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AT Ski Width for Beginner AT Skier?

Original Post
AlpineIce · · Upstate, NY · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 255

I'm looking to purchase my first AT setup and I'm not exactly sure what the differences in ski sizing would mean to me.

I went to my closest backcountry ski shop, which is three hours away from where I live, and I've decided on the DPS line for skis. The shop employee who helped me said I'd be safe in either the Wailer 99 Tour 1 or the Wailer 106 Tour 1. They sell DPS Skis, Voile and another brand I can't remember.

My understanding is the "99" and 106" means the width underfoot. The clerk explained that the more ski underfoot, the easier it will be to balance when skiing, turning, etc.

I don't have a ton of experience on skis, let alone alpine touring, but some. I've skinned in the backcountry on a recent trip to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Sixteen mile skin in, sixteen mile skin out. All with elevation changes.

My question is: Would I notice a huge difference if I went with the Wailer 99's vs. the Wailer 106's?

I plan on skiing mainly in the Adirondacks, which can get a ton of snow one year and next-to-nothing the next. Powder skiing can be "in" all season, or never there at all. Obviously, conditions can be very unpredictable.

I'm still learning the sport, so I'm not sure which underfoot width would be better for an intermediate skier.

I would like to use my new AT setup for resort skiing also as I'd like to march up the hill and ski down when/where applicable.


Chris CW · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 85

probably best bet for a beginner skier is 78 to 98 mm under foot. For the length of ski which is in cm. It depends on the ski. For a 5' 9" skier weighing around 155 lbs or so. anywhere between 165cm to 182cm length is good. 175cm being the the most common size. In a AT set error on the shorter side. Demo the skis first at a ski resort before buying. Skis are expensive.
Have fun.

ollieon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 40

The difference between 99 and 106 will be how much float you need in very light powder. A wider ski does tend to do better through crud.

I ski 100 underfoot (Fischer Hannibal 100) and it skies well in the resorts and in the backcountry. I can't charge through crud as hard because they're light skis, but that's the trade-off.

You're picking between weight and float/poor snow performance at this point. For the Tahoe area, the recommendation for a one ski quiver is a 95-100 underfoot.

Chris CW · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 85

For a all around ski. 88mm under foot is pretty ideal. 98mm floats in powder good. fatter then that the skis is probably made for just powder. Check how much camber there is in the ski. Less is more for powder deeper snow. And how much early raise there is in the tip. More early raise the more it's for deeper snow, generally speaking. Check out the Kastle line of skis. They get great reviews. Same skis Chris Davenports skis. And will give a idea what a AT ski is (offpiste) compared to a Piste ski, in bounds, ski resort ski is. Usually a 70% offpiste 30% piste. Is a good compromise. Sorry for grammar and spelling, it's late. One more thing. Stiffer flex usually means the ski will handle better in Adverse conditions such as Crud and chopped up, tracked up powder, after a big Dump.

i.e. i said kastle just for an example. I am not selling skis. And there's so many skis out there it's impossible to tell you a specific ski to buy. All though , almost every ski company has hit the jackpot with a classic good model were everyone agrees it's superior then most other models,through the years.

One more important thing. 2200 grams for a pair is usually the lightest before the downhill performance of the ski starts to deteriorate.

Mark Ra · · Frange, CO · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65

I'd look used if you have time or at least wait for the end of season sales that are imminent.

99 seems better for the NE but you could even go a little narrower. Might want to consider keeping them on the shorter side too, lighter for touring and quicker through trees and narrows.

The end of season sales will see things marked down 30-40% and if you are patient you can pick up used gear for even less. Taking your brand new skis out and hitting rocks on the first outing is going to hurt. The NE is more about banging your way through the sticks and down whatever snow patch you can find vs. the big, long, pow surfing above treeline that is found elsewhere.

Stagg54 Taggart · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 10

Anything over 100 is overkill for the 'Daks. I used to ski up there on 79s and they were marginal. I would suggest somewhere in the 90-100 range.

