Selecting Metal Edge XC Skis

To get outdoors year-round, one sport that should be on the top of your list this winter is backcountry nordic skiing. Central Oregon is home to dozens of sno-parks and has miles of snowy trails and winter terrain to explore. If you are hoping to discover a little slice of remote wilderness, BC nordic skiing is the perfect winter sport.

What are metal edge nordic skis, and are they better?

Metal edge nordic skis are designed for out-of-track touring and getting you out into the backcountry. Unlike classic nordic skis that are lighter, narrower, and designed to stay in track, BC metal edge skis are better for steep terrain, stability, float, and offer a lot more versatility. As the name says, metal edges run along the ski, and they will generally have a longer and more aggressive crown, or scales, on the base of your skis for better grip.

Metal edge nordic skis are a great way to ditch the crowds at sno-parks, explore your local winter wonderland, and are incredibly versatile. Whether you’re skiing at Meissner sno-park, breaking trail in the Three Sisters Wilderness, or skiing to work in town on an epic snow day, metal edge skis get you where you want to go.

What width ski should you buy?

There are several different widths. Anywhere from 60mm to 100mm+. What do those numbers mean, and how do you choose?

As you’re shopping for skis, you’ll notice that most of them have a number in the name. This number usually represents the widest point of the ski at the shovel (front of the ski). So a Fischer Traverse 78 means that it’s 78mm at the widest point of the ski. The bigger the number, the wider the ski.

So how do you know how wide or narrow to go? Well, it depends on where you want to ski and how you want the ski to perform.

The narrower the ski, the more glide and speed you’ll get. Groomed tracks are about 66mm wide, so if you go with a 62mm or 65mm, you have yourself a versatile ski that will fit in a groomed track but can still break trail in about 5 inches or less of snow. This is a perfect option for somewhere like Meissner or Swampy sno-park.

As you go wider you’ll gain more stability, grip, float, and performance in steeper terrain and deeper conditions. If you’re looking to ski out to Todd Lake or tour up to Broken Top then you’ll want something wider, like in the 70’s or 80’s, for more float in the snow, stability, and the ability to break trail.

As you go into the ’90s and 100’s you’ll lose glide. But in this range, the ski will gain shape with a moderate side-cut, and that will give you the ability to make gradual turns downhill. And when we say gradual turns we mean survival turns, not pretty turns. Wide skis are also good for more float if you’re carrying a pack, like for a hut to hut trip.

How do you know which length of BC metal edge ski to buy?

There are two main factors to determine sizing, how much you weigh and your skier ability. Every ski manufacturer will have a weight range for their skis, so depending on what you weigh (that’s with gear, not out of the shower) will determine your ski length.

If you’re between lengths based on your weight, that’s where ability comes in. If you’re an experienced Nordic skier, then go longer so you can get more glide and speed. If you’re newer to the sport or don’t have the need for speed, then you can go on the slightly shorter side. This will make the ski easier to control as you learn.

But be careful. As you progress and your skills strengthen, you’ll want a longer ski for better glide and performance.

What kind of boot should you buy?

There are a few options here, and most of them have to do with where and how you plan on skiing, stiffness, and, most importantly, fit.

If you’re planning on skiing mostly in track and only some out of track, then there’s no reason to go with the stiffest BC boot. Go with something a little lighter and softer for more comfort and better flex for kick and glide.

If you’re planning on only skiing primarily out of track and on a wider ski, then do the opposite and go with a more supportive and stiffer boot for more control in fresh powder with your wider ski.

Backcountry nordic boots (NNN BC or 3-Pin) are stiffer and more supportive than a classic nordic boot so that they can control a wider and heavier metal edge ski (think 80mm or more). But, they will have enough flex to kick and glide and aren’t nearly as stiff or heavy as a plastic-shelled downhill boot.

We recommend taking the extra time with selecting your boots because a great fitting and high-performance boot is one of the most important parts of any ski package. If your feet aren’t happy or in pain, then it’s a crappy day in the snow.

