Ski Flex: Why Is It Important?

Ski flex is the foundation upon which all other factors, such as ski length, skiing experience, body type, and firmness of snow, help guide our ski selection.

For skating, a ski that is too soft will bottom-out creating a pressure zone under foot that makes the ski feel sluggish, slow, and “squirrelly” where the tip and tail pivots around the mid-section. Pick a ski that is too stiff, and you’ve got a ski riding on two pressure zones that again slows you down, and creates an unstable, poor handling ski.

For classic skiing a poorly fitted ski will ride on the kick zone if too soft, or have difficult-to-impossible grip if too stiff. The handling characteristics mentioned above are important here as well.

A well-fitted ski is important for all skiers, not just racers. Ski racers have long known the importance of flex and its relationship with body type and snow surface conditions. But many recreational and performance skiers should recognize its importance as well. Top-of-the-line skis come from the factory with half-weight and mid-flex numbers that give us a good starting point for ski selection. Most ski models, however, do not give us that information which means a reliance on the weight charts (which can range up to 30 pounds per length of ski), if you do not have a flex-tested ski.

At Nordic Ski Source, we digitally flex test every ski, so we can make an accurate ski flex recommendation to all skiers whether they have racing ambitions or not. This recommendation will become the foundation of the ski selection process. We then introduce the other ski selection factors to help fine-tune the actual ski selection decision.

 

How to Buy Classical Skis

Classical skis differ from touring skis in width and speed. They are designed for groomed trails, and used for fitness, training and racing. They come in both wax-able and wax-less models. The long-term enjoyment of your classic skis is dependent upon having a ski that flexes properly for both grip and glide.

 

Classical Skis

Ski Width Determines Stability/Speed

Race skis are generally in the 44mm to 45mm range in width. Efficient fitness-oriented classical skis are in the 46mm to 51mm range. In widths that overlap in both classic and light touring skis, classic skis will have longer lengths allowing them to track better, as well as offer more speed. Light touring skis are shorter, more maneuverable, and many times have more sidecut. Both are excellent choices and it may come down to what you are used to, and your expectations. Usually, a beginning skier will choose the more maneuverable light touring version.

 

Ski Flex Testing Determines Grip and Glide

Next, for both wax-able and wax-less skis we flex test at the skier’s half weight to determine the grip zone on a wax-able ski, and the glide on a wax-less ski.

Wax-less ski flex testing: A digital flex-tester is used to determine the characteristics of a wax-less ski. We flex classical race skis for both hard wax and klister conditions. Hard wax skis have longer and lower bridges than klister skis. Sometimes these correspond to “Cold” vs. “Warm” skis, but that is not always the case. For a universal ski that can be used for both hard wax and klister conditions, we will use a stiffer flexed hard wax ski.

Wax-able touring ski flex: For all wax-able skis we use the skier’s half-weight to map out a grip zone which helps us determine if the ski is too stiff or soft. We mark the bridge (gap) at .1mm, .2mm and .3mm (if necessary) to determine how many layers of hard wax are needed on certain portions of the ski. We also mark the .4mm bridge for the klister zone if the ski has a high enough bridge.

The red lines are meant to represent the layers of wax needed on certain portions of the grip zone. The blue line is a gap between the bottom of the ski and the testing surface at the skier’s full weight. This area is called residual camber, and it needs to marked and addressed with additional wax for effective kick.

 

Wax-less Touring Ski Flex Testing

With wax-less skis, we look at the bridge at half-weight to see how much of the pattern is off the surface for effective glide. We have found that the most important characteristic for most skiers is to have the ski compress fully at the skier’s full weight. This characteristic allows for effective grip on uphills and a more relaxed kick in variable terrain. At full weight if there is residual camber on a wax-less ski, the grip/kick will be difficult on uphills and we will look for a softer ski.

How to Buy Touring Skis

The long-term enjoyment of your touring skis is dependent upon having a ski that flexes properly for both grip and glide. We combine the proper flex with a ski width to match the terrain and your skiing expectations.

