There are so many different options available in backcountry equipment today, it's hard to know what's up. That’s why it’s best to try out a number of skis and find the setup for the conditions and terrain you love.
We decided to seize the last hurrah for great powder in Vermont, and went in search of an unnamed lake deep inside the Green Mountain National Forrest. We bushwacked for eight hours, climbing a total of 1,834 feet as we watched the snow change from a foot of crust to three feet of buttery, fluffy powder.
Our testers brought four pairs of skis of different widths and sidecuts from both Fischer and Madshus. After trading them around, we agreed on two favorites. Our choice of skis was mostly dictated by the topography of this length of the Appalachians, and it made us think about the bigger cultural and equipment differences between eastern and western adventures.
In the Green Mountains, the topography changes constantly; Our 1,000-plus-foot drop was broken up by small dips and hills that we had to climb. Fumbling repeatedly with skins would have been too taxing, so we opted for nordic-inspired skis that had built-in grip patterns for uphill traction and gliding on flats. Like all backcountry skis meant for downhill, the models we picked also had metal edges and a relatively fat base for floating in deep powder.
Backcountry skiing in Vermont is more about exploring the woods than catching a single long run down a mountain. Those conditions demand a lighter ski than what you'd use in Colorado. Our picks do a good job of hitting the sweet spot of East Coast powder.
The Annum has a tip width of 109 millimeters, a full centimeter fatter than our other favorite, the Fischer S-Bound 98. While some of our testers felt it was too much ski for breaking trail, the heavier, more muscular members of our team loved the ski's extra float on the downhills. At 2.4 pounds per ski, these are heavier than many nordic setups, but half the weight of typical alpine touring models.
Fischer S-Bound 98
At 98 millimeters at the tip, this version of the S-Bound series represents the continental divide of backcountry ski equipment. It is on the thicker side of the "touring" cross-country skis, but narrower than most alpine planks. For our testers, it bridged these territories gracefully. The wide front carved waist-high powder with ease, and the flatter line from the middle to tail helped us make quick progress when kicking and gliding on flats. The Fischer also has air channels to lighten its wood-fiberglass core; At just 2.3 pounds per ski, they were easy to move around in.