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AdventureSnow Sports

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


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.

Karhu’s XCD 10th Mountain Skis

XCD 10th Mountain cross-country skis

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 (, 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; 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; and matching Rottefella bindings ($70;

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

The 2008 Winter Outside Buyer’s Guide is now online. From snow sports to trail-running to camping, get reviews of more than 300 new gear must-haves.

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Filed To: Snow SportsCross-Country Ski Skis
Lead Photo: courtesy, Karhu