 

Ski Width Determines Stability/Speed and Suitable Terrain

First, we will select a ski width that best accommodates the skier’s ability level and the trails and terrain they expect to ski. Beginning skiers who have no previous experience and are not yet comfortable on skis may want to adjust to a slightly wider ski.

 

Light Touring vs. Touring vs. Backcountry Skis

To keep it simple we call skis that can be effectively skied with NNN or SNS bindings and boots, light touring skis.These skis lack metal edges and are 60mm or narrower in width. BC (backcountry) skis, with or without metal edges, are too heavy for light touring gear. They need BC boots and bindings for torsional control over the heavier ski. Backcountry gear is used for deep snow and rough frozen terrain..

 

Ski Flex Testing Determines Grip and Glide

Next, for both wax-able and wax-less skis we flex test at the skier’s half weight to determine the grip zone on a wax-able ski, and the glide on a wax-less ski.

Wax-less ski flex testing: Use a digital flex-tester to determine the characteristics of a wax-less ski.

Wax-able touring ski flex: For wax-able skis we will use the skier’s half-weight to map out a grip zone which helps us determine if the ski is too stiff or soft. We also will mark the bridge (gap) with different feeler gauges to determine how many layers of wax need to used on certain portions of the ski.

The red lines are meant to represent the layers of wax needed on certain portions of the grip zone. The blue line is a gap between the bottom of the ski and the testing surface at the skier’s full weight. This area is called residual camber, and it needs to marked and addressed with additional wax for effective kick.

 

Wax-less Touring Ski Flex Testing

With wax-less skis, we look at the bridge at half-weight to see how much of the pattern is off the surface for effective glide. We have found that the most important characteristic for most skiers is to have the ski compress fully at the skier’s full weight. This characteristic allows for effective grip on uphills and a more relaxed kick in variable terrain. At full weight if there is residual camber on a wax-less ski, the grip/kick will be difficult on uphills and we will look for a softer ski. Different ski models have various designs and/or wax-less patterns.

4 Critical Steps for Choosing Cross Country Skis

Your best ski choice is ski that fits, and one that is designed for your skiing style and purpose.

#1: First, select the appropriate type of cross country ski. Ski type is chosen based on the type of skier you are and the terrain you plan to ski and the technique you plan to use

#2: Select the ski model(s) that are designed for your expectations, and fit within your budget.

#3: Work on ski fit. THE most important factor in your long-term enjoyment of your skis is PROPER SKI FLEX and matching the appropriate flex to the skier’s weight along with a number of other factors. Weight range charts are only a starting point particularly for mid level skis. To ensure an accurate fit, all adult (double camber) skis should be individually flex tested using a flex tester (pictured below). Without this critical information, the purchasing process will be relegated to guesswork.

#4: If you have boots that you would like to use with the skis, keep your boot-binding system in mind while looking at skis. Click here for a complete explanation of NNN and SNS binding systems and compatibility.

Ski brands offer differing ski lengths and design strategies. With our expertise, we can analyze all of the various ski options to pick the flex and length of the ski brand that fits you best. Other factors to consider are listed with each specific ski type.

 

End of Season Ski & Boot Care

Once the last of the season’s snow melts it is time to think about putting your ski equipment away for the summer and making sure it stays in a good enough condition that you can hop straight back on to it next year.

The easiest thing to do would be to take your skis to the nearest ski shop and ask for them to be professionally tuned to get rid of any damaged areas, and then waxed ready for early season conditions. However, to save those all important pennies at the end of a holiday you can do most of this yourself at home by following these easy steps:

Rust check

Firstly you need to have a look at your edges and get rid of any rust that might be forming. It can be easily taken off with a simple rubber or use wire wool for more stubborn patches. It’s important to catch rust early because it can spread if skis are left untreated for months over the summer. This can significantly decrease the lifespan of your skiing equipment making future holidays a pain to get prepared for.

Edge Care

For further care to your edges (and to save time in the shop at the start of your next ski trip) you could buy an edging tool; a small machine that is very good at smoothing out ‘burrs’ in the metal. If these little sharp dents are left they can become more pronounced so it is worthwhile to get rid of them at the end of every season if you can. You would only need to get this done once a year normally, but if you plan on having quite a few adventurous trips then it would worth the investment.