ChrisN · · Morro Bay, CA · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 25

As others have said - go with the narrower width.

If you are only going to have one backcountry ski, that 85-95mm range is pretty good for the east coast. 100mm+ is starting to get too big and anything below 80mm is too small... IF you are only going to have one pair of backcountry skis.

In the perfect world you could get two - a shorter narrower steep spring ski (say 75-85mm) and a longer wider winter ski (95-105mm).

Wider skis are easier to ski and skin in powder and chopped up powder. They are harder to edge and carve on firm snow and they weigh a little bit more (although that part is negligible unless you want to go super fast and light).

Length is similar - longer ski are more stable at higher speeds, but are more difficult to swing around - especially if you will be in tight trees or steep lines.

Another thing to consider - every east coast backcountry skier eventually makes their way to Mt. Washington. If you're at all planning on getting into steep terrain (ie Tuckerman Ravine), the narrower widths are generally easier to hold an edge when jump turning etc. A long wide powder ski in scratchy spring snow will certainly add some challenge to your day!

In my opinion, skis are the least important and easiest to find inexpensively part of the setup. #1 Get a good pair of backcountry boots that fit well. #2 get a pair of tech bindings, #3 get a pair of lighter ski suitable for the backcountry.

You'll be banging these things up... no need to spend full price on a pair of DPS skis. Check out the Backcountry Touring in the Northeast facebook page or the Teton Gravity Research forum. Good rigs pop up there all the time. Again, spend your money on good boots!

Stagg54 Taggart · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 10
ChrisN wrote: Again, spend your money on good boots!
Best advice yet!
Bill Czajkowski · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 30

I see people on the DPS Wailer 112 in all conditions out here in NM and CO. It appears to be a pretty adaptable board.

Scoop Norris · · Truckee · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 45

Take a look at the Voile Objective or Vector.

Dave Bn · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 10

From my experience in the west, 60% of backcountry skiing is in total shit conditions where even elite skiers can flail - It's not always face-shots and woots. A new skier, skiing in the backcountry in variable conditions, would likely not be able to tell much of a difference between an 80 and 110 underfoot.

Also, DPS are expensive skis. Buying a set without requisite skiing skills is cart in front of horse.

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530

I'm a beginner skier. There's a lot of good info in this thread that I learned from my backcountry pro friends (and wife, whos the best skier I know).

1) don't waste money on the dps skis. Yeah, they're shiny, but from the sound of the snow in the north east and your experience, they'll just get torn up and you'll be sad you spent that much money on them.

2) resist the urge to get a fat, long ski. I did and I'm selling them at the end of this season. I'm going to get the same ski, but shorter because I can't turn the long ones, and since I'm new, going fast is low priority. Control is what I'm looking for. I can go with a bit fatter ski since I live out west, but even then, they're only 104 under foot. It's easier to get on your edge on a skinnier ski.

3) seriously, boots are where to focus your money and time.

4) demo if possible. Most shops will give you credit towards the purchase for demos. My wife recently demoed 5 or 6 skis in the back country and then got all that credit towards the ski she liked best.

Good luck!

Chris CW · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 85

Yes, Boots are the most important.Get your ski boots dialed. You can always rent skis, until you find a pair that work for you.

Parker Wrozek · · Denver, CO · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 83

What are your goals for these skis? Are you doing lone (16 miles each way as you mentioned) treks in to climb, are you looking to run 600' vert laps, or something else?

The most important thing is to get good, well fitting boots. I would even pay full retail for these versus a compromise to get a sale.

Any of the tech bindings will work. See if you can get a deal.

You said you are not a great skier, intermediate level. I would avoid a light ski if you actually want to ski and are not using these just for climbing access. Most skiers who are not really good have a really hard time skiing a light ski. It chatters on them, it bucks on crud instead of cutting through, it makes the skier timid. I have seen a lot of people go straight to some carbon G3's, Voile's, etc only to turn around and sell those and get on a "resort" ski to use in the BC (like a Salomon Q98 or something like that). You don't need a fancy BC ski to go in the BC.

