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Gear Guy

What backcountry ski can handle rough forest terrain?

I have a place in Vermont's Green Mountains and wondering what full metal-edged skis would work for skiing in the New England woods? I currently use the 170-centimeter Fischer E99, but is there a shorter ski that I can use for skiing logging roads, snowmobile tracks, and general rough in the woods? I don't think telemarks are the ticket as I'll be skiing on the flat, and I can use my E99's for any cross-country trails. Nigel New York City

A: No, you don't need telemark skis, nor do you need track skis. Sounds like you enjoy the performance of the Fischer E99's ($295; but want something a little shorter for maneuvering around trees and the like.

The Orion

Trouble is, even at 170 centimeters you're on the short end of backcountry skis. One option is to get a pair of Karhu Orion skis ($220;, which are a so-called "short-wide" ski. They're a pretty soft ski, allowing good flex on rough terrain, and have metal edges for better turning and grip. And, they're available in 160-centimeter lengths.

Otherwise, your only choice is to abandon traditional skis altogether and go with something else. L.L. Bean's Boreal Skis ($250; are only 120 centimeters long but have all the trimmings of a real ski—with metal edges, an integrated climbing skin, and a built-in binding that fits over most cold-weather boots. They're meant for good skiers on rough terrain, where long skis will just get in the way. But they're also really not much more than a long snowshoe—chances are you'll find yourself walking on them, rather than really skiing.

So, my feeling is that the Orions are the sky for you. Short, but still a real ski, and designed for backcountry use.

Filed To: Snow SportsSki Gear
Lead Photo: courtesy, Karhu