Waxing

This is easier to get done in a shop and doesn’t cost much. If you have your own though then great, slap it on – it doesn’t need to be neat for storage as you can scrape it off to the right amount when you are ready to use them again. You can even just run a candle over the edges and put a piece of wax paper between where the bases touch for protection if you want to get them waxed properly at the start of the next season.

Proper ski storage

This is one of the most important tips which many people get wrong. Even if you don’t bother with any of the above, you should always make sure you store your skis properly in a clean, dry environment where they won’t get knocked about and damaged. The edges can oxidize and go rusty if they get damp and this can actually happen if you keep them in a ski bag, so as tempting as it is to put them away neatly, it is worth standing them up somewhere like the back of a wardrobe. Keep them together with a Velcro strap and it’s also and idea to turn down the release clamps to relieve stress on the cables. This means that the DIN settings will be exactly the same as you had them set before.

Ski Boot care/storage

Ski boots need to be thoroughly aired before they get put away for the summer. You can do this by pulling out the inners and stretching them out on a radiator (or outside if it’s nice weather). Once completely dry put the inners back into the shell and make sure you fasten the buckles up to how you normally wear them. This is really important as it will be difficult to do your boots up the next time you wear them if they are left open for any length of time. It is best to store them in a boot bag if you own one, or at least wrap them up in plastic bags sealed with duct tape.

Although all of this may seem like a lot to consider it is worth protecting your investments. Skiing can be an expensive hobby – so the more care you take of your equipment, the more cash you can spend on having fun on your winter holiday.

 

Best Places in the Western United States for Nordic Skiing

The Western United States is a hub of winter sports activity, but Nordic skiers from around the world travel here to experience perfect conditions, breathtaking views, and rigorous, varied terrain. Each state has its share of beginner, intermediate, and expert Nordic trails, and many areas offer backcountry exploration opportunities. No matter your ability or adventurousness, there’s a trail for you; if you’re heading out west in search of great cross-country skiing, you won’t be disappointed. Below, we have listed the best places in the Western United States to strap on some skis and explore the wilderness.

 

Soldier Hollow

Rated one of four top Nordic resorts in North America, Soldier Hollow is one of the most renowned cross-country destinations in the United States. This was the site of the biathlon and Nordic events during the 2002 Winter Olympics, adding an extra special feeling to the 31 kilometers of classic and skating trail and biathlon range. Located in Midway, Utah ad Wasatch Mountain State Park, the facility offers lessons, clinics, rentals, snowshoe trails, a tubing hill, and a lodge. Visitors can choose from both easy-rolling trails or Olympic-level courses, all of which are immaculately groomed. Though not the only Utah skiing opportunity (didn’t know domain for Utah Ski Authority) , Soldier Hollow is certainly the first place to stop.

 

Sequoia Ski Touring Area

With over 800 miles of trail, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park is a cross-country skier’s paradise. Located in the heart of Sequoia National Park, this is the perfect place to learn or hone your Nordic skiing skills. More advanced skiers are encouraged to try an overnight Nordic trip; though wilderness permits are required for all overnight trips away from designated campgrounds, this is a unique way to experience one of America’s most beloved forests. Visitors can purchase maps of ski trails online or at any of the visitor centers. Additionally, cross-country skis are available for rent at Wuksachi Lodge. California skiing already has a lot to offer, but there’s nothing like gliding through towering Sequoias.

 

Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area

As New Mexico’s largest full-service cross-country ski area, visitors to Enchanted Forest can experience over thirty kilometers of wide, groomed trails of varying difficulty. There are five dog friendly trails, fifteen kilometers devoted to snowshoes, and terrain for all ability levels. These meandering forest trails are set against the backdrop of stunning mountain vistas, and—though groomed and patrolled—the ski area has a backcountry feel. There are several Yurts to take rests, and this area is located amidst some of the state’s best Alpine skiing—if you’re in the mood to switch it up.