I would define your goals first and then you will get better advice.

Stagg54 Taggart · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 10
John Wilder wrote: 1) don't waste money on the dps skis. Yeah, they're shiny, but from the sound of the snow in the north east and your experience, they'll just get torn up and you'll be sad you spent that much money on them.
Skiing in the Daks will definitely beat up your skis. Lots of rocks, tree roots, etc... They will not stay shiny for long.
Stiles · · the Mountains · Joined May 2003 · Points: 840

What you need is a pair of high quality boots. Skis come and go, and all the different shapes ski radically different. A solid pair of boots is key.

Buy these boots, if they'll fit you. And then get foot beds molded for you by a good bootfitter. They are compatible with tech toe binding (Dynafit) and regular downhill bindings and regular AT bindings. They also walk the most easily of all ski boots, tour most easily, and can climb the best.

THE Boots for You

Street shoe size 9.5-10.5

Chris CW · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 85
Dave Schultz wrote:Another ski thread ... here goes the soap box / rant ... What ski shop did you go to? 106mm for a one ski quiver in the ADKs (or Northeast, period)? Seriously? What bindings did they also recommend? I am a pretty firm believer that a one-ski quiver is a thing of the past. Material, dimensions, technology is so good that a one-ski will ski AMAZING in one type of terrain, moderate in another, and be pretty poor to dangerous in the rest. The old guys did it, sure, they also used leather boots and had no sidecut ... don't get stuck in the past. Ask any passionate skier (in the Northeast, CO, WA, anywhere) how many pairs of skis they have ... you will 95% of the time find the answer well north of "one." For the Northeast you should ABSOLUTELY have a skinny ski, low- to mid-80s (if not skinnier, but still trying to appear you two-ski [vice 3+] demand). I actually just picked up the DPS Cassiar 82F (177cm) and skied this past Monday at Whiteface, it was a great ski and I am thrilled to add a heavier, deeper sidecut ski to my quiver. It is slightly on the heavy side for a purely backcountry ski, but I was willing to sacrifice some weight for some downhill performance. Sticking with DPS, the Cassiar 85 in a Pure3 or Tour1 would maybe be more backcountry-centric over the 82F. I have a 77mm Sportiva ski that is actually my normal backcountry ski in the Northeast (ADKs, Mount Washington, BSP). The 80-something mm ski will work on almost everything, let's face it, the Northeast does not get 2-4 feet of fresh, low density dumps throughout the winter like other areas ... so why focus on a ski that performs in that terrain? The Northeast is an arctic maritime climate, large temperature fluctuations, lots of variable snow types and quantity, mid-season rain events - get a ski that skis that type of terrain. The day you finally go out the 80-something ski is just not enough flotation to the point that you cannot stay afloat - splurge on your 95-105mm ski. Anything over 105 in the Northeast is just something you have for skiing elsewhere in the country, or you really love having a quiver of skis. I would also recommend La Sportiva skis for mostly-exclusive backcountry skiing. They are space-age technology with very lightweight material, but they do not have super high downhill performance. DPS, even their lightest stuff, does not compare to the lighter market options (Sportiva, Dynafit, Ski Trab); but they do still pack a good punch - probably a great combination if you are not searching for an exclusively lightweight ski. I have a large quiver of Sportiva skis (RSR, RST, GT, High5), but am now adding more downhill performance based skis (Cassiar 82F and likely the Wailer 99 in Pure3 and the 112RP2 in Pure3 - for the Northeast I only have/need the 82F, but I am moving back to WA, hence the need for a wider boards). Shoot me a message if you have any specific questions, and don't want to post on here.
Dave, the Kastle MX88 really is a good charging ski that will ski anything well. Cons: heavy for long touring days, very light touring boots are too soft for the ski, and it's not a beginner ski. You should try them out.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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