Lightweight ski touring dilemma solved

It was back in the late 60’s I started skiing, and at a club field complete with rope tow, walk in/up to the snow, dig the rope out after storms and crank up the tractor. We’d often ski so late we’d walk down in the dark to the accommodation hut.

That’s when my love affair with winter travel in our New Zealand mountains began in earnest.

The nuances really came together later, and over several years while living mostly at Mt Cook Village, in the National Park of the same name…
Mt cook hooker valley in wi

It’s a wild place to learn the craft of ski mountaineering what with ropes, crampons, ice axes and shovels, crevasses, avalanches and heavy packs being the norm…
Skinning 2

A love/hate relationship with “heavy combat” touring skis soon develops in this terrain. The intermittent encountering of powder is a strong motivator, amongst the ice/rain/wind crust that comes from an dynamic maritime climate!
Kris wagner muchison

I also came to realise that having the right equipment and mix could add 10% to my abilities. It seemed that if I was on the brink of feeling/knowing a technique in my evolution as a ski-tourer, that even a smaller percentage could give me the “leg up” to the next level.

When the weather was bad around the village in winter we played about on cross country skis, with the shoes held on by three pin bindings, on up to a metre of snow. Better to play with it than fight it!

After my time at “Cook” I moved to Lake Wanaka arriving at about the time the town was starting to emerge as one of New Zealand’s premier ski resorts. Subsequently my friend’s Mary and John Lee turned the snow on their high country station [farm], up the nearby Cardrona Valley into an asset by developing the world class Nordic ski area; The Snow Farm, incorporating a comprehensive vehicle testing/proving grounds as well.

The pioneering days back in the 80’s on the Pisa Range, where the Snow Farm is now setup. Just getting to the snow was an expedition!…
Pisa nov 87

That’s me in blue and orange on the right…
Pisa xc skiing donald

Today there are over 70Km of world class trails complimented by a large two story lodge…
Lodge100 4486

Unlike most other cross country ski areas in other countries the trails at the Snow Farm, at 1500 mts above sea level, are not sheltered by trees…
Junction100 0344

It’s the distinct alpine environment that I love so much, because due to the groomed trails I can ski [Classic btw] far and wide while feeling like I’m on a modest mountaineering adventure, without all the clutter and weight! Also I was pleasantly surprised what a difference modern gear made over my old 3 pin binding experiences as per the old photos above..

So… I was on my way happy as ….. early winter at the Snow Farm always seemed to bring good quality cold snow, and while learning the ropes I was only too happy to stay on the groomed trails while I explored.

Developing a taste for solo nocturnal skiing under the stars and the moon…
Moon100B6614 2 2

This gave rise to considerable thought and action as to lightweight clothing and equipment, e.g. on a night skiing trip into the headwaters of the Meg I experienced minus 23. Not that usual in NZ!

Gear like this is an absolute delight on groomed snow, and/or perfect conditions for touring…
Skis

After a couple of seasons I started to realise that in spring with it’s inherent melt/freeze cycle I was not equipped, nor had the ability to safely ski crunchy ruts and ice, so I’d often walk, but that’s not quite the same as merrily sliding and dancing along.

The spring “look” on the River Run at the Snow Farm…SpringIMG 1186

A rethink was required. This led to new boots and Salomon’s came on my radar for no particular reason – I liked their lightness and potential for walking and even cramponing, and that they needed the wider version of their bindings I’d grown to like.

I mounted them on my old Kastle skis that I’d really liked while 3 pinning, but for only long enough to realise the choice of boots was great. The soles of the skis were sadly disintegrating and cracking, so doing some more research I settled on a compromise straight metal edge ski, while wondering if maybe somewhere there might be a ski design that’d truly suit what I had in mind on the Snow Farm’s trails, and off-trail on the wider and vast Pisa Range.

How the dilemma was solved…

I’d often thought that a light x/c ski with some side-cut and edges, and fish scales to give grip in NZ’s often zero temp. snow pack, would fit my purposes, but there was a big question mark if such a ski would easily track straight and fast on the trails, which at the Snow Farm have lots of long straight sections in most places.

Out-of-the-blue though, perhaps because my subconscious had filed the requirements away a good friend lent me some skis to try, that had the dreamed for features above.

These are the skis [by Salomon], and they just love touring, and looking after me!…
Salomon Skis and boots

No problem either with a mix of darkness, moonlight, ice and snow…
Moonrise at Snow Farm

And they track amazingly well on the trails and the scales work really well while ascending even on the edges. They seem to occupy just the right percentage of surface area too, so glide is OK too.

I’ve used them now for a couple of long tours and I intend purchasing a pair…
River run at Snow Farm

Why…? Well they’re just so light and so much fun to get about on, no matter what the conditions. I can’t wait to tear up some more corn and powder on them, in this amazing landscape!

So much to ski Snow Farm

There are many places and ways to break out in life…
Fences Snow Farm

Salomon Skis close up

About this Like Minds Blog Donald Lousley