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skate ski purchase doubt

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Alpine gear head here. Also love to skate ski, and have been doing xc of one sort or another casually almost my whole life. Never been much of an equipment geek in this area. I think that's part of the appeal for me - it's something that I can do at short notice locally, get outside, and get a great workout, without a lot of fuss or bother. If there's no snow locally, I generally just don't go. (If I'm going to drive two hours each way, I'm going to do alpine.) My nordic skiing for the past decade or so has been almost exclusively freestyle. I get out probably 10 - 15 days a year, depending on snow cover. I'm competent technically, and usually have some aerobics left over from bike season, but never really develop the upper body to where it should be for a skater. Whatever. If I pass people it's because I'm patient and precise with my stride and weight transfer. (And I'm not afraid of the downhills. :D )  If I don't, it's because I'm out of shape.

 

For the last 10 - 12  years I've been skiing on a pair of Atomic Vasa skates, 183cm, that I bought NOS. So I think they are circa 1999. I am 5'7", 135lbs. Always been happy with them, especially on firmer snow (which is mostly what we have here near the coast). Couple things are driving me to a new ski purchase this season, the simpler one of which is that the bases are peeling off at the tails again, and there is a big chunk out of p-tex gone on one edge underfoot. Just feels like it's time. I'd like to spend around $200 for a NOS or lightly used pair.

 

Looked around for quite a while. Had my eye on a lightly used pair of Atomic World Cup HTs (Hard Track) @ 185cm on eBay, with nominally perfect flex (based on the numbers printed on the topsheet, at least - the only mfr that seems to do this in a way that does not require calculus to interpret). Unfortunately life got in the way and I missed the bidding window. Crap. Anyway, cutting finally to the chase, I ended up with a pair of 08-09 (I think) NOS Rossi X-ium NIS 1s @ 181cm. There was a pair in the shop marked "racer weight 130 - 150" that was just ever so slightly stiffer than the ones I ended up buying . Got them home and am having some doubts about whether I made a good choice. Here are the reasons:

 

1) I've never skied on Rossi skate skis, and I've since read that they tend to be stiff at the extremities, with high final camber, and that this can make them slow in soft snow. Now, I know this is a hard-snow model, and I'm okay with that as far as it goes, but these are also going to be my only skis, so they can't be total one-trick ponies.

 

2) I always thought my Atomics were on the stiff side, based on informal brief excursions on friends' skis, but on comparing them with the Rossis by hand-flexing, I now see that they are significantly softer both underfoot (I can squeeze the bases together if I use both hands) and at the tips and tails than the x-iums. I never thought those skis were particularly good on a soft day, and now I'm concerned that with the Rossis I may have over-specialized in an attempt to go up a notch in performance and down a notch in weight. 

 

I know I could consult with a high-end specialty shop, but I also know that the only real option there is to pay more or less full boat, and I really don't want to spend the next 5 years still / again on an entry-level ski, which is what I'd be stuck with, given my budget, at a place like that. Or maybe that's exactly what I want, given my overall approach to nordic.

 

Thoughts?

post #2 of 9

I'd say you're in the wrong forum here probably.  But...that's never stopped any of us from giving advice.  My own thought is that the new skis will be so much better/faster that you'll nver notice the compromise in softer snow.  Also, you said you tend to ski in hard snow anyway.  Remember, the NEED for specificity in skis rises as the skill and stakes rise.  If you're a recreational skier, will you notice?  And will it matter enough? 
I bought new skate skis last year after 7 years on my first pair; they are so much faster and lighter, I can't even winnow out if they're absolutely the right ski or not.

post #3 of 9

My initial thought is to not over think it.  As described, you are a recreational nordic skier with a healthy handful of days per season, but you're clearly not in the market for a quiver of race skis each designed for specific conditions.  So, any ski will be a compromise, and as tch noted above, specificity may be a moot point in any case if you're not trying to eek out the last ounce of performance.  Besides, you have already bought the Rossis, right?  Are you considering a return or something?  If not, then run-what-you-brung and enjoy the trails.  I'm sure your lungs will thank you.  (Just as an aside, do you have a shop near by?  Could you take the new skis in to be flex-tested on them, making sure that they actually fit?  Might influence your decision too.)

