Gear Guy

What’s the best cross-country ski gear?

Can you recommend a good cross-country skiing package that's suitable for both groomed trails and backcountry use? John Duluth, Minnesota

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I think I’m up to the task. Basically, you’ll need to think in terms of backcountry use, as groomed-trail gear is only marginally usable when off-trail, while the off-trail stuff is a little clunky but works perfectly fine on the groomed.

For skis, a fine all-around ski is the Fischer Rebound Crown ($210). You’ll think it looks like a downhill ski, and it does—the shaped-ski craze hit cross-country a few years ago, so the Rebounds have a deep sidecut that helps with turning. Full metal edges keep a grip when you’re on hard crud or traversing. They might be a little wide for some tracks, but I think, on the whole, they’ll be fine. A waxless base ensures you don’t have to think too much when strapping them on. You can spend more for skis (Karhu Dorado: $275), or less (Madshus Voss Multigrip: $150), and still get adequate performance either way. Boots are a little trickier. You’ll want something with enough beef to handle backcountry terrain, but nothing too stiff. Karhu’s Convert ($150) is a good all-around boot that won’t make you look ridiculous on a groomed trail. It’s a three-pin boot, so you’ll want something like the Voile three-pin binding ($36) to go with it. If you’d rather go with the newer NNN boot/binding setup (easier to use, but without the control of the three-pin), then try the Alpina NNN 1550 boot ($140) and Rottefella NNN-BC binding ($60).

Chances are you can shave 10 percent off the combined prices of these items if you buy them all at once. Then make the store give you a new daypack at their sale price. Make ’em earn your hard-won money!

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