Author Topic: Getting started with backcountry nordic ski touring  (Read 370 times)

bobble

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Getting started with backcountry nordic ski touring
« on: September 02, 2019, 12:51:14 AM »
This winter I'd like to try "backcountry nordic ski touring." By that I mean skiing directly from my front door in the suburbs out through fields and forests and up/down rough hills. I'm thinking of this as a winter hiking, like snowshoeing but a bit quicker and sportier. I can't ski at all yet.

How is the Mustachian way to get started with this? Is it important to have the right skis (metal edge, etc) or does that not matter for beginners? Is it worth borrowing random skis for a few weeks or is it better to buy particular ones right away? Any particular pitfalls to avoid?

(Asking partly because when I learned to snowboard I made the mistake of buying really lousy bindings and fighting with those made things really frustrating.)

Linea_Norway

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Re: Getting started with backcountry nordic ski touring
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2019, 02:06:16 AM »
Firstly, when skiing without trails, you are very depending on the snow circumstances. Snow can be very fluffy, and sometimes be so loose that you can't even form a snowball. Other times the snow can be thick and pretty solid. Other times, the snow can be very loose, but have a hard crust on top that can carry you sometimes, sometimes not. The snow can also be very icy and under these circumstances you need steel sides when you want to move on a slope.

As you see, advising to buy 1 type of skis is a bit of a challenge. I have several pairs of skis. I have narrow skis to use in prepared trails. But the widest type of these trail skis (the cheapest pair), I also use in marginal circumstances in the wood, e.g. when 15 cm wet and solid snow has fallen, then I just take these skis and go skiing on gravel roads or grass (like the local golf course). These skis have very comfortable shoes and bindings.

I also have a pair of back country skis (Åsnes Rago), which are the widest type that still fit into a trail, and have steel sides. These skis are very solid and I can use them with a heavy backpack. But under the most fluffy snow circumstances, they sink very deep into the loose snow and I can't use them. These skis have BC bindings and are not very comfortable to ski on, because they are so stiff and heavy. When I go up a hill, using fish bone technique, I tend to get blisters. I always need to tape my feet before using these skis and even then, my heels get sour. When I just move on flattish circumstances it goes better.

People who ski a lot in the woods to photograph animals, tend to have wider skies that don't fit into trails anymore. Then can carry you in fluffier snow.

My husband has a pair in between, those are a bit narrower and therefore lighter in weight than my BC skis. They can be used with comfortable shoes and are more pleasant to ski with. But these are less solid than my BC skies and not equally fit to use with a 10-15 kg backpack. These lighter bindings can also break with you carry a backpack.

I can advice you one thing, buy ski poles that have a wide ring on the underside and where you can grip the handle at some different heights, or can adjust the length of the poles in some way. If you intend to climb a hill from time to time, you might want to use shorter poles then on your way down. I have a pair of poles with a long handle bar, so that I can hold it 20 cms lower than normally. Other people might have poles that can be made shorter. You might want to buy a pair of ski poles that is quite light weight, but still solid.

So, what kind of snow do you usually have in your area? Very fluffy or pretty solid?
Do you intend to ski with a day-backpack or with tenting gear?

habaneroNorway

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Re: Getting started with backcountry nordic ski touring
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2019, 03:51:41 AM »
If you are just getting 1 pair of skis to hike backcountry I would look for something fairly wide to carry you outside groomed tracks, with steel edges for icy conditions and with short skins under (so you don't have to bother with ski wax which is an entire field in itself).

Skis for cross country / hiking should be matched to weight of the person on top because there is a fairly delicate balance between friction (when you step down) vs sliding forward. If the ski is too stiff you won't get enough friction, if it's too soft you will get too much. If you go to a good sports store they will take quite some time to find the exact pair that best matches the customer in question. There is no one-size-fits-all. This is especially important for cross country skiing on groomed tracks where you can go fast.

For bakcountry you need poles with a big base, otherwise they will just disappear into the snow.

For trying out i'd recommend just borrowing from someone in the area if you know someone.




« Last Edit: September 02, 2019, 03:53:39 AM by habaneroNorway »

bobble

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Re: Getting started with backcountry nordic ski touring
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2019, 06:03:54 AM »
So, what kind of snow do you usually have in your area? Very fluffy or pretty solid?
Do you intend to ski with a day-backpack or with tenting gear?

I will be skiing close to Billingen in the middle of Sweden. I'll initially being making day-trips and I love the image of taking a camera and following animal tracks. I'd like to aim for that. Over time I'll work my way up to overnighting in the wilderness.

There will be prepared trails nearby but I'm not immediately so interested in those as in getting out on my own and exploring.

I'll see what I can borrow from Fritidsbanken and learn about what's the best fit for me. I've never tried that before but it sounds promising as a way to try out gear for free. I suspect I'm such a n00b that I won't be able to tell the difference between suitable and unsuitable gear in the beginning.

Linea_Norway

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Re: Getting started with backcountry nordic ski touring
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2019, 06:44:16 AM »
Then indeed some wider skies sound good for a first pair. They will give you better support in loose snow.

Earlier there were other back country bindings, called 75mm. When you buy skis, try to avoid these, as they tend to give more blisters, or put on a new binding. Try to find something called BC binding, which is a modern binding. And try on different shoes to see which fit your feet best.

Skis can be bought second hand for very little money, but it is good to know what you are looking for.