Full Nordic or AT Nordic?

For most backcountry skiers, it is clear that Alpine touring gear rules in ‘real’ mountainous terrain like the Rockies or Alps. But it can easily be overkill and hence not really much fun in less drastic, hilly areas. That is where backcountry Nordic comes into its own…

… alas, with its own little snags!

Having perhaps read about telemark and Nordic skis already in this section, you may be wondering whether you really need those bindings that condemn your heels to (what initially feels like) far too much freedom.

Here are the views and experiences of two respected outdoor experts. Andrew Skurka is a big fan of a pure Nordic setup including old-style leather boots.  But BPL editor Ryan Jordan takes a slightly different approach, advocating a hybrid system he calls AT Nordic (at least, I think he coined the term, which has since become popular). It employs relatively wide and short Nordic skis, rather different to Skurka’s favourites. But the main difference is that Jordan then equips them with Alpine touring bindings – meaning that most skiers won’t have to learn new skills. The solution also eliminates the need to use AT-style skins for ascents, unless the going gets really steep. That makes for a more flowing experience when shortish ups and downs alternate frequently.

Mind you, as I have said before, it is actually quite feasible to use a pure Nordic setup (soft boots and NNN BC bindings) with Alpine techniques – providing your skis are soft enough and have a bit of shape. It takes some practice, because you’ll miss the power of stiff boots and Alpine bindings, but that is half the fun in moderate terrain. After all, charging down a gently sloping forest road with brutal Alpine equipment would hardly release much adrenaline!