The Orion
The Orion
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

The Orion

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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 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.

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