ski, and between then different models and brands.
Higher end skis from the larger, specialist outlets, will be available in different cambers for the same model. We are then up at well over 400€ probably plus bindings, so finding a ski model which happens to be the best combination of camber, width, side-cut (in swing) and ski weight is going to be a reasonable investment in time to find them for a good 100€ less.
The basic rule though is to buy from a shop with a camber measurement machine, and also do the two skis paper test on a very flat floor. (Look it up on youtube!)
You can thereafter vary waxing, not only by type but also by length of the zone. The clister zone is usually a good 10cm or more shorter and a little forward of the heel line. But you may find a harder wax on the whole zone with a softer wax starting at the clister zone is another way of modulating grip, or say having clister on wax only under the shoe-sole area. These are ways of modulating the grip-glide equation for different conditions which pose the main challenge of temperature, crystal structure and snow base hardness.
Mountain skis pose more issues now because skis for very soft snow and good down hill BC have less camber and are starting to get double end rocker. There you have a ski which is actually a skin-on uphill, have fun on the way down and maybe just a snow shoe on flatter areas where you would get to kick-glide and double pole on a better cambered ski.
Conversely a ski which is ideal for flat lands, BC touring will be poorer for down hill offpiste ambitions. They will be longer, have less inswing and more camber making them harder to turn and giving a springier, less predictable ride downhill.
My skis are just not that right for anything. For BC with a pack, they are far too narrow for the all-up-weight. Today they were much better than most other types of skis on the prepped tracks. But conditions werent tempting many folk out anyway. Like racing bike tyres, i need to thinner and straighter for the vast majority of skiing I do now.
Next winter something new with radonee may open up, given another short season with no snow before mid to late january at low levels. But it is likely to be a pair of skintecs!
Given I dont go mad and start radonee skiing, nxt years skis will be at race- training level, classic xc.