Section 04: Backcountry skis

4. What type of skis do I need?

4.1 What the difference between double and single camber skis

Loosely speaking, the camber of a ski is the amount of bow in the ski, and different amounts of camber are used on skis designed for different purposes. Double camber skis have a large bow, and they are primarily designed for touring in rolling or flat terrain with a kick and glide style. Single camber skis have a smaller bow, and they are designed to ski downhill and turn. To tell if skis are double cambered or single cambered, place the skis bottom to bottom and squeeze. If you can make the bottoms touch in the middle of the ski without much exertion, the skis are probably single cambered. Because these double camber and single camber skis are designed for different types of skiing, many experienced skiers will have at least one pair of each kind of ski. If you can only afford one pair of skis, then you should buy double camber if you plan to use your skis mostly for overland travel and single camber skis if you are skiing in the backcountry skiing for downhill runs.

4.2 What are overland touring skis?

Overland touring skis are generally double cambered and are designed to ski in rolling terrain. Waxable and non-waxable versions are available. Generally, the waxable skis perform better when the skier is knowledgeable about the use of wax, but the non-waxed skis are easier to use for inexperienced skiers. Narrow and wide overland touring skis are available. The wide skis are used for overland backcountry skiing in deep snow, while the traditional narrow skis are generally used where a ski track has been set. Narrow skis can still be used to ski in deep backcountry snow as well. Skating ski gear is only appropriate for skiing on a groomed track.

The proper length for narrow skis is generally about 10cm longer than the skier is tall. The proper length for wide skis is about 5-10 cm shorter than the skier is tall. Annual ski reviews are available in the magazines such as Backcountry, Backpacker, Couloir, and Cross Country Skier.

4.3 What about telemark skis?

Telemark skis are usually single cambered and designed to ski downhill using the telemark turn. Most telemark skis have metal edges and have a relatively soft uniform flex. Different telemark skis are also designed for use in different snow types including powder, hard pack and racing. Beginning telemark skiers should look for a ski with a softer flex, a broad tip and tail and a narrow waist. This ski profile will make learning the turn easier.

The proper length for telemark skis depends on the type of ski purchased, but generally a wide single camber skis should be about the height of the skier, a narrow single camber should be about 10 cm longer than the skier is tall, and a double camber ski should be 10 to 20 cm longer than the skier. Annual reviews of telemark skis are available in magazines such as Backcountry, Couloir, and Powder.

4.4 What are randonee and AT skis?

Alpine touring skis are generally short, wide and light skis that are designed to ski hard snow with tight turns. They are used for mountain skiing and ski mountaineering where steep slopes and difficult snow conditions will likely be encountered. Models are also available for soft snow conditions. Most alpine touring skis range from 160cm to 190cm in length and are more than 80mm wide in the shovel. Many alpine touring skis weigh 3kg or less (about 2/3 the weight of an alpine ski of equal length). Most alpine touring skis have hole in the tip and a notch in the tail. The notch in the tail is used as a attachment point for climbing skins, and the hole is used build an emergency rescue sled from the skis.

Annual reviews of alpine touring skis are available in magazines such as Backcountry and Couloir.

4.4.1 What are those holes for?

This has two answers.

To see those funny columns of snow coming through when skiing really good powder.

To make an emergency rescue sled (requires a shovel, 5 meters of rope and a ski pole.)

4.5 Can I use alpine skis for backcountry skiing?

Regular alpine skis have been used by generations of backcountry skiers in the mountains. Many telemark and alpine touring skiers use all mountain alpine skis, and some skiers use alpine equipment exclusively in the backcountry. The biggest disadvantage of alpine skis is that they are heavy to carry up the mountain. To learn more about alpine skis, see the rec.skiing FAQ in rec.skiing.announce.

4.6 What are the pros and cons of using epoxy, white glue or nothing on a new mounting job?

It seems that there are as many opinions about how to mount skis as there are people that mount skis. The following opinions are a sample of methods employed by skiers that participate on rsb.

