I have a confession. I hate snowshoes. The first time I had to put some on this year, I cried. Last year, I tried to turn my downhill ski setup into a backcountry ski setup, but the results were not as great as I had hoped (see the video here).
So this year, I thought I’d try out the Altai Hoks. As a disclosure, Altai did send these to me pro bono. I am pleased to announce that they did not make me cry. Here are the reasons why I’m more than happy to strap them on.
Reason 1 – They are Super Maneuverable
The Altai Hoks come in 125 cm and 145 cm lengths. Mine are the 125s, which makes them pretty darn maneuverable. This is great for plodding around the house because I can climb through fences. It’s also great for thick bush, dodging trees, and squeezing around tight switchbacks. If you’ve ever gotten your skis tangled in something, you will appreciate the shortness.
Reason 2- They are Light
At just 1.54 kg (3.4 lbs) each, they are almost half the weight of my downhill skis (backcountry skis do way less than my downhills, but not much), and that doesn’t include the heavy boots. Although the skis are heavier than my snowshoes, they don’t feel like it. The ski motion takes a whole lot less energy than the stepping motion of snowshoes.
Reason 3 – Universal Bindings
I can wear them with any flexible soled boots. That means no uncomfortable ski boots. It also means a loss in ankle support, but trust me, these skis aren’t exactly for “shredding the gnar,” so the support from a good pair of hiking boots or snow boots is adequate. The bindings allow for enough heel motion to go up unencumbered, but with enough stability that they aren’t flopping around like a cross-country ski would be. You can get them with three-pin bindings if you want to invest in some telemark boots. I reckon this would be a good option for steeper terrain.
Reason 4 – Built-in Climbing Skins
It only covers part of the ski, so it doesn’t give quite the climbing power a removable skin would, but it does the trick. It saves a lot of time taking skins on and off. Plus, if there is a small uphill part amongst a lot of downhill, it is easy to transition. Yes, it does come at the expense of glide. Once again though, these are for winter travel, not shredding those sketchy avalanche tracks.
Reason 5 – Convenience
If you are ever bored, time how long it takes for a backcountry skier to get their boots and skins on, and be all ready to go. Then time yourself putting on the Hoks. It’s no contest. I keep these outside my door and just put them on for a stroll around the yard. I just have to put on my usual pair of boots, step into these, and off I go. They fit nicely in the back seat of my car, which means I can ditch the roof rack.
Reason 6 – They are Fun!!
Going up takes less effort, and that (at least to me) means more fun. More importantly though, is that you get to ski down. They don’t have as much glide as other skis (especially not in powder), but it’s fun enough. Metal edges make stopping and turning easier than a pair of cross-country skis.
Altai also suggests using a tiak for downhills. It’s quite a different feel to go downhill on the Hoks (vs. other skis) and I can see now how it would be helpful. The tiak is used by the people of the Altai Mountains in North Asia. That name is no coincidence. The Altai Hoks are fashioned after the handmade skis of the people of the Altai Mountains.
For more information visit the Altai website at http://altaiskis.com/
I did take them on some steeper terrain, and