Peak & Prairie
April / May 1998
New Gear Makes Cross-Country Skiing More Fun
by Norm Roller
Now is a good time to take a look at cross-country skiing equipment. New ski and binding designs and improved materials in boots and poles offer many benefits co mpared to the equipment of five and ten years ago.
Boots now include models for skate, classic, touring, backcountry and te lemarking. More manufacturers are now making boots specifically for women's feet . A touring or backcountry style boot can provide greater ski control in backcou ntry situations. If you would like to try skating, but do mainly classic skiing, you might consider "combi" (combination) boots. They offer more support, without the weight and ankle restriction of a true skating boot.
The new systems offer more control, almost as much as the old 75 mm t hree-pin bindings, but without the associated boot sole breakage problems. New binding systems transfer muscle energy to the snow more efficiently and are much less tiring to use. The position of the pivot point is under your toes and the ridges that run down the center of the binding provide tremendous lateral control. No longer will your boot slip off your ski when you are snowplowing or trying to turn. Both Salomon (Profil) and Rottefella (NNN) make this type of binding and both perform well. The system you buy should be based on the type of binding required by the boot that fits you best. If the recreational models aren't sturdy enough for you, there are heavier duty "backcountry" versions of each system available. Automatic versions of the bindings make stepping in and out almost effortless. The only problem is snow build-up around the toe-bar if you walk in soft snow. Spray the binding area of your boots with a glide-enhancer, like Speed-Cote to reduce this problem.
The biggest change in skis is the emergence of the new "short" and "mid" length skis. The shortest of these skis, at 147 cm, are almost like ice skates. "Shorties" are especially fun for first-timers and for those who want to learn skating. They work best on prepared tracks and firm snow. Most skiers prefer the mid-length skis because of their greater stability on downhills and their ability to negotiate deeper or softer snow.
A good mid-length ski for on-trail use is the Revolution Super Control by Fischer. For on and off-trail skiing, try the wider Trak Nova. Most grooming machines lay down tracks about 60 mm wide and a wider ski will tend to drag along the track's edges. Many mid-length skis come in various lengths. Pick the stiffest skis available in the length class recommended by the manufacturer. Classes are based on skier weight, so if you are a taller and heavier person than a verage, stick with skis in the traditional lengths.
CAP technology has trans formed ski construction. The topsheet of the ski is also a structural, load-bear ing component. For the average tourer, the benefits of CAP technology are greater c ontrol, specifically in snowplowing and turning, and lighter weight, which makes touring less tiring.
The Pentron 46 by Kneissel, in its waxless form, is the best no-wax ski I have tried. For touring, a good CAP ski is the Valley BC by Atomic.
By now all skiers should be using fiberglass poles with adjustable straps. Half-baskets are lighter and result in more positive pole plants on uphills than full baskets. Full-baskets are necessary only in deep snow.
You may want to test new equipment before purchasing it. Call ski shops
and ask if they allow customers to "demo" skis. It's worth trying out equipment
you may want to buy.