 

Bohart Ranch Cross-Country Ski Center

Just sixteen miles from downtown Bozeman, this ski center is set within the serene and spectacular Bridger Mountain Range. All thirty kilometers of trails are impeccably groomed, and they remain open all winter, weaving through both scenic and secluded sections of the wilderness. The Center offers on-site lessons for skiers of all levels, and clinics are held for more intensive, personalized instruction. This is a great place to experience Nordic skiing if you’re in the area to experience the alpine thrills of Bridger Bowl.

 

Bear Basin

Bear Basin offers a trail system operated by the Payette Lakes Ski Club. With around thirty kilometers of groomed trails, these sinuous paths wind their way through the forest. Perfect for Nordic skiers of all levels, these trails are groomed for both skate and classic skiing. The area also offers after school programs, summer events, and lessons for every ability. Their mission is to provide an affordable, accessible, and sustainable winter recreation facility, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. Idaho may be known for its alpine skiing, but they have plenty of Nordic opportunity.

 

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is one of America’s most iconic National Parks, and winter visitors love to take advantage of the incredible Nordic skiing opportunities. Cross-country skiing is allowed on all unplowed roads and trails, and there are several ski trails in the Mammoth, Tower, Old Faithful, Northeast, and Canyon areas of the park. Though Yellowstone may not have the frills of a standard ski resort, there are plenty of beginner and intermediate trails perfect for those just starting out.

 

Frisco Nordic Center

One of the Rocky Mountains premier Nordic ski destinations, Frisco is the first place we’d recommend for cross-country skiing in Colorado. The Nordic Center offers 27 kilometers of ski trails and10 kilometers of snowshoe trails. Daily trail passes are $15 for youth and $20 for adults. You can double these prices if you plan on renting skis from the center. Season passes, individual and group lessons, and plenty of events during a season that typically starts sometime in November and is in full swing by the year’s end. Beginner ski hills and tubing are also just steps away…..Find more places and information about skiing in Colorado.

Why Now is the Best (and Worst) Time for Nordic Skiing

With the huge cold front and storm system that rolled through much of the country in October, many places have already experienced their first significant snow. Yet, the resorts aren’t open, limiting the opportunities for alpine and especially piste-skiing. But for skiers who can’t wait to get out there, gliding over the snow on their skis, Nordic skiing is the way to do it.

If you ask us, we’ll tell you that Nordic skiing is the better option overall, anyway. But since there’s no trade-off with the resorts and ski runs still not ready to go, you can eat your cake today and save the rest to have for later.

If you’re also looking for a sense of solitude, it’s kind of a crapshoot. Certainly, you’ll be able to avoid the tourists. But in the most popular and populous ski towns with plenty of locals also looking for the peace and quiet offered by the backcountry in winter, there’s certainly no guarantee that you won’t see others out on the trails. Nonetheless, it’s likely to be less crowded than the heart of winter and ski season.

It’s also hard to trust the weather and temperatures for much longer than a day trip. You need to be ready to go when the early-season snows arrive because it’s often not around for very long, especially in terms of maintaining a reasonable ski surface. Cross-country backpack skiing should wait for more reliable snow cover across the entire landscape and duration of the trip.

Of course, not all Nordic skiing is backcountry skiing, and if you’re still new to this style of skiing, then you might do better to stay closer to the resorts and civilization in general during your first few runs. Finally, if you’re looking for that sense of solitude but you’re not yet comfortable with your Nordic skills, it’s not a bad idea to go snowshoeing this time of year, while you continue to develop these skills. Have fun and be safe out there!

What Alpine Skiers Should Know About Nordic Skiing

Many athletes come to Nordic skiing as an alternative to downhill. Whether they want a day away from the resort or to experience nature in a more intimate, less adrenaline-fueled setting, many new Nordic skiers have some alpine experience. However, those coming down from the mountains are often caught by surprise at the difficult of Nordic skiing. Though the sports are closely related (there’s snow, skis, and poles, after all), alpine skiers shouldn’t pass cross-country touring off as an easy sport. Here are some of the largest differences and challenges one should anticipate when trying Nordic skiing for the first time.

