UKC

ski mountaineering questions

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 maxsmith 14 Apr 2021

Hi all, I'm interested in buying a setup that will allow me to access remote parts of Scotland in winter.  It would be mainly cross country with a bit of skinning.  I was a good skiier as a teenager but I'm now much more experienced on a snowboard.  Because of where I live I don't go to Scotland regularly so I'm hoping to use bits of my existing kit to avoid spending tons on a setup that won't see much use.  So I'd prefer a cheap solution rather than a perfect one!

Can you buy skis with bindings to fit mountaineering boots (I use La Sportiva trango B2s)? If so would the flex in the boots make skiing uncomfortable/impossible?

I've got some 15 year old rossignol piste skis in the loft (slightly too short for me) but don't have any plastic boots, could I get bindings for these to fit my B2s? or should I buy some new plastic ski boots?

I've got some really comfortable snowboard boots...Is it possible to buy an old 90s splitboard with skins cheaply, or is this sort of thing so niche that even old kit is still expensive? (everything I can see on eBay currently is $$$)

Thanks for any help or suggestions

Post edited at 09:23
1
 daWalt 14 Apr 2021
In reply to maxsmith:

BCA alpine treckker bindings are what you would want to mount to your old skis.

BUT, these are a very niche thing, and you seriously risk wrecking your knees if you take a bad fall while skiing (no release)

you might be able to find an old splitboard, potentially home made, but I'v never seed one for sale. these come with the drawback that they are heavy, and they don't skin particularly well.

edit,

seems alpine treckers are now difficult to find....

but I'v never seen these before:

https://scandinavianoutdoor.com/outdoor-action-finland/winter-sports/back-country-skiing/bindings/ea-siteet/

Post edited at 09:30
1
In reply to maxsmith:

It depends what you mean by cross country skiing.

If you mean gentle rolling terrain, lower hills, you would be better with a true nordic backcountry setup.

If you actually mean up and down mountain terrain, you want ski mountaineering/ski touring equipment.

Skiing in mountaineering boots makes anything downhill at best painful hard work, at worst impossible, with a broken ankle.

Modern ski mountaineer/ski touring boots work well with a crampon for climbing, but are a slog on ground that is not covered in snow.

Piste skis are not suitable.

If you want a aetup for both of the above, you will have to make large compromises.

Have a look at Braemar Mountain Sports and BackcountryUK. 

 maxsmith 14 Apr 2021
In reply to nickinscottishmountains:

thanks both, I think I'm after 'gentle rolling terrain, lower hills', can you use mountaineering boots for a 'true nordic backcountry setup'?

 OwenM 14 Apr 2021
In reply to maxsmith:

No, they don't flex or have the duckbill or built-in bar needed to connect with the bindings. 

 Doug 14 Apr 2021
In reply to maxsmith:

If you search these forums you'll see several threads asking similar questions. Rolling terrain is best skied with nordic skis & boots, probably heavier, steel edged skis & boots with a fair bit of support. The nordic 'kick & glide' needs boots which flex under the ball of the foot. There are bindings which will allow you to use your walking/climbing boots but you are unlikely to be able to be able to kick & glide across the countryside.

Years ago, it was common (relatively) to use Silvretta alpine touring bindings with stiff (usually plastic) climbing boots but from a downhill skiing point of view this wasn't great, especially in difficult snow. I've not seen anyone doing this in years & there's good reasons not too, espcially as modern ski touring boots are good for climbing as well as skiing

 daWalt 14 Apr 2021
In reply to maxsmith:

what Doug said.

> Rolling terrain is best skied with nordic skis & boots, probably heavier, steel edged skis

this is absolutely true, on flat and gently rolling terrain they are in a different league.

I really really wouldn't look at splitboard stuff unless you actually want to board. it's quite sub-optimal in terms of travel and ascent. on flat ground it's only slightly better than snowshoes.

