Which cross-country ski equipment performs well on and off trails?

I need a complete setup for cross-country skiing (boots, poles, and bindings). I'll primarily ski on groomed trails, but I'd like the ability to ski off groomed trails occasionally. Could you recommend a package for me? Zenon Hartford, Connecticut

Jan 9, 2008
Outside Magazine
Salomon Escape Sport Boots

Salomon Escape Sport Boots


Well, to recommend stuff for groomed trails is easy. Same for going off groomed trails. But for something in between, that’s a bit trickier. That’s because buying stuff for groomed trails is almost like buying running shoes, whereas ski gear for off-trail maneuvering tends to be heavier and with a little different design focus.

Still, there are some suitable compromise skis and boots. Salomon’s Snowscape 7 ($175; salomonsports.com) is a shortish XC ski with a foam core and waxless base. It’s slim enough to fit into tracks, but has good turning ability and can manage out-of-track touring. Same for Alpina’s Control Cross-Country skis ($140; alpinasports.com). The Alpina’s have a wooden core that’s a little heavier than the Snowscape 7’s, and a more traditional sidecut that’s narrower at the waist (the Salomon skis puts its sidecut nearer the tail for a little different handling). But they’re nice skis.

For boots, Salomon Escape Sport boots ($115, but currently $45 at REI.com) offer the ability to handle tracked areas or off-track skiing if the going isn’t too heavy. They’re warm and comfortable. Use them with Salomon’s SNS Profil Auto Touring binding ($45). Alpina’s NNN BC 1500 ($150) are more of a cross-country boot. But if you’re on a groomed trail just for the fun of it, and not trying to race anyone, they’ll work fine. Get Rottefella NNN Auto Touring bindings ($45; rottefella.com) to go along with them.

Poles are easy. Black Diamond’s Flicklock Traverse poles ($60; bdel.com) allow you to adjust the length of the poles to allow for snow depth, sidehilling, or your own preference. You might swap out the stock three-quarter baskets for a full powder basket (several available for around $8).

So there you go. Have fun!

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