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2/23/2014 6:54 PM
 

 Spent yesterday touring for a few hours and miles at Whitegrass Ski Touring Center in the Canaan Valley of West Virginia. I was putting a new pair of planks through their initial testing paces...the Kōm from Altai Skis.  I was on rough snow conditions due to a recent warm trend, melt off, and re-freeze.  This left the terrain with patchy sections, icy crust, corn, and pure ice.  The Kōms did really well on these harsh conditions, so they will be even better on some Rocky Mountains powder and spring corn next month!  To learn more about these skis (dimensions, geometry, and the impetus behind them), visit altaiskis.com/tag/kom/

They are very nimble and light at 162 cm.  Although they did take a bit of getting used to because they have a 3 pin line binding mount point further forward than other backcountry skis.  I also am used to skiing with much longer boards...usually in the 185 cm range.  Very fat dimensions (124/98/119mm) make for an extremely stable platform, that will float powder nicely.  They also have a tall rocker tip which will aid in great trail breaking.  The guys at Altai also used a rocker design to allow them to keep the amount of sidecut to a minimum, keeping the overall dimensions wide, which also helps with climbing.

The skis also came up on edge easily, which I was very glad about given the harsh conditions!  Part of that was the boot and binding combo I chose.  I used Rainey Superloops on G3 15mm shims (with heel elevator), with a Garmont Velocé (2 buckle + powerstrap) Telemark boot.  They would also do well with a Voilé 3 pin cable and stiff leathers, or a lightweight AT binding and mountain boots (plastic or leather).

These skis really like to turn, and I was able to muster up super-tight radius turns during the descent.  That's a great feature for skiing trees or when trying to skillfully negotiate narrow chutes.  Once I got used to them, they tracked pretty well, too.  I particularly liked the aggressive no-wax fishscale base.  I was able to go right up stuff that I would otherwise have needed to pull out the skins for.  As the conditions got more dicey higher up the mountain, I ended up attaching a pair of wall-to-wall trimmed G3/Backcountry.com skins...they were just more efficient and safe at that point.

At $399 per pair, that's a pretty decent price for a true all-terrain ski to round out your quiver, or even as "the one" ski in a quiver of one, at least from a pure backcountry touring perspective.  Scot...I think your Rossi BC 125s are very similar in dimension.

As well as these things did on rough conditions, I have every confidence they'll do even better on some proper snow.

Check out the pics below.

Sláinte!

Ken

 

The boots and bindings I used gave me lots of control in varied and harsh snow conditions.

 The trails were mostly icy crust, and sketchy, but the new boards did well.

 No sexy, smooth Tele-turns on this icy stuff!  Linked Uphill Stem turns and traverses to the better patches of snow was the order of the day.  I did manage to get in some nice tight Telemarks toward the bottom, 'though!

 Part of the Whitegrass backountry trail map.  My tour took the highlighted route....yellow for my up and orange for my down.

 The Kōms in their element, with a nice full pack.  The Umlindi did really well as a ski pack, by the way!


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2/24/2014 12:21 PM
 

Ken - awesome write up and pics.  I have been ploughing thru websites / magazines to get info on a good all-round backcountry ski that will take traditional leather boots (Crispi, Scarpa and Allico are the only ones I can find) for winter camping / hunting.  This write up hits the mark and will definitely put these to the top of the list.

 
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2/24/2014 3:53 PM
 

 Thanks, Craig!  Glad to help!  I think these would be a great ski for your purposes.  They're really quite versatile.  These are produced at a small factory in Quebec, but Altai Skis are based in Curlew, Washington.  I think some good leather BC boots and an appropriate binding will work just fine with these.  I am actually thinking about getting a pair of leather Scarpa Wasatch boots to use with these skis for softer snow conditions.  They're a Telemark boot, but would still be good enough for a bit of hiking once broken in.  Otherwise, I can adjust the cable on my Superloops so that they will hold a pair of welted La Sportiva Nepal Top leather mountain boots.  Lots of options for driving a ski that is so svelte and nimble.

They have one other even shorter model...the Hok...that is more of a ski-shoe.  Sort of a cross between a ski and snowshoe, with an integrated climbing skin section permanently attached to the center section on the base.  Less glide, but obviously a snow climbing machine.  They're much like the Karvers that Evan and Scot have, available with a Universal binding that will take just about any boot.  I opted for the Kōm because I wanted something a bit more versatile, more glide, and still skiable like a standard ski on steeper stuff.  I still love my Karhu XCD Guides and my Team 100s for other ski endeavors, but the Kōms will no doubt be my main go-to skis for pure backcountry skiing.  

