ExecSum: This neo-classic ski, currently living after the demise of Karhu as the Madshus Annum, is the proverbial jack-of-all-trades, master of none. If you want one ski that will work for 40 degree powder fields, 20 miles of rolling trail breaking, and everything in between, this is the ski.
The facts: My Guides are 185 cm. I’ve owned them since February of 2009. I’ve skied them a lot: long rolling tours on untracked terrain, multi-day trips, double black terrain both in resorts and in the backcountry. I mounted Voile Mountaineers (heavy-duty 3 pin bindings) on 15mm G3 risers, on the factory recommended pin line, and haven’t played around with that original job. Initially I used Alpina BC 2075 plastic/leather boots, but the vast majority of skiing on them has been with a pair of older, softer blue T2 plastic boots which I’ve modified to make lighter and softer (cut off the lean lock, cut down the cuff, made the tongue softer).
Madshus’ claimed weight for the Annum is right in line with my skis, 5.7 lbs for the pair in 185. Very light for a 109-78-95 ski.
Assessment: I call the Guide a neo-classic because I think it will eventually be seen as the originator of a new category of skis, all-around BC touring skis. The Guide took the attributes of Karhu’s long-standing XCD (cross country downhill) series of skis and stretched them to the point that a new category is in order. The Guide’s width is only skinny by contemporary powder-ski standards, and when combined with the Guide’s substantial single camber (seen above, uncompressed), creates a ski that can turn down truly difficult terrain, break trail, and make miles.
The width, robust single camber, fishscale base, and light weight have been the focus of attention for most of the Guide’s life, because they were such a unique combination. Now in the Rossignol BC125 the Guide has been surpassed in dimension, and hopefully more attention can be paid to the Guide’s design, which is very well thought out.
The Guide doesn’t have much sidecut, by alpine standards. It has a big shovel, and the tip is quite soft (flex-wise). The result it excellent float and soft-snow performance, be in downhill, uphill, or on the flats. In truly soft snow conditions the Guide may be one of the more efficient trail breakers around, being wide enough to float well, and still quite light. The back end of the ski has even less sidecut, a feature which serves two distinct and important ends. First, the relative lack of sidecut lets the Guide track very well for a ski of its girth. Second, the pin tail (and the rounded tail tip) lets the tail be dragged quickly around for smear turns, a crucial feature in tight trees or when descending narrow roads and trails when speed must be scrubbed ASAP. The more I ski the Guides in varied terrain, the more I appreciate the utility of the sidecut and flex pattern.
The Guide does have shortcomings. Such a large, light ski will inevitably, in the absence of expensive space age materials, lack both edge hold and dampness. The Guide gets kicked around by hard debris, and while it can hold on edge on frozen snowmobile tracks, requires some consequential body english to do so.
The light bindings and boots which match best this skis versatile nature compound those problems, but not in ways which I find unsafe, or overly problematic. Folks have skied the Guides with everything from NTN to Dynafit, but I like the simple, bomber and cheap Mountaineer binding. The low risers prevent binding drag on hard snow, and the anti-ice tape (plastic sticker on the binding) keeps snow from being compressed into ice. I went until last spring without anti-ice tapes, which was pure folly. They’re impressively effective, a must have accessory.
On the whole, I think the Guide is a great design and a fantastic value. Keep its limitations in mind (skiing steep stuff and bad snow is much like riding a rigid bike on technical terrain) and you’ll not be disappointed.
10/2012 update: The Guides endure, and never fail to get used a ton no matter what each winter brings. I stripped off the risers for ’10/’11 and didn’t miss them at all. As of this writing they are in the garage, mounted with Plum 145 tech bindings, waiting for snow. Check the trackbacks for thoughts on use with Dynafits.