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GearSnow Sports
Gear Guy

Is there a ski that can handle both downhill and touring?

I want to buy some new cross-country skis that I can use for both touring and downhill, maybe something along the lines of the Karhu Catounts. While these seem to work well for touring on ungroomed trails, would these also suit for telemarking on blue-square trails? Rusty Cresco, Pennsylvania

A: Compromise—an imperfect solution to two problems is what you're facing here, something that will allow you to pursue backcountry skiing and the occasional telly run, but that won't be ideal for both. If you want the best of both worlds, then you'll basically need two pairs of skis.

That said, there are skis that can handle both tasks, particularly because my guess is that you're pretty competent on skis. Karhu no longer makes the Catamount, a really good backcountry ski with enough edge and stiffness for a telemark run (check eBay—you might get lucky). Today, Karhu's backcountry-telemark cross is the Dorado ($275; It's a really nice looking ski, with a fairly aggressive parabolic sidecut, light wooden core, fiberglass shell, and full metal edge. The Karhu folks themselves rate its suitability toward the downhill/telemark end, but it's also light enough for backcountry touring, with a waxless base for grip.

Of course, a telemark turn is as much in the mind of the skier as it is in the skis on his or her feet. So any ski can be used to telemark turn, and on blue-square hills any competent skier should be able to handle it. Fischer's BCX E-99 Mountain Crown ($250;, for instance, is more of a pure backcountry ski, but with its beefy construction and metal edges, it'll turn just fine on a groomed slope. So, you have that option, too.

Hope I haven't muddied the issue. Good luck!

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Filed To: Snow Sports