I'll add a health-warnign to the thing I linked to before. any downhill sliding on skis with mountaineering boots (or snowboard boots for that matter) can be "fun". Little or no fore-aft stability, impossible to put any real pressure on the edge, and the ever present risk of seriously f*cking yourself up of you take a twisting fall. the difference between stiff plastic ski-boots and soft boots is massive, even modern nordic boots have a plastic ankle frame thingy...

personally, I'd look for a 2nd hand cheap nordic setup. (or just pony up the £ for a ski touring setup and take up a new hobby - it's the best way to enjoy the Scottish mountains in winter)

 Jack_Lewin 14 Apr 2021
In reply to maxsmith:

Have you seen these?

https://www.skinbased.com
 

We have started selling them this year (I am in Canada), think sliding snowshoe with a skin for climbing and a steel edge for descending. Not going to be as fast as other set ups but will get you where you want to go and you can use with your mountaineering/climbing boots. 
 

 maxsmith 14 Apr 2021
In reply to maxsmith:

thanks for all the posts, sounds expensive!

 Yanchik 14 Apr 2021
In reply to maxsmith:

An awful lot of heavily discounted (old) stuff goes past on the British Backcountry facebook group (and on the Eagle Ski Club group.) You could price up a full setup from looking at the history of stuff on there - I'm thinking of skis, skis, bindings, boots as a one or two transaction thing. 

Sorry if this is patronising - but make sure your avalanche skills are good. The reason that probe, transceiver, metal shovel, skills and companions are considered crucial for ski touring is that skiers spend a lot more time on high-risk slopes than other mountaineers. 

Respect for the B2s. Still great skis, I did loads on mine (but want to keep them with their touring bindings a little longer !)

Y

In reply to Jack_Lewin:

Intriguing!

What boots is that guy in the video wearing as he links tele turns?!

 daWalt 14 Apr 2021
In reply to nickinscottishmountains:

you can see the folk in that video can clearly ski quite well, and know their way about a telemark turn.

which tbh, just highlights how niche these things are - i.e. wouldn't it be better just on skis? I'm sure they would be ideal if you wanted to access remote climbing / alpine routes in your climbing boots, but apart from that.....

I'm just not convinced to change my mind from: if there's enough snow to ski on, then skis is what you want. (possibly snowshoes if you really can't ski)

In reply to daWalt:

I don't really have any intelligent input on the overall subject, having not skied in forever and having broken myself comprehensively the last time I tried, but I'd agree with you and argue that skis have evolved to where they are now because they are the most efficient tool for movement in the mountains.

Anything else is a bodge for the sake of it - because one can't ski, because one wants to snowboard on the downhill, etc. Skis are just the right tool for moving yourself about snowy and  mountainous terrain.

In reply to daWalt:

Totally! Linking tele turns in a soft looking boot! Hats off!

In reply to Jack_Lewin:

Interesting product! Not sure I'd risk them myself.. but if you definitely want to wear existing footwear, just need something for access or a bit of fun they could be great. It will be interesting to see how/if they catch on in the UK

In reply to daWalt:

I know where that was filmed, they are old gravel/sand pits where my father in law is from! Useless fact: they carried out mass executions of "Reds" in the Finnish civil war in some of those quarries, it was an area that saw fighting and reprisal killings by both sides. 

Anyway, Skin Based skis are designed for conditions we don't really see in the UK. I'm not sure if in the video they are using them with a proper telebinding and boot or with the universal bindings and hiking boots you see in the close up but actually they aren't particularly "good" tele turns, I'm sure with proper boots, skis and cable bindings they would be carving their turns much more. They are skis to move around in hilly snowy terrain, but not really full on skimo skis. The idea is going for a hike where otherwise you might use snowshoes I guess, rather than climbing something on skis to ski back down it. 

I've got some funny plastic American designed sort-of-skis that I did use a bit this winter on the moors above Sheffield when we got some snow. 