 

I'm on my nordic skis a lot over the season, including participation in some of our local races, and have only one pair of (relatively stiff) skate skis.  Well, two pairs if you count my rock skis for early and late season.  Are they slower than a less-stiff ski in soft snow?  I don't know.  Probably.  But soft snow is challenging no matter what.  And any difference is likely erased by my fitness level and lack of attention to proper waxing.

 

Anyway, have fun.

post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the friendly input, folks. I was not expecting a ton of expert input on this site, so whatever I get is gravy. 

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by ftmsb View Post
 

soft snow is challenging no matter what.  And any difference is likely erased by my fitness level and lack of attention to proper waxing.

 

 

Yeah. Ain't that the truth?  :D 

 

On the other hand, I am one of those people who's, um, fussy about whether tools are working optimally. I realize in hindsight that my comment about having been on the same pair of skis for a dozen years and not being an xc gear geek was kind of misleading in that regard. So, for example, if I'm skiing with a friend who's struggling on a warm day, and I ask what he did for a wax job and he says, "Oh, I don't know, whatever was on there from last time" (when "last time" was a 15 degree day), I find that kind of exasperating. Similarly, a few years ago, when I got my first decent pair of poles - meaning reasonably light with a modern strap design - I was HIGHLY and INSTANTLY appreciative of how much easier that made things, and a bit annoyed with myself for having farted around so long with halfway measures.

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by ftmsb View Post
 

Just as an aside, do you have a shop near by?  Could you take the new skis in to be flex-tested on them, making sure that they actually fit?

 

Well, we did do a little paper test in the store when I bought them, using one of those camber boards with markings on them. The problem is that I was unimpressed by the apparent level of expertise the salesperson helping me displayed with regard to using that method. Specifically, she seemed to be wholly focused on whether the ski was too soft. It wasn't. (She was able to move the paper back and forth easily under the binding area even with all my weight on that ski.) However, despite several pointed questions from me she was unable or unwilling to talk about how we would know if the ski was too stiff. Presumably a ski that's too stiff would reveal itself by having too long a section of the base off the "snow" on the camber board - by one measure with skis evenly weighted and by a different measure with weight on one ski. There are marks on the board clearly intended for measuring this, but they didn't have any kind of numbering. I'm guesstimating based on the picture in my mind's eye that the marks were maybe 10cm apart. I'm fairly confident that with the skis evenly weighted the paper slid from just short of the farthest-out mark on the tip to just short of the farthest out mark on the tail. With one ski weighted I think the paper went from a couple of marks forward of the toe rail to about one mark behind my heel.

 

EDIT: So in summary the thing I guess I'm a little bit stuck on - maybe because I started on laminated hickory skis back in the early '70s - is the idea that you'd want to have camber so stiff that a part of the base underfoot NEVER touches the snow. Feels like that would just cause uneven base (and wax) wear, maybe be slower on a pure glide basis, and create a bizarre pattern of edge engagement during the power phase of the stride and also when performing steering moves if necessary on a steep downhill, etc. (Or is the idea that when you're pushing off you really DO flatten out the whole ski?) Maybe all I need is someone to tell me to get over this and move into the 21st century. Put a different way, the bases on my old skate skis, which are noticeably softer, have worn pretty evenly along the bases over the years, and I always assumed that was a good thing.