Nils Larsen and Francois Sylvain (owners of Altai Skis) have been very nice to deal with....great customer service.  They both worked as designers and ski builders for the now defunct Karhu for ~ 10 years, so they have lots of experience under their belts.


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2/25/2014 8:54 AM
 

 One bit of info I wanted to add about these skis.  I just read that Altai Skis designed these with an integral binding retention plate which is perfect for just about any free heel binding, but it is not a full alpine-style binding plate, which is what you'd want if you intended to mount a modern hard-core tech AT binding.  Without a full alpine binding plate, the heel pieces of most modern AT bindings could rip out, due to the stresses put on the heel piece during turns.  That said, I do think that an older style one piece platform-style AT binding like a Silvretta or Fritschi FT-88 could work, since there would be load-sharing throughout the binding, instead of force generated directly to a separated heel piece.  

The reason that Altai did not design these with a full alpine binding plate is that it would have negatively effected the flex of the ski, and would have significantly changed the way the skis perform off piste.

Because I mounted free heel bindings on mine, it's a non-issue for me.  I can still ski them parallel and make alpine style turns with these bindings...Rainey Superloops.  

For guys that want to run a ski like this and don't want to use a Telemark binding, it may be best to use Altai's Universal binding, which would allow the use of any boot.  This binding would not be best for performance turns, but would offer plenty of control for backcountry touring and decent turns on downhills.  I watched a video of guys using this type of binding doing very good turns on downhills wearing rubber boots and even flip-flops!  So...good turns are possible with the Universal binding, as long as your skiing ability is up to the challenge of the terrain.

I will write Nils of Altai Skis about whether he feels that an old-school AT binding (like Fritschis or Silvrettas) would work okay with these skis, as long as the skier didn't expect to be doing high-speed slalom turns with these.  More to follow once I get an answer.


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2/25/2014 9:57 AM
 

 Here's a link to a video of guys in Finland skiing with the Universal binding on skis very similar to the Altais.  They appear to offer plenty of control for turns!

www.youtube.com/watch


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2/25/2014 1:49 PM
 

I am looking forward to comparing them with my BC125s as they seem pretty much identical just in a shorter length.


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2/25/2014 2:07 PM
 

 They're going to be very close....your BC 125s are 125/90/120, and the Kōms are 124/98/119.  Yours have a bit more sidecut and maybe not as much rocker.  Mine are wider in the waist.  Yours probably get more of their turning performance from the sidecut, and mine get it from the rocker shape.  Both are great for BC touring.


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2/25/2014 2:14 PM
 

Thanks for the report. I've been eyeing these skis for a bit. Not cheap but still better price than the offerings from Voile ie. their Vector and Charger BC's.

I would think you could easliy epoxy a thin but strong plate under both the toe and heel bindings( two piece plates to avoid the ski flex issues with one full length plate) for an AT setup like the Dynafits to fix the failure problems predicted by the guys at Hok. 1/8" micarta, glass filled plastic or even a thin plate of aluminum would probably work fine. the main thing is to spread the stresses applied to the top plate of the ski when you're headed towards that garage sale crash.


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2/25/2014 2:29 PM
 

 That's a damned good idea, RD!  Bet that'd work fine for guys that wanted to run AT bindings.  I'm waiting to hear back from Nils at Altai for his thoughts on mounting AT, but your idea about epoxying on a plate sounds like a good fix!  

Yeah...the Voiles are pricey.  Hagan USA (based in Colorado Springs) has a similar ski out, too...but not a no-wax fish scale base, so it would require skins.  I think they may be on the high end for price, 'though.


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2/25/2014 3:20 PM
 

Craig, I'd steer away from the 130cm fixed skin skis. They're a great gateway ski for non-skiers, but can be plain frustrating for anyone with skiing experience. The short length is pretty squirrelly. Also, skins have a hard to predict friction curve on the downhill. Unlike un-skinned skis, they tend to come to a stop very abruptly. For a whole variety of reasons, I believe the best choice for an all around backcountry binding is an older style AT binding like the Fritschi FT88 or Silvretta 404. Alpendrms already has a set of skis with 404s (almost identical to my go to skis but different length and brand) so they weren't strictly necessary on his Altais. I'm really looking forward to skiing the Altais next weekend. I'm curious to see if I like them better than my BC110s, and if so if I like them enough more to covet a pair.

 


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2/25/2014 3:32 PM
 

 Evan, what size are those dogs of yours?  If they're pretty close to mine (11-11.5), you can just put on the boots I'll have out there with me so you can try the Altais out.  If your feet are way out of that range, then I'll just adjust the cable length on the Superloops so that you'll be able to at least try the skis out with your own boots.  As long as they have a good welt and groove at the front, I'll be able to adjust the bindings for you to try them out.  You'll be skiing your leather Asolos, right?

