AT technique/gear question

Posted by: cfa

AT technique/gear question - 02/06/06 05:02 AM

I skied into Black Lake in RMNP today, in AT gear. It was mostly awesome, but I have a gear question. Do any of you other ATers have preferences when coming downhill on rolling terrain (i.e., generally downhill, but interspersed with sections of flat or moderately uphill)?
a) I didn't want to put the skins back on;
b) It's difficult to maneuver on the flat/uphill sections with the heels locked down.

I decided that it was easiest to leave the bindings in uphill mode (the downhill portions not being very steep or difficult). This made most of the flattish sections negotiable. I only had a tiny problem in some of the slightly more uphill parts, where I wished I had just a bit of kick wax or something.... (My partner let me use some super skinny skins once to come downhill--theoretically to solve the problems above, but it turned out that they were just too sticky.)
Posted by: pedestrian

Re: AT technique/gear question - 02/06/06 07:07 AM

absolutely.. leave the heels unlocked.

if i expect to be slogging a lot on the rolling terrain (e.g. logging roads on the shoulder of the mountain, etc), i will leave my skins on for the downhills. with the heels unlocked, and just kick and glide on the way down. it makes for long gliding strides - fun. skins can be a help for narrow trail skiing - they slow you down.

but it really depends on the terrain. something like the Wildcat Valley Trail (back side of Wildcat, in New Hampshire) has lots of downhills but it's also interspersed with rollling terrain. for that everyone leaves the skins off and suffers on the flat sections, just shuffling along ineffectually or skating.

when i did the backside of killington (where?) that had a lot more traversing, narrow but gently downhill trails that you want to bomb straight down, and uphills, so i did everything from the bottom of the steeper glade trail to the parking lot with skins on. it worked out really well.
Posted by: CrackBoy

Re: AT technique/gear question - 02/06/06 06:01 PM

from what i have read, a lot of people use kick wax and not skins for rolling stuff.

i have wondered the same thing since i just got into AT
Posted by: cfa

Re: AT technique/gear question - 02/07/06 02:12 AM

i will leave my skins on for the downhills. with the heels unlocked, and just kick and glide on the way down. it makes for long gliding strides

Really? Wow. How wide are your skis? Mine are 70-odd at the waist, so the skins are just under that. Basically if I have them on, I ain't goin nowhere! (They did come in handy for getting across the two frozen lakes across my trail...) Also, the trail was either too narrow or too twisty or too many trees in most places, so kick and glide wasn't really happening, unfortunately. (Aside from which I have the world's ugliest kick and glide technique...)

from what i have read, a lot of people use kick wax and not skins for rolling stuff.

That's true, except that I'm trying to be a cheapskate and only own one pair of skis! I like the AT because I can use it both on trails and at downhill resorts (I'm not super aggressive at the resorts, so this works out for me). So yes, for most of the terrain I was on, I probably would have been fine with a waxless ski (which would have been smaller than the ones I have, in addition to having the pattern), or at least a ski that was intended more for use with wax. I guess I was wondering whether people wax their AT skis (as opposed to their XC gear, where as you say, people normally wax on rolling terrain, only skinning when absolutely nec).

Incidentally, aren't you in CA? Last month I did a trip into Peter Grubb hut, which is a great trip to "try out" the gear if you're just getting into it. I also got to have my first experience with CA "chain control." Yikes! What a traffic jam...

Posted by: pedestrian

Re: AT technique/gear question - 02/07/06 02:29 AM


How wide are your skis?

Mine are 112-79-102. With full-width skins on (last year's cow-spotted GlideLite STS, if I remember correctly), they kick and glide -- as long as the trail is at least a little bit downhill. Otherwise, if it's flat, they just shuffle unless you really push them. Like I said, the skins slow you down a lot, but I find this to be an advantage when skiing trails that were designed for hiking.


