I have the opportunity to buy some nicer Cross Country Skis this year. I was looking at some to use to ski to work but more importantly to use while trekking in the BWCAW. It would be great if they were able to be used on the trails in the parks around the twin cities as well.
What skis do you use and what would you suggest as a good option for what I am looking to do?
I have been wondering the same thing. I have been considering some military surplus skis since they are designed to take some abuse and have metal edges. Any suggestions you seasoned folks could give would be great. I have a pair of Rossignol Tour AR skis that I am pretty disappointed with, they would be miserable in the BWCA-no float at all.
I have a pair of Trax no-wax that I bought back in 1990. They're the narrow kind so they don't offer any flotation in deep snow, but they're great following snowmobile tracks. I use them to get back to my cabin in the winter. Once back at the cabin I put on snow shoes. After I've walked a trai a couple times in snowshoes it's packed down enough for the skis.
The best skis for backcountry travel aren't made anymore, the Trak Bushwacker. They (and the Bushwacker II/Karhu Catamount) were made back before "backcountry" was re-defined as any skiing outside of a groomed ski slope, mostly "telemarking" and mostly radical terrain.
The Bushwacker was too wide for in-track use (87mm shovel/165cm long) but had great floatation, a waxless base and went perfectly with Sherpa/Berwin Backcountry bindings. They work well with a pack or pulk for winter camping. I still have my second pair, and they are still my favorite skis. The Karhu GT comes closest to the Bushwacker in today's product line. Asnes of Norway makes a ski called the NATO Combat/Ingstad Fjell that performs very similarly, but are very hard to locate in the USA.
My other primary pair of skis are 1996 Karhu 10th Mountain-Tours. With a 65mm shovel/195cm long, and 3-pin binding, they do just fine on groomed trails, and in the backcountry. I am a "big dog" at 6'3" and 260 lbs, and I use these skis all the time on ski patrol. Karhu's closest models today would be the Solstice XT or the Pinnacle. The contemporary 10th Mountain is much wider.
I still have my first, wooden pair of 1971 Traks with the Omnitrak base, and a pair of original military skis as well as a pile of traditional snowshoes. The Bushwackers are still my favorites.
"My country isn't a country, it is winter"
by Gilles Vigneault
Asnes makes great skis. I use the Amundsens which are 67 at the shovel, too wide for a machine track. They are full metal edges. Other good Asnes models would be the Nansen or the Combat ski (these are both wider than the Amundsen). They also make a partially metal edged ski called the Holmenkollen which I believe fits in machine tracks. You can get Asnes skis from Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, CO.
Other skis to look at would be the Atomic Mountain (59 at tip and a true double camber ski, and they come in waxable). Fisher E99 and E109 are both supposed to be good but they are hard to find in waxable versions. Same with the Madshus Glittertind. There really aren't that many great backcountry nordic skis around for what would be ideal BW type travel with mostly flat terrain.
The criteria for a good backcountry ski I would say are waxable (not a fan of waxless-you'll likely have skins on anyways), 1.5 or double-camber, light yet durable, and at least a partial metal edge. I think Asnes are the best available but they are pricey. There is a reason Asnes are used on most Greenland/NP/SP expeditions.