Tools; choices

The test Hoks are going back home soon, and after making sure I have all the relevant shots I’ll need for the BPL review, I cannot not share this one.

From left to right, weights are per foot:

Atlas Run snowshoe, 1 lb 5.5 oz

MSR Lightning Ascent (W’s, 25″), 1 lb 12 oz

Tubbs Sierra (30″), 2 lb 6.5 oz

125 cm Altai Hok w/ Voile Mountaineer, 2 lb 12 oz

Marquette BC w/ Voile Mountaineer, toe wedge, heal pad and lift, 5 lb 5.5 oz

185 cm Karhu Guide w/ Voile Mountaineer, heal pad and lift, 3 lb 12 oz

Bear in mind that the Marquettes and Guides would need skins for full functionality.

(The X-Trace universal bindings are 18.5 oz a foot.)

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14 thoughts on “Tools; choices

  1. Nice layout. I have a ski that manages to fit in between the snowshoe and the Hok Ski. Technically, it is a skiboard. The particular one I have is not that good, and is heavier than the Hok.

    Speaking of which, how much does the Hok ski weigh without a binding?

  2. That’s fantastic! I don’t know what my skis weigh without bindings, but the closest pair (in weight) that I own is my Inbound Crown skis, which don’t have metal edges. Of course, that doesn’t count the skin, either.

    Too bad you have to return that pair (I would love to play around with it for at least another couple of weeks).

    Thanks for your excellent reporting — it has made me very excited about these skis.

  3. The skis are worth getting excited about. Very excited. The bindings are a bit meh. They could be improved, but I’m beginning to think universals have acute limits.

    I’m working on a rather long BPL review of both, to be published in late summer.

  4. I look forward to your review as well as the skis.

    What I find so interesting about all of this is how accurately I’ve been able to guess the performance of the system. When I read about these, it looked looked like they got the size and dimensions just right, while being able to keep the weight really low. Everything about the ski looks outstanding. Based on what you’ve said, and what I’ve seen (or video of other folks using this) the skis match my expectations.

    Unfortunately, the same is true of the binding. The binding is a really tough proposition. I could write an entire paper on universal bindings (although, to be fair, I haven’t tried all of them). I will say, though, that they all exhibit similar behavior, and all have similar problems they need to overcome.

    Basically, bindings have to overcome two problems. One is the motion of the boot inside the binding. If you don’t get this right, the boot will slosh around in the binding.

    The other problem is that you want to have just the right type of motion for the binding in relation to the ski. The easiest way I know of describing the types of motion is to use airplane terminology, with the binding as the plane, and the ski as the ground. What you want then, is lots of pitch, but no roll or yaw. In other words, if you make a Nordic motion, you want the binding to move up freely (like a Nordic binding). But once you lean your boot to the side (roll) or slide it to the right or left (yaw) you want the ski to move with you.

    Given all of this, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. The best binding I know about is handmade, and solved all of the problems using several pieces of equipment:

    A hinge — Personally, I think a hinge is an absolute necessity. Otherwise, the plastic is asked to do too much. It can’t provide 100% Nordic motion (or pitch) while simultaneously providing near 0% roll and yaw. I just don’t see how that is possible out of single piece of plastic. A hinge, on the other hand, works just like a Nordic binding.

    A center guide — This reduces yaw dramatically. This is very important going on the flats (when making a Nordic motion) but also turned out to be very beneficial when going downhill.

    A latch — This helps quite a bit with roll, just as it does on a heavier Nordic system. Since a universal binding system is more prone to rolling anyway, this becomes even more important.

    Added Straps to a Berwin Binding — This greatly reduced the boot from sliding within the binding. When the boot slips, it tends to create yaw, but it also can give you a bit of roll, which will lead to an inability to edge.

    Generally speaking, I don’t think there is an ideal universal binding out there. However, if you were to apply the basic principles, I think it could be done. Essentially, you need an excellent hinge, an extremely rigid bottom plate, along with excellent sidewalls and straps to secure the boot to the plate.

  5. Very cogent explanation of the issues Ross. In the end I worry about the durability of a hinge, or that making it durable enough would make it far too heavy. My ideal universal would be a plastic plate similar to that on the X Trace, reinforced at the toe, with the toe of the shoe set to be around about the pin line. Add a good strap system, all plastic (no icing or water absorption), with side reinforcements in the toe and heel. Must be sub 10 oz a foot.

    But I don’t expect massive ski performance downhill, and put a permium on carry weight to make them stack up well with snowshoes.

  6. I agree, keeping the weight down is a big problem. Paul didn’t concern himself that much with weight when he made his bindings (http://tinyurl.com/459zdbs). Of course, he wasn’t starting from scratch, so he was limited in what he could do. Much of the weight was in the blocks of wood. The hinge weighs six ounces, which isn’t light, but it isn’t much compared to the wood (he lists the weights of the parts on the end of the first page). The good news is that he was able to get good performance out of the system. In his words “Nothing like Telemark Gear, but better than any Nordic Rig I’ve skied”. This is on Atomic Rainiers. Based on my own experience (and I think a lot of people would back me up) a lot depends on the ski. So, if you get “better than a BC Nordic binding” performance on a small, light ski that has substantial sidecut, you will be able to carve like a madman. I’m not that good of a skier, but I think I would be able to make black diamond runs on those bindings and the Hok skis. I actually got similar performance out of my Skiboard and Berwins (the only problem was that I couldn’t kick and glide). For me to get similar performance out of “normal” old fashioned skis, I would have to go with a pure alpine setup.

    I think a “hinge like mechanism” would work just as well as a hinge. After all, this is basically how a modern Nordic system works (while also providing the ability to click in or lock in). Basically, a bar slides inside hooks. It doesn’t provide as much control as a Telemark (or Alpine) system, but my guess is that it would be adequate for most uses and quite durable. I think other parts of the system (such as the boot slipping inside the binding or the foot slipping inside the boot) would fail before the binding.

    Ten ounces per foot is a great goal, but I don’t know if you could make that, while still providing good control with good striding. I think a pound per binding, though, would be quite feasible. In an ideal world we have the choice, of course, to either pick the really light binding or the heavier duty one, just as we have the choice of ski equipment to use.

  7. Dave:

    This is a tad late, but good timing with winter approaching in the high country: Are those Atlas Run slowshoes worth squat in deepish powder? I know that you’ve done a few traverses with them, and perhaps they are really only usable in the shoulder seasons with more consolidated snowpack? These questions are coming at a time when I’m looking to get a snow solution for the Wilderness Open….

    1. Unless you’re ~100 pounds with a 20 pound pack, they’d suck in deep powder. But all snowshoes do, really. The times I use snowshoes in such conditions is this time of year when you’ve got fresh snow in the passes and little to no snow lower. In that case, smaller, lighter ‘shoes can be the least sucky option.

      That said, in the small ‘shoe realm I’d go for something without the spring back binding, and ideally (esp for spring) with a burlier crampon.

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