April 9, 2010, Newsletter Issue #293: How to Choose Backcountry Skis

Tip of the Week


When you hear the call of the wild, will you be ready to answer? The backcountry provides the adventurous skier with the opportunity to enjoy the ultimate solitude of the ungroomed, untracked and unexplored terrain. However, this highly advanced sport requires a special type of ski. Backcountry skiers do not have the luxury of ski lifts or gondolas. In fact, for backcountry enthusiasts, the hike is a significant part of the thrill. For this reason, backcountry skis will be lighter than alpine skis. In most cases, situations that require greater balance, such as carrying a backpack, soft powder and varying snow conditions, require a wider platform. For this reason, backcountry skis require a minimum of a 50mm wide waist.


If you plan to ski backcountry terrain where you might encounter some trees, choose a ski with a 10mm to 20mm sidecut. This will facilitate the type of short turns that are needed to avoid close encounters with tree trunks. Backcountry skis are designed with a Nordic type of camber, which is the ski's central arch. This type of camber is required for the forward movement that is used in classic striding techniques. Skis designed for the backcountry also have metal edges, which help grip the snow in icy conditions.

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