 

Craig,  I agree pretty much with Evan's thoughts on a shorty ski with an integral skin.  That said, a good friend of mine from my Group days just demo'ed the Altai Hoks over a few days of backcountry skiing in the Adirondaks.  He liked them, but he wants to definitely try out the Kōm before he throws down money.  I think he will like those better.


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2/25/2014 3:33 PM
 

Yep, leather Asolos. I normally wear 12, but these are 11.5.


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2/25/2014 3:38 PM
 

 Cool....I'll have a pair of Garmont Velocé Tele boots.  They'll have enough room in them for a test run, no problem.  Maybe bring a pair of thinner ski socks along, just in case.


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2/25/2014 3:57 PM
 

 Just got an email back from Nils regarding his suggestions on AT binding use with their skis.  See the pasted info below:

Hi Ken
There are ISO standards for binding retention and we do not meet that for AT because of the lack of a full retention plate. The Kom does have a wood core and fiberglass laminate so will do a decent job of retaining screws. I think what you are talking about would be fine. I would be leery of somebody going really crazy on the downhills with jumping and such but normal skiing would be fine. We have to be careful with what we can recommend and guarantee.

Another interesting option out these days is Quiver Killers (see link).

cheers   nils

http://www.quiverkiller.com

 

So, that said, it looks like guys could mount an AT binding on these, as long as they are aware that they will not be meant for hard-core mogul fields and ski slope "performance art".  I'm pretty sure that the folks here on the HPG forums aren't interested in that kind of skiing, anyway.  Nils also sent a link for Quiver Killer inserts, which create a very strong binding retention option....plus the ability to switch bindings between several pairs of skis.  Nice!


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2/25/2014 8:15 PM
 

A couple of days ago during the thaw I put my Vibram Five Fingers on, vapour barrier socks!, and did some skiing on Hok 125 with the X-Trace binding. With the X-Trace you need a stiff or Telemark boot to turn, power, the ski.My light hiking boots just fold up and cry uncle.

 
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2/25/2014 8:30 PM
 

Craig, the X-Trace Universal binding is great for a traditional boot. I even put on Vibram Five Fingers, vapour barried socks!, and skiied around with my Hok 125 and X-Trace. The important thing is the stiffness of the boot - my light hiking boot fold and cry uncle when trying to control, power, on the downhills.

You might want to check out the Hok 145 - mohair so it climbs very well; binding inserts so it is easy to switch from X-Trace to 75mm 3 pin Telemark pattern. Plus the mohair keeps the speed down on downhills so you have better control on the decents.

The Berwin bindings are too soft for backcrountry, ok on a sliding snowshoe around the yard when you have at least seveal inches of snow to set a track in. Plus the Berwin uses the closer 3 pin binding drill pattern. Not the longer drill pattern that 3 pin Telemark bindings use. I found this out when I put Voile bindings on my LL Bean Boreal "sliding snowshoes" that I bought with the Berwin bindings.

Alpina's Alaska is a really nice leather Telemark, 75mm, boot plus they have an NNN BC version.

 
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2/26/2014 12:46 PM
 

Cavesar, Scot and Ken - Lads thanks for all the sage advice.  I can't look at the Altai site very well at work, so will look again tonight. 

As for the use of the skis, mine will not be for true telemarking (knee's will never stand that for long) more for stuff in the foothills and forests.  Likely have my family along at times, so can't go anywhere too hairy!

I prefer to do true downhill with my Head skis and true classic x-country on my Salomon's.  The Altai's will be strictly for camping, ranging and hunting.  I will be moving out east soon so am going to hold off until I get out there.  This year's hunting is done and with only one or two more ski trips left this season, I will stick with the Head's and stay on piste.  I will dig around the shops for any back country gear deals, though. 

The more I look at Ken's photos, the more psyched I am to try out the Altai's.  I need to check their bindings and see if my Hanwags could work, too.

 
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9/3/2016 8:26 AM
 
Ken

Any more user updates on the KOM ski?? Are you still happy with them? I'm thinking about picking a pair up to add to the quiver with the HOKS.
 
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9/3/2016 9:04 AM
 
Lab-Roamer wrote:
Ken

Any more user updates on the KOM ski?? Are you still happy with them? I'm thinking about picking a pair up to add to the quiver with the HOKS.

They have become my "Go-To" skis for most everything I like to do in snow.  I have 4 other pairs in my quiver...the Altais rock.


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