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Q:

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

Salomon Escape Sport Boots     Photo: courtesy, REI

Salomon Escape Sport Boots

Salomon Escape Sport Boots

A: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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