Last Updated: 2/8/2006
OVERVIEW"What kind of skis and boots should I use?" This is one of the most frequently asked questions I hear about backcountry touring.
Here are some bottom line recommendations for some typical skiing situations here in New England. If one of the following scenarios sounds close to what you are interested in, you can take these as crude starting points for selecting ski equipment that might be helpful for you. Note, there are many trade-offs and other considerations that I try to cover in more detail on my other pages (probably more than you want to read!). You can follow the links provided on this page to get more details if you want.
HOW TO USE THIS PAGE: I think that selecting equipment is a 4-step process. And while most folks want to start by picking out the right skis, I think skis are actually the last thing to pick. Here are the steps:
While that sounds nice and simple, it creates a bit of a chicken and egg problem for people I've talked to who haven't done any backcountry skiing yet. Since they haven't done it, they can't really say what kind of backcountry they will most enjoy.
What follows are 4 different skiing scenarios that are common here in New England. I've done my best to describe both the skiing and its flavor. See which one sounds most like the kind of skiing you want to do.
TOURING SPEED: You regularly ski at nordic touring centers and enjoy the classic technique of kick and glide. You want to explore the backcountry but will primarily ski on trails like XC trails, logging roads and abandoned rail beds where you can really stride. You are more of an endorphin junkie and less of an adrenalin addict. You run and you prefer road bikes over mountain bikes. You are not interested in turning and you are willing to give up a degree of control on downhills in order to get more striding speed.
STRIDING STABILITY: You sometimes ski at nordic touring centers and know how to kick and glide but touring speed is not your highest priority. You want to explore the backcountry and you plan on skiing on rough, narrow New England hiking trails, so stability and control are more important to you. You do not plan on skiing at downhill ski areas. When not skiing, you jog or run on trails. You prefer a mountain bike over a road bike. You want to ski on rolling sections of long distance ski trails like Vermont's Catamount Trail. You may want to use your skis for camping trips while carrying a heavy pack. And while you want the ability to make controlled snowplow turns on the way down, making turns is not the reason why you ski.
ONE SKI FOR ALL THINGS: You want to travel in the woods with efficiency, ski at ski areas and do it all on a single pair of skis. You do not need to ski in prepared tracks at a touring center. Cost is a big factor for you and you want to squeeze as much fun as possible out of a dollar. Or, you are attracted by the appeal of simplicity, the discipline of using one ski for all things and you are willing to accept the trade-offs of performance that go along with this noble, albeit Quixotic goal.
OFF-TRAIL TURNS: You ski at downhill ski resorts and know how to make parallel or telemark turns. You own telemark gear for skiing at ski areas, but you want something a bit lighter to explore the backcountry while looking for opportunities to make turns. You plan on skiing both on hiking trails and deep in the woods far away from trails. You dream about birch glades and have been known to call in sick on powder days. You have or plan on purchasing climbing skins to help climb up the steeper terrain you plan on skiing down. While you want to move with as much efficiency as possible, you are not willing to comprise much in terms of turning capabilities.
Copyright 2004 - 2006 by David Mann