Ski Equipment

Backcountry Skiing in Ontario is not the same as backcountry skiing in Quebec or in the western provinces.  We don't have the same terrain -- no mountains.  Think skiing on hiking trails, marshes, lakes, some bushwhacking.  The skis and boots used in Ontario and our trails are quite different, and also cost a lot less than the mountaineering backcountry equipment.  The equipment may be listed as off-track touring or light touring equipment.  Below are guidelines on what equipment you might need.

If you are shopping for new equipment, ask the salesperson.  If they are not familiar with our club, let them know that the trails are ungroomed and to think more like hiking trails rather than a wide "manicured" roadway, and that you will be carrying a day pack. You want equipment that will allow you to have stability in deep snow, as well as to be able to maneuver the turns.

Be careful not to put off the essential purchases for too long. The selection of equipment in stores becomes scarce as the season progresses and it can be hard to find the right boot size and ski length.  If you're still debating on what skis to buy, at least buy yourself your boots first as those will be the most difficult to get the right fit.



In recent years, backcountry equipment has changed quite a bit but those old wooden skis that may be collecting dust in your parents/grandparents basement may still work.  Many members still use them, especially in cold conditions.

Ski widths:    Backcountry ski width range varies from about 59 mm to 99 mm.  If you already own classic skis, dimensions slightly narrower may still work for you if you are unsure about purchasing new equipment.  Skate skis will not work.  You want to have stability and flotation.  As an analogy, think of skate skis as stilettos, classic skis as dress shoes with a "sensible" heel , and backcountry skis as hiking boots, and you're walking on a cobblestone street.  What's going to give you the best balance and control? 

Dual Purpose skis:  If you want to use your skis for both trackset and backcountry, you will need to buy skis in the lower width range.  Check with your retailer or specs to see if they can be used as in-track skis.

Ski lengths:  It will be based on your ski width, height and weight.  If your skis are on the wider end of the spectrum your skis can be shorter.  e.g. If a person is skiing  on skis in the lower width range at 180 cm , they could use a 170 cm or less on the higher width range skis. Very few of our taller members use skis longer than 205-210 cm.  Those long skis just simply are difficult to maneuver on our trail system.

Metal edges:  Nice to have especially in icy conditions, side stepping, and can help you better control your skis while snow plowing with less effort or technique.  Your skis will be a little heavier.

Waxable or Waxless: 
Waxable skis can have better glide but grip can be lacking at times if the proper wax is not applied.  You do have to spend the time to wax your skis dependent on the temperatures, and it could vary throughout the day, so you may need to re-apply wax.

Waxless skis are nice when the temperatures are in the 0 degree range and above.  Waxless skis have less glide than their waxable counterparts in colder conditions.  If you want to keep it simple, waxless works just fine. 

Some members own two sets for different conditions (waxable skis when conditions are cold; waxless when you're near the zero mark or above), while others just use one pair all the time.    Many of our members who are now in the market for a new pair of skis, are now going to the wider skis for easier maneuverability because you can have shorter ski lengths.  We usually spend some time off-trail as many of the groups like to bushwhack at times.  The short fatter skis also make it easier to "break trail" especially if you're trying to ski with 1 or 2 feet of fresh snow.  As the first couple of people go by, you will have "broken trail" and the "ski tracks" are made.

Boots & Bindings

Boots:  Should be higher and be fairly rigid.  Think of hiking boots.
Boots may be classified as a classic cross-country ski boot or light touring.  Boots can be hard to come by, sizes not stocked at your local store, and you really want to try them on before you buy.  If you're debating what to buy in terms of your equipment, try at least to buy the boots first; or if you're not ready to make the purchase, at least try a pair on and take note of the size in case you have to order online somewhere else because they're no longer in stock.

Bindings:  This is dependent on the boots you buy, three-pin, New Nordic Norm (NNN) system, Salomon system.


Poles:  Shoulder–height or somewhat shorter.  Poles should have metal tips so that you can dig into ice if need be.   Baskets should circle the pole.  Without the basket, you could plant your pole, and your pole could sink three feet down.  The old bamboo poles work well.  

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