What type of binding should you buy?

Pick you your boots first, and that will determine what binding to buy.

NNN BC and 3-pin are your bread and butter BC nordic bindings. These bindings are stronger, wider, and all-around beefier than a classic binding, making them ideal for your backcountry adventures.

NNN BC is by far the most common binding. And there are two types to choose from, NNN BC Auto and NNN BC Manual. Auto works well for a 60mm to 70mm ski and is easy to get in and out. In fact, you can use the tip of the ski pole to pop the binding open.

3-pin, or 75mm, uses an older style that relies on, you guessed it, three pins that attach to the front of your boot. These days, this is a less common style because of bindings that are easier to get into and accumulate less snow on the heel.

A manual NNN BC binding is a bit stronger, better for a wider ski such as 70mm to 90mm, and has a manual releasability. A manual binding requires you to reach down to open and close the binding to get in and out. The tip of your pole won’t work here.

What type of pole and what length should you get?

If you’re going to ski a 65mm ski-in track and occasionally out of track on the golf course in your neighborhood, then you could stick with a classic nordic pole. They’re light, simple, and inexpensive. Sizing is easy, and a great rule of thumb is the tallest point of the pole should be about the height of your shoulder.

If you’re going to be skiing out of track, then an adjustable pole is worth having. Adjustable poles work well in deeper snow, uneven, and steep terrain. Sizing is easy because they’re adjustable, so you have some play depending on if you’re going uphill or down – and conditions. Don’t forget your powder baskets!

Where can you shop for and demo this gear?

At Pine we stock our favorite gear from Fischer, Rossignol, Salomon, and Black Diamond that will make your BC nordic adventures a blast! From a wide range of skis, to several different boot options, accessories, and the biggest selection of nordic clothing in town from Swix, Craft, Maloja, and Ortovox.

Our passionate Team will be more than happy to answer any questions and walk you through the right gear for your ski adventure.

Now that you have your gear, where do you go?

Central Oregon has so many sno-parks, nordic areas, and trails that you could spend winters discovering them all. From groomed to ungroomed, from short loops to all-day adventures, Central Oregon has you covered…

For groomed trails, check out the Mount Bachelor Nordic Center. This requires paying for a pass, but you’ll find miles of beautifully groomed trails for those skiing on a narrower ski (less than 68mm). And their snow conditions are often among the best since they are at a high elevation and grooming daily.

If you want to avoid the Mount Bachelor crowds and costs, then we recommend Virginia Meissner Sno-park. At Meissner you’ll find over 40 miles of groomed track for classic nordic skiing and skate skiing. This is a great place to have some in-track fun on your narrower (60mm to 65mm) BC skis. Meissner is 100% run on donations, so don’t forget to drop a few bucks in the donation box and/or volunteer as part of the Meissner Nordic Ski Club.

While the Mount Bachelor Nordic Center and Meissner sno-park are great for in-track skiers, there are plenty of other sno-parks where you can break trail and make your own adventure, whatever your skill level…

Swampy Lakes, Wanago, and Skyliner sno-parks are great places for breaking your own trail (or following the trails of others) if you’re looking for a shorter or slightly more manageable place to go. All three sno-parks offer trails that don’t have as much elevation gain, are easy to navigate, and offer short and long loops. If you want to bring your doggo, Wanogo is (the only one of those places that is) dog-friendly.

For a more adventurous no-parks that offer more miles, steeper terrain, and gets you out even further, check out Todd Lake (Dutchman Sno-Park), Edison Sno-Park, and (for a steep climb and good view) Vista Butte.

Whatever sno-park you explore, you’ll be required to have an Oregon sno-park permit. This daily or seasonal pass is per vehicle, and you’ll want to buy it in town before you get to your sno-park as most do not sell them there. Pine Mountain Sports has annual and daily snow-park passes and these days they are $29 or $6.