What gear does Wendy require?

I enjoy receiving your direct email inquiries, and I post some of them here for a couple reasons:

  1. These are concerns that are shared by many readers and all will benefit from seeing the answers
  2. We have many readers who are more knowledgeable about these issues than I

This email comes from Wendy:

A skier-set track runs from Shadow Lake Lodge to the lake

“Hi Bob,

I love your blog and check it everyday, sometimes more than once! 

I am in need of some advice about what type of skis to buy. I have classic skis and have been skiing for 3-4 years now. I read with great interest some of the trip reports and would love to do some trail skiing, like those suggested by Alf Skrastins.

In one of the trip reports of Skogan Pass there is a picture of the writers ski tips, however they look a lot fatter than my classic skis. It also looks like there are set tracks on Skogan Pass. Do they fit in the tracks? What would I use for a trail like Shadow Lake (also track set?) Lake O’Hara Fire Road? Skoki Lodge? Do I need to buy skins for trails with a lot of elevation gain? Full or just the half ones?

There is so much information out there I must say I’m pretty confused 🙂

I would really appreciate your advice.

Thanks so much,

I can weigh in on a few of the questions: There are set tracks on Skogan Pass and Redearth creek/Shadow Lake. The final 2.5k to Shadow Lake Lodge is snowmobile packed only. From the lodge to the lake, there is no packed trail, as you can see in the photo. Once you’re at Shadow Lake, there’s plenty of good touring to be experienced where it would be better to have wider skis.


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  1. Different Gord here.
    This is all excellent info. I bought the waxless metal edge Rossignol 55, I see some of the shortcomings but since I don’t go off tracks much yet not a problem. Interesting note about the boot drag, I have a slightly larger boot but not really a problem in the tracks…


    For skins, I notice they can be cut to length, but what about width?

  2. As the driver behind those ski tips that Wendy references, a few thoughts-
    Although I knew that the Skogan area trails had been trackset, I opted for my Karhu Pavo skis over my classic skis, as the metal edges, sidecut and soft camber made for easy and quick parallel and telemark turns all the way back down. A lot more fun than snowplowing! Also there was the possibility of a number of ungroomed options including going beyond the groomed all the way to Skogan Pass (sometimes that gets groomed too), and other old roads to explore.
    The extra control on the downhills had a minus side too- the wide tips, steel edges and soft camber were a drag, literally, in the set tracks, which meant that most of the way up I skied beside them.
    As mentioned by others, a pair of wider steel-edged touring skis along with one of the “BC” system boots and bindings can open up a new realm of trails to explore, not that skilled skiers can’t use their regular xc gear, but having a
    a light “BC” touring set up makes it more enjoyable, and safer, for most.
    In fact, I know a number of skiers who use these as their main xc outfit.
    One gripe that I have about many of the current crop of metal edge light touring skis is that they are too stiff, and that an increasing number are only available in waxless versions, Around here, waxable is the way to go.

    • Hey Steve,
      I was hoping I would hear from the skier behind the skis. Thanks for your comments, great information. It’s exactly what I was looking for.

  3. \\hi Wendy:

    It sounds like you are starting to become interested in touring on skier set trails….of which there are an abundence in Banff and Kananaskis country. Chances are the skis you see in the picture are light touring skis…which have a stiffer tip and probably are a bit stiffer….more suited to skier set trails which have a considerable downhill run which requires more control then classic skis. Might I suggest pointing you in the direction of one of the many touring clubs in Calgary. About 15 years ago the clubs got together to resolve safety issues and developed a common trail classification(I chaired the committee). This classification was to overcome some of the difficulties which you are now encountering….what equipment to bring on what trip. We broke down the trails into a series of terrain categories, each category requiring a specific type of equipment, and skill set. What this means to you is that there is an easy set of backcountry trails which you can try out and explore. Should you want to be more adventurous you could then try out a more serious terrain category. The easiest backcountry trail classification is what I would call light touring, it includes such destinations as chester lake, \paradise lake, Elk Pass(BC) there are a total of about 18. The next level would get you on more challenging trails to treeline. Beyond that more serious classifications, where there is increasing remoteness more serious equipment, and greater reliance on group members for safe travel.

    Once again I suggest checking out the outdoor clubs….its a great way of exploring the Alberta Rockies….and making friendships which can last a lifetime.

    • This is a useful post. I’m finding myself in a bit of a similar situation – have classic and light touring skis, but sometimes don’t exactly know which ones to take. I have Skogan Pass on my list this month, Chic Scott’s book lists it as light touring, but after seing all the groomed trails out there this weekend, I’m half-tempted to head up there on the classics, especially in these great snow conditions. So, skin up and have the metal edges, or go for the classics to cruise more in the tracks there?

      If the conditions remain favourable, with good machine-set tracks as they are now, and cold snow, my opinion is that Skogan pass is more fun on your classic skis. I’ll make one qualification: It’s a fast(rocket-ship fast) trip back down, so if you have good downhill ability, go for the classic skis. If you want more control, the light touring skis may be more appropriate.

      I like doing Skogan pass on a pair of older, flatter classic skis with a bit of sidecut which makes it easy to climb and easy to descend. Coming down on my narrow racing skis is getting to be too fast.(Never thought I’d say that!) – Bob

    • Thanks for the information Gord! Is there a published list of the light touring trails that I can access on line?

  4. Wendy,
    If you’re planning to continue skiing for years to come you should consider purchasing some skis that will allow you to access a larger variety of terrain. My wife and I both ski on Rossignol BC metal-edged XC skis, (there are a few other similar brands). Ours are 65mm wide and we have Rossignol NNN-BC bindings, which are a bit more stout than regular NNN bindings. Our boots are slightly higher and stiffer as well.
    These are waxable skis which is fine for most situations, but we also have narrow skins for times when the climbing or snow conditions warrant. Ski wax and skins are not terribly compatible, but we just scrape our wax off before we attach skins.
    This set-up works fine on groomed trails, but also allows you to get off-piste if you choose. We also have bigger skis for heavier touring, but if you’re looking for a flexible XC set-up, I’d recommend these.

    • Wendy,
      Trackset grooves are about 60mm wide at the bottom so if you’re looking for skis that will do both in the track and out, you should look for a metal-edged touring ski 60mm wide or less. I just bought a pair of Rossignol BC 59s from Lifesport and I really like them. Along with the metal edges, they also have a bit more of a sidecut than traditional skis so they can turn a bit better and are also easier to control when the grooves start to get a bit tracked out or simply aren’t there. The metal edges also make them stiffer so they’re a bit shorter than my classic skis which makes them more maneuverable on the tricky sections but not quite as fast on the flats. I imagine they’d be a bit narrow for going downhill in deep snow but for everything else so far they’ve been great. I also agree with Gord that beefier NNN-BC or Salomon X-ADV boots and bindings are the way to go. Just be careful with the boots. Mine had big treads on them that would drag on the sides of the grooves so I sanded them off and that seemed to help. Best of luck!

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