From Good Ol' Ed:
> I have used both and prefer epoxy. White glue seems to have a 
> water base and I have had a number of screws rust in their holes
> because of it. It should not take much time at all because you 
> bon't need much on. 

From Chris Amrhein:
> I'm inclined to go with a "glue" that doesn't need to lose water 
> or solvent (like white glue or thinned epoxy).  I agree with the 
> "keep water out" theory as I have had several skis with rusted 
> screws. Also, I'd be worried about putting solvents (like acetone)
> inside a foam core ski.  The solvent could dissolve the core.  The
> advantage of epoxy is it hardens without losing solvent and doesn't
> shrink when 'dry'.  There are a lot of industrial and marine grade
> epoxy compounds that stay liquid for 2 hours after mixed.  These 
> are all a lot better and more moisture resistant than the hardware
> store stuff in a tube.  You usually have to buy the epoxy in pint 
> cans so for one or two skis it isn't worth it.

From Andrew MacLean:
> If the holes are tight (new), I like to use something like Sealcoat
> or ShoeGoo.  If they are a little suspect, I'll use white glue 
> (Elmers).  If they are stripped, blown out or just generally suspect,
> I'll use an epoxy.  For honeycomb skis, I drill, fill the cells with
> slow curing epoxy, screw the bindings on and flip them over.

From jb:
> As I've said most pros as a rule do not mount bindings with 
> epoxy.  Maybe there are other factors that come into play in 
> screws ripping out like correct hole size, a good tapping job
> (if required), and the screw not being over or under tightened
> (torque, eh). This is all that it is required to hold the binding
> on, glue just dampens, seals and lubes. A _waterproof_  white glue
> correctly applied works just fine. 

If you do choose to use epoxy on foam core skis, you should cure the glue slowly with the skis upside down.

From thomas sperre:
> My experience with epoxy for binding screws is the most likely
> explanation that I broke a pair of Evolution Ruby Mountains. These
> "unbreakable" skis broke beneath the binding while I was traversing
> a mountainside on a cross-country ski tour. Lucky for me, they were 
> guaranteed to be unbreakable, so I got new ones for free. The sales 
> rep told me they had been looking into the fracture and the core 
> had been degraded through aggressive chemicals in epoxy glue. 

From Steve Strickland:
> The epoxy I'm using says it is for foam core skis.  Maybe some 
> epoxy mixtures are more harmful to foam core skis while others 
> are not? One thing I know is, most folks are seeming to agree 
> that epoxy is much better at preventing rip-out than white glue
> Contrary to what I assumed, I think folks are using all different
> kinds of epoxy with different mixtures and additives.  There is
> evidently some epoxy that should not be used on foam core skis, and
> certainly some additives that would be harmful to foam core skis.
> So when someone says they epoxy the screw holes, it can be a good
> thing or a bad thing depending on what epoxy they used and whether
> it cured upside down or not.

Booker C. Bense wrote:
> You need to be careful with the thickness of epoxy that you 
> use. I've seen "repairs" that melted the foam core of the 
> board. 
> - - My technique is : 
> 1. Use slow cure marine epoxy with some strengthening powder.
> 2. Work in a cool basement ( 50-60 degrees ). 
> 3. Dip the screws in epoxy. 
> 4. Mount binding. 
> 5. Let cure upside down.

4.7 How close can I drill new holes next to old ones?

A lot of people ski on used alpine skis. A natural question to ask is how do you remount older skis.

From Paul von Boeck:
> In my shop life, which wasn't too long ago, the standard was to 
> be no closer than one hole width when redrilling.  I followed this
> rule on two pair of alpine boards that were resurrected for tele 
> with no problems. If you've got 15mm that should be plenty.

From Jeff Wilson:
> I'm no expert at skis but I've been a woodworker for years.  IMHO
> filling the holes with wooden dowels adds more strength than just
> filling with glue and will allow you to drill closer.  I agree with
> another poster that its best not to get closer than a screw width to
> the old hole.  Also, if possible, let the plug job cure for a couple
> of days before remounting bindings.  Glue, and especially epoxy gets
> stronger with time.

On to Section 5: How about the ski boots?

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