Which cross-country skis work best in the backcountry?

I’m an alpine skier but would like to bomb through the fresh Iowa powder (when we get it) on cross-country skis. I prefer skis that are for off-trail but that can also take some turns down the gullies. Any recommendations? Steve Iowa City, Iowa

Feb 28, 2008
Outside Magazine
Karhu’s XCD 10th Mountain Skis

XCD 10th Mountain cross-country skis


I heard your state tourism board had cast envious eyes at places such as Aspen and Jackson, and planned to launch a flashy “Ski Iowa" campaign in an effort to siphon some tourist dollars from elsewhere. The plan was to build ski ramps down a silo located at Hawkeye Point (the highest point in Iowa at 1,670 feet, which proudly stands above the surrounding topography by a rather measly 50 feet), then build a resort in nearby Sibley. Alas, the owners of the high point, Merrill and Donna Sterler , refused to give up their corn field.

That said, you’re probably not going to find any tracked stuff, so I’d get a pair of backcountry XC skis. The classic skis for that sort of thing are Karhu’s XCD 10th Mountain (karhu.com), which normally go for $275 but now can be had for $195 at REI. These skis have plenty of float for fresh snow, deep sidecuts for good turning, and no-wax bases for ease of use. Full metal edges give you some grip if it’s icy or the snow is hard.

Another good ski would be the Fischer Rebound Crowns ($240 but also now on sale; fischerskis.com). They have a little newer design than the Karhus and have features such as an elevated binding plate so you get a little better leverage in your turns. But generally, specs are similar: wood core, metal edges, good float and sidecut, and a waxless base.

Either ski would work well with Alpina NNN BC 1550 boots ($150; alpinasports.com) and matching Rottefella bindings ($70; rottefella.com).

Or, you could just take that money and buy yourself a flight to Jackson…

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