Magazine article Sunset

The Long and Short of Micro Skis

Magazine article Sunset

The Long and Short of Micro Skis

Article excerpt

Short skis give nordic skiers an edge on groomed trails

For nordic skiers who regularly cross their ski tips on downhill turns or tangle their tails while herringboning uphill, the latest innovation in cross-country skiing seems, in hindsight, a no-brainer: shorter skis.

This winter, micro skis as much as 2 