 

  • Equipment stability—Nordic skis are markedly less stable than alpine skis. The latter are heavier, have a wider base, and include metal edges to increase friction when the ski is angled. Nordic skis have none of these features, instead presenting as slender, light, deeply cambered equipment. Additionally, an alpine skier’s center of gravity will be lower because of the weight of the equipment; this is not the case for Nordic skiing.

 

  • Equipment mechanics—Differences in design and construction mean that the mechanics of the equipment are not identical. They may look similar to the uninformed, but different mechanics necessitate different skills. When moving downhill in Nordic skis, for example, skiers must use step turns in order to change direction. Additionally, skidding—a method of stopping—is much more difficult in Nordic skis, as there is no metal edge to cling to the terrain.

 

  • Terrain—Cross-country trails are often narrow, icy, and rutted. Trails are often cupped by both skiers and other recreational enthusiasts (snowmobilers, snowshoers, &c), making skiing on the edges nearly impossible. Additionally, Nordic skiers must follow the contours of a trail, continuing straight even when downhill portions may seem too steep. In contrast, alpine skiers have much more flexibility, and trails are often well maintained by resorts.

 

Alpine and Nordic skiing are challenging in different ways. However, alpine skiers should never turn to cross-country skiing as an easier alternative; the sports have essential differences in equipment and required skill. Overconfidence can lead to accidents, so remember to do your research and practice before heading out.

 

 

The Best Method for Backcountry XC Skiing

When it comes to Nordic skiing, most athletes will tell you about two specific styles. The first, Classic, will allow you to glide easily through snowy landscapes on classic ski trails. You will leave behind to parallel tracks, and the movement is natural and smooth. The second style, Skate, guarantees speed and a killer workout. Skating is a free technique, meaning the trails don’t offer must guidance (as a classic XC trail might). The key to skate skiing is the v-style, where you create speed by pressing the edge of your ski into the snow and pushing hard against it. Most Nordic skiers are familiar with these two styles, but which is best for backcountry?

To tell you the truth, neither is exactly right for backcountry Nordic skiing. That’s why the sport has its own, distinct style! Backcountry style allows you the freedom to explore a range of terrain without difficulty. The style is similar to Classic skiing, but there is a small difference. Backcountry style incorporates a kick and glide phase while keeping the skis parallel. However, in incorporating a slight, skate-like push, you’ll feel more comfortable in deep snow. The style is not meant for speed, but instead designed to address the range of conditions one might experience in the forest. If you find a flat stretch of path, you can utilize the Classic style to glide through. If you encounter steeper and deeper conditions, you can begin to incorporate a Skate-like push to get through even the toughest snowpack.

The key to finding your perfect backcountry method is simple. Adapt. Don’t stick to Classic skiing just because it’s more comfortable. Don’t stick to Skate skiing because you want the speed. Backcountry style is, necessarily, a combination of all popular and useful Nordic ski methods—take the time to figure out what works for you, your skill, and the terrain you’re on.

And one more thing—get yourself some proper equipment. I have a post about choosing good backcountry skis.

Gear List—What to Bring and What to Leave Behind

Backcountry trips are intense regardless of your chosen movement method. They can be especially straining while using Nordic skis—some stretches of terrain will require you to carry the skis and traverse on foot. The high likelihood of this occurrence means you must pack lean and smart. You’ll need everything from emergency gear and avalanche equipment to layers of clothing and a compass.

Below, I have written everything I keep in my “essentials” pack. I add necessary equipment, such as extra food, water, and sleeping supplies, on longer, overnight trips, but every excursion to the backcountry requires these suplies.

  • Skis, boots, poles (obviously)
  • Compass
  • Thermos
  • Water bottle
  • Headlamp
  • Goggles (and/or sunglasses)
  • Small shovel
  • Ski shell
  • Ski scraper
  • Spare gloves
  • Probe
  • Beacon
  • GPS
  • Radio or walkie-talkie
  • Snacks
  • Clothing layers

With strategic placing, you should be able to fit everything into a pack for a day in the woods. Finding jackets and snowpants with easily-accessible pockets is always helpful, especially when storing small and important items like a compass or radio. If you have this equipment, you’re ready for a fun and safe day outside.