 

EDIT II: And, yes, I'm aware that I'm at risk for being told not to over-think it ... again. :D 


Edited by qcanoe - 11/27/13 at 2:12pm
post #5 of 9

You're getting into my own area of ignorance generally, so you might well seek out better input.  But that said, remember that the flex test you describe does not take into account the kick you apply in the skate or step phase.  This will surely flatten out the ski.  A better salesman or ski rep could give you a better interpretation of the ideal results.  As for the glide phase, I don't really know if it's important that the ski lie completely flat. My ignorant mind thinks not (less contact = less friction, right?).  But if you are really searching for the right answers, call or visit a reliable xc shop.

post #6 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by qcanoe View Post
 

maybe because I started on laminated hickory skis back in the early '70s - is the idea that you'd want to have camber so stiff that a part of the base underfoot NEVER touches the snow.

I thought the whole "paper test" business only apply to striding skis. Basically the need to find a good kick zone without compromising glide. With skating skis, I don't quite see the same trade off. After all, you glide wax the entire length of a skating ski for a reason, right?

 

So why the gliding ski shouldn't be completely flat for maximum balance and control during the glide phase? What's the rational to keep ANY section off the snow?

post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by at_nyc View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by qcanoe View Post
 

maybe because I started on laminated hickory skis back in the early '70s - is the idea that you'd want to have camber so stiff that a part of the base underfoot NEVER touches the snow.

I thought the whole "paper test" business only apply to striding skis. Basically the need to find a good kick zone without compromising glide. With skating skis, I don't quite see the same trade off. After all, you glide wax the entire length of a skating ski for a reason, right?

 

So why the gliding ski shouldn't be completely flat for maximum balance and control during the glide phase? What's the rational to keep ANY section off the snow?

 

Obviously I'm no expert on this, or I'd hardly be posting this thread here. But the general idea is that when you push off on a skate ski you want it to act like a leaf spring, giving you a certain amount of rebound with each stride. You could think of it as being analogous to what happens when you decamber an alpine ski in a carved turn. My rough understanding - if that's not too strong a word - is that you want the spring to be stiff enough that you fully flatten it only when you are making your most aggressive, powerful pushes.

post #8 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by qcanoe View Post
 

 

Obviously I'm no expert on this, or I'd hardly be posting this thread here. But the general idea is that when you push off on a skate ski you want it to act like a leaf spring, giving you a certain amount of rebound with each stride. You could think of it as being analogous to what happens when you decamber an alpine ski in a carved turn. My rough understanding - if that's not too strong a word - is that you want the spring to be stiff enough that you fully flatten it only when you are making your most aggressive, powerful pushes.

Haha! This explains why I felt so uncomfortable gliding on skating skis! The skis are short enough to start with, if it doesn't go completely flat while gliding, no wonder I find balancing on the glide ski so difficult!!! :o Sorry, I know this doesn't help answer your question.

 

So in the end, it's still the same compromise as in striking skis, despite the different reason behind: the stiffer the ski the faster, until it gets to the point you can't handle it!

 

Seems to me you're in a good position, to have a ski that might potentially too stiff. Once you ski on it a couple times, you'll figure out if it's too much of a handful! If not, it's right (or may still be too soft!) ;)

post #9 of 9

In doing a little bit of looking, these guys (http://webcyclery.com/about/cross-country-ski-flex-pg87.htm) seem to have the best concise description of ski flex and skate skis.  Mind you, I did not search that long or hard.  But I was kind of surprised there wasn't an immediate and authoritative discussion somewhere early in the Google results on the physics of flex testing.  Are all of the nodic skiers too busy doing intervals or weigthed pull-ups (see http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304746604577384021387990452) to draft for their blogs a proper treatise on the science of ski fitting?

 

My understanding is that on a skate ski you want to be riding a flat ski when your weight is fully on the single ski during the glide phase.  You don't want to go too soft, as you will push through the ski.  Is the fact that the "paper test" results in some limited movement of the paper due to a conservative reserve to make sure you're not going too soft?  I don't know.  Honestly, before thinking about your question, I hadn't given it much thought.  I've bought my skis from a shop staffed by some dedicated nordic skiers.  Perhaps it shows a disturbing lack of curiosity on my part, but I have tended to put myself into their hands when fitting skis and haven't questioned the whys and where fors of the process.

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