Altai Hok: by the numbers

The prototype, test pair of Altai Hoks arrived right as I left for work Friday (I saw the UPS from our alley parking spot, and turned the truck off to go back inside and unbox them).  So I went skiing, for the first time in over a month, Friday evening and yesterday.  Big Mountains still has a lot of snow.

185 Guide, 125 Hok, 137 Marquette.

The Hoks weigh 2 lb 5 oz per ski, and measure 123-109-123.  Note binding placement relative to chord center on each ski.  It’s an interesting balancing act with skis meant to both turn downhill and go forward on the flat, with a more forward mount favoring the latter, and a rearward mount the former.

Both the Hoks and Marquettes have inserts, a wise choice, as it makes swapping bindings easy and obviates the need for a large reinforced binding mount area (which saves weight).  Of course, it’s only wise if the designers nail the location.  The Marquettes are right on, and I’m confident that Hoks will be as well.  Yesterday I did back to back to back to back runs on the Hoks with the universal bindings shown above, as well as 3 pins in several different positions (via adapters) and both of my plastic boots.  It looks like the production version will be 2 cm back from these, which will be excellent.

In good corn conditions I made a top to bottom run of Tony Matt (long, blue cruiser) in the universal bindings and trail runners.  It’s strenuous as hell, but perfectly doable, even controllable, given the right snow conditions.  With my light three buckle plastic tele boots the skis absolutely come alive, albeit with the speed limit you’d expect with such short skis.  Blacks and double blacks are no problem, as both torsionally and laterally they are quite a stiff ski.

Nice extra-rise tip with a hint of rocker.  Lack of full wrap edge to save weight, though that does (based on my experience with my Guides) leave the tip open to delamination given lots of abuse.

Good amount of camber, and just the right amount of rise in the tail.  In short, initial impression is that the design was nailed.  They’re traversing the Bob with me next weekend.

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12 thoughts on “Altai Hok: by the numbers

  1. Excellent. I think it is great that you are trying these out with the universal bindings this time of year. That is exactly what I want these for. I think these will make superb Spring skis. The weight and length make carrying them less of a chore. I am as curious about the performance of the binding as I am the performance of the ski. Being able to kick and glide while still having control in hiking boots is not easy (I’ve had to make my own bindings to accomplish that).

    My only concern with the skis is the sidecut. It seems a bit small. These should glide a bit better because of it, but I would imagine making turns will be a bit harder. There is less sidecut than my Atomic Rainiers, for example (and I would assume less than your Kahru Guides) and not much more than my metal-edgeless Inbound Crown. Of course, its a much shorter ski, so maybe things are OK because of it. Thanks very much for sharing your experience.

  2. So how will touring on these be different than the Guides Dave? Is it as simple as ‘not as straight on the flat but better on the downs’?

    They look pretty cool for those trips when you have to carry them because of a long walk-in or when you’re not sure of the snow quality on the plateaus. I’ll be following your trip to the Bob with interest.

  3. Joe, re touring; my current thoughts are as follows. Longer skis aren’t actually that much faster breaking trail off piste (relative to a shorter wider ski with comparable surface area and thus float). A shorter ski is more manageable bushwacking, and makes all the difference in the world on those nasty wooded singletrack descents. Ergo you loose a bit of efficiency with short fat skis, but on the whole they can be faster and safer for some trips.

    I should note that the pseudo-rocker (tip and tail), length, and nice gentle curves make this a very smeary ski, which I and my general hack-technique prefer.

    I should also, also note that at Nils’ encouragement I went up to Blacktail (closed ski resort, lots of moderate cruisers) and skied the Hoks with the universal bindings, trail runners, and a lurk.

    Total
    freaking
    blast

    My first two were too short, but eventually I got ~3 cm thick alder stem that was about 7 feet long. Flexy, but strong. Perfect. In corn snow I coudl zip around with an absolutely startling amount of control. Not as backseat as these guys (http://www.youtube.com/user/altaiskis#p/a/u/0/aufGVEMbYEI), but in that general idiom.

    Still skiing, but a different sort.

  4. If the ski is too short and the tips don’t rise enough (for example, on a cheap Skiboard) then getting good Nordic gliding can be hard. I had trouble with this when I attached some Berwin Bindings to a pair of Salomon Snowblades. I did face plants (not literally face plants, of course, as I was going too slow, but the same basic motion of tripping over my feet). It looks like the bindings have more play and the skis are a bit longer (and have better tips) so that problem is eliminated.

    I would be curious as to how well the universal bindings work when paired with stiffer shoes. I’m not talking about ski boots, but “regular” mid-length leather hiking boots. For Spring hiking, this is what I take (mainly to keep my feet dry). You can see the type of boot that I use at the bottom of this doc: https://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0ATMmVnyzoffDZGdzNm45YnpfMzFtM203cnpndg&hl=en
    I don’t know if you have boots like that Dave, but if you do and want to try out the system a bit, I would be very appreciative of your findings. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I don’t own any boots that aren’t plastic tele boots! Unfortunately I don’t know anyone with my size foot and mountain boots, as that’d be nice to try.

  6. If I was close enough to lend you my boots I would just borrow your skis 🙂

    It sounds like the skis and bindings work fairly well with trail runners, so that is a good sign. If you feel like it, please let me know more details about your experience in that regard. Does your foot pivot towards the front (like a Nordic system) or do you bend your foot a lot (with your forefoot close to the ski) or somewhere in between? I know it is hard to describe but my concern is that my boot might be a bit too stiff for the bindings. These aren’t anywhere close to heavy mountaineering boots (let alone plastic ski boots) but they still have a lot less play then trail runners.

    In the end, I’ll probably buy a pair. These look to be the best Spring ski system out there. The only thing that could be better is making your own.

  7. Ross, from rereading your experiment from last year it seems that these universals aren’t as bad as the Berwins, but still mandate a bit of toe bend/squish. Both straps can be loosened a bit, which improves range of motion without too much control loss.

  8. Excellent. That makes a lot of sense. Loosen them up a bit going up, and then tighten them up going down. Thanks again for the info, I really appreciate it.

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