I guess I was wondering whether people wax their AT skis

I've heard of people doing this, but I haven't experimented with it yet. I don't know that much about waxing. Of the people I've asked, opinions on this seem to vary.
Posted by: CrackBoy

Re: AT technique/gear question - 02/07/06 05:38 PM

well you can put the kick wax directly on your skis. and scrape em or leave em for teh downhill and let friction take it off.. voila only one ski needed

yep, i am in Cali. the Peter Grubb hut is one of favorite areas for snoeshowing with our pup. though the later you get out there without good snow it gets beat out really fast.

i still don't understand chain controls. they will have you chain up for stuff you wouldn't even slow down for back east. but it probably keeps the idiots from going that fast. but you still have to watch out for the 4x4 people who think they can fly. if you have 4WD you only have to carry your chains and not actually put them on.

though it tends to back the highway alot. but hey its donnor summit, traffic up there is usually a nightmare regardless in the winter
Posted by: stimpy

Re: AT technique/gear question - 02/08/06 07:07 PM

How about shorty skins. The ones that only cover the part of the ski where you would put kick wax, or where the pattern is on waxless skis. I have a pair and they work pretty good on BC skis on rolling terrain. They slow you down just enough on the downhills to stay in control, and give you plenty of grip on the uphills.
Posted by: hartmann

Re: AT technique/gear question - 02/09/06 08:56 AM

I generally don't bother to put the skins back on unless the uphill is over 100-150 feet verticle. Just lock/unlock the heel as needed. It only takes a couple of seconds. I have never bothered with kick wax either. If the uphill sections are to steep to skate or push myself up, I either lock the heel down and side step up or take the skies off and walk up depending on the snow conditions. Mostly I just try to avoid tours with that kind of terrain
Posted by: chip

Re: AT technique/gear question - 02/15/06 10:56 PM

Skate, as long as the snow is firm enough. Can be very fast if you are careful not to lose your momentum.
Posted by: CrackBoy

Re: AT technique/gear question - 02/27/06 05:35 PM

so i got my first tour in yesterday at castle peak just to try out my gear as Steph was on snowshoes. fun stuff. i ran into the problem with the small uphills and not wanting to put on skins again. what i found worked for me was to keep my skis in the locked position for the flats and slight uphill, i found that i could get a good shuffle glide thing going.

the only problem i ran into wa s apersistant uphill relative to what has happening, and so i unlocked the heels to try that out and i couldn't go anywhere i kept sliding back, so i went back to locked and had no momentoum so i ended up putting the skins back on.

Do you guys skate with your heels unlocked, i tried that and felt like i was running in place, though my skating sucks.

on the uphill i was able to get a pretty good glide going though. it helped to think of it as walking on ice with sneakers on.
Posted by: pedestrian

Re: AT technique/gear question - 02/27/06 07:05 PM

skating with heels unlocked will cause the tails of the skis to drag slightly. it's annoying but probably impacts maneuverability and "feel" more than speed.

i went touring near Cooper Lodge, a.k.a. Cooper Shelter on the Appalachian Trail yesterday, and did all of the downhills with my skins on. which was good because the trail up there, although not overly narrow, is very hard to follow with a fresh coat of snow on all the tree trunks hiding the white blazes and hiding any hint of the trail on the ground. so I did a lot of doubling back uphill.

there is tons of powder up there right now, and with skins on, my tips kept digging down into the granular base at first, when going downhill. the telemark stance or leaning back or shuffling helps... uphill that is not a problem.

Unfortunately I ended up following (with a lot of difficulty) the AT north instead of south as I'd intended, so I quit early. I am tempted to go back up there and mark a few things with surveyor's tape.
Posted by: cfa

Re: AT technique/gear question - 03/08/06 06:42 PM

Well, I've had a chance to try several of the above methods now, and in general, I think I prefer pedestrian's method of leaving the skins on if I know that my downhill will be interrupted by many sections of uphill. If for some reason I think I can stomp through without the skins, then I definitely unlock the heels. (I can't lock and unlock at will because I have the dynafit bindings.) I also suck at skating, but it is still possible to side step or herringbone with heels unlocked. I was out one day with some guys with half-skins, and they were bumming when the going got a little steeper (sliding backwards, etc). I tried wax one time, and it was okay for the more gently rolling terrain, although I hate to have one more piece of junk (or two or three if you like to bring different colors) to worry about remembering to bring. (Plus I forgot to scrape it off before the next time I went downhilling. D'oh!)

Posted by: pedestrian

Re: AT technique/gear question - 03/09/06 03:33 AM

Well, after the events of this weekend I'd have to admit that I've taken the skins-on thing to a bit of a sick extreme: I did the entire descent of the Monroe Trail on Camel's Hump with skins on and heels unlocked. We were expecting the trail to be a little more open up top.