In reply to TobyA:

Seems they've just made a free heel binding for blades or big feet. Nothing unique that couldn't be engineered anyway already. 

1
 HeMa 15 Apr 2021
In reply to Jack_Lewin:

The OAC and a few other similar bindings don’t really play well with rigid mountaineering boots. The bindings are really designed to have a sole that flexes. 
 

That being said, the OAC does actually turn nicely. I had a play around with them this winter (OAC Kar If I recall correctly), with a HanWag version of Nepal Extreme, they really didn’t work. Had better luck with Sorels and could link tele turns in soft snow and meadow-skippin’ terrain. That being said normal hiking boots should be better than Sorels. 
 

youtube.com/watch?v=sMPuHNJ3Zqk&

 mike123 15 Apr 2021
In reply to maxsmith: really just to echo what’s been said . About 25 years ago ( possibly a bit more ) I was in a similar position to you now . I thought of myself as primarily a climber ( although I had skied quiet a bit ) who wanted to use ski s to travel to climbs and to mess about away from the lifts . I was also determined to do it without spending any money . I tired all sorts of options mainly to work around my old scarpa plastics  , then my asolos ( afs 101 s ? ) . The ideal solution at the time was silvretta 404 s but they were difficult to find and expensive . All my efforts were either comical or downright dangerous . I bashed myself up a few times and was very lucky to not break a leg or worse . Then one day I managed to get hold an old pair of scrapa Denali s , the blue ones , proper ski mountaineering boots ,from the old guy down the street in Sheffield with  the far away look in his eyes . Next I got someone knackered  fritschi frame bindings . Again I seemed to remember  swapping these for er , something brown and sticky that’s not shit . Bingo . Boots . Bindings fixed to an old pair of ski s . It all  became doable and fun . My advice  . Get some some  proper kit second hand . Ask on here . Look on eBay . Boots first . Look for scarpa denalis or ask on here for similar alternatives . I sold a pair of red ones ( bought new in sale when the blue onesfell apart ) for £50 ( 10 years ago  though ) . Get done fritschi frame bindings . Again they were going for £50!but lockdown has probably doubled that . I have a few pairs of old ones that I was going to sell but I’m keeping them for when the kids get a bit bigger . You will have much more fun and perhaps then strat spending the silly money that I ( and lots of others on here ) do on kit .

 maxsmith 15 Apr 2021
In reply to mike123:

Thanks Mike, really informative post - just what I needed.  I'll set off down the rabbit hole of finding second hand boots that fit...Can people recommend some brand and makes of boots I should be keeping an eye out for? I'm really skinny so maybe there's a manufacturer that is known for low volume? Cheaper the better!

Post edited at 08:03
 Doug 15 Apr 2021
In reply to HeMa:

What's it like to have the skins attached all the time ? Does it have anyeffect on turning ? I ask as I have two pairs of skis which are something like 80-60-70, one (Madhus) with fishscales, the other (Atomic) waxable & the Atomics are much easier to turn in most snow types. But for pottering about in the local woods & fields I often take the Madhus as its more convenient.

 HeMa 15 Apr 2021
In reply to Doug:

As the camber on those OACs isn’t that big, you’ll get more drag. Not a big problem on soft snow. Might be a bigger issue on hardback. That being said, the ski worked just fine on a groomer, my stiff ice-climbing boots and the binder didn’t.

The main thing with these is the lenght. They are short, the Kar I tested is like 140cm where as Most of my ”real” skis are in the 175 to 185 range (not counting XC skis, which are more in the 195 to 205 range).

Soggy/wet snow might also be an issue. As skins tend to be more grippy when wet. 

 daWalt 15 Apr 2021
In reply to TobyA:

Thanks for the post. It's quite interesting to me how across pretty much all mainland europe (and Ireland) there are very dark shadows from the recent past everywhere. the brittish experience of around the early to mid 20th century was WWI&2, very much a foreign enemy from abroad and not the much more personal civil conflicts and political strife that occurred everywhere else. It's made me firmly believe that the UK's experience of the 20th century was very unique, and goes a long way to explain the mental disconnect between here and the mainland...... but I digress.

> they aren't particularly "good" tele turns,

well yea... but with those skis, and those bindings, and those boots.....

In a way, I totally get it. these things definitely have a use and serve a purpose. but I think you're quite right they're not really ideal for (let's just say regular use) in the uk. like if you're surrounded by snow and you just want to go out with the dog for an hour - ideal.

in scotland it's far more often the case that the snow gets melt-frozen into such hardpack that skiing is unpleasant and you can move just as fast just walking with spikes. last winter I "skied" a decent on a slope of bullet-hard, thick, near blue water-ice; it got to the point where I was worried that if i slipped I wouldn't stop and I seriously considered stopping and putting on crampons and walking off (that was full "scottish" on a scale of 1 to scottish)

 DaveHK 15 Apr 2021
In reply to maxsmith:

Are you thinking about skiing in to climbs? I thought I would do this when I started skiing but although I've done it a few times to good effect it's surprisingly rare to be able to do it in Scotland or for it to be genuinely quicker/easier in the way it is in the alps.

So I just stopped all that winter climbing nonsense and went skiing for a few years!

 maxsmith 15 Apr 2021
In reply to DaveHK:

Hi Dave, the plan is more for multi-day adventures - ski to somewhere remote and then camp out there for a few days doing some climbing and stuff.  Might never happen hence why I'm trying to keep the $$ outlay low!

 DaveHK 15 Apr 2021
In reply to maxsmith:

Sounds good. 

 Doug 15 Apr 2021
In reply to maxsmith:

Unfortunately low lying snow doesn't seem to last long in Scotland - several times I've left the Linn of Dee or similar starting point on skis but on the return a couple of days later had to carry my skis for a long way. Shame as when the conditions do come together it can be great. That said it should often be possible to start & finish from the Cairngorm car park with a couple of days climbing on some of the more remote crags

In reply to maxsmith:

Not the answer you were seeking , but....

Have you considered using a combination of snow shoes and your boarding set-up?

Snow shoes are much more versatile than you would imagine and make progress up shallow snow-over-heather, icy tracks and paths, etc. much easier than in boots.  They are not exclusively for deep snow, which makes them particularly relevant in Scotland.  I only have experience of the MSR ones but they are also surprisingly tough.  I failed to break a set when I deliberately tried, by boulder hopping up and down The Ladder on Lochnagar. 

You can then use your descending skills to have a good time on the board.  Down side is that you are carrying a set of snowshoes but they aren't prohibitively heavy.

As already mentioned above, it's unlikely you'll (regularly) combine touring and climbing in Scotland.  Far better to enjoy the descents.  There are some great spring descents of burn lines to be had.  Just don't fall into any holes!  The touring season can also be extended (as mentioned above) by using the ski centres.

Braemar Mountain Sports (mentioned already) might be able to hire you a set to try with your boarding boots.  Well worth getting in touch.

 mike123 15 Apr 2021
In reply to maxsmith: why not put a post : wanted old ski mountaineering boots ( look on eBay to ) I think for old and cheap,  scarpa denalis will be a good bet as they were just about the only option for years ( happy to be corrected and for others to chip in with other suggestions ? ) 

 maxsmith 15 Apr 2021
In reply to mike123:

Hi Mike, I’m looking on eBay thanks, also picked up some ancient Swiss army cross country skis, bindings and skins for £35 so will give them a go next winter 

 Tim Davies 16 Apr 2021
In reply to maxsmith:

Plus one for the eagle ski club but and sell - I picked up a set of skis, skins, bindings for £100- in amazingly good condition. 
 

the only person I have seen ski well in mountaineering boots was a French guide (once described as “the creme of French alpinism” (!) and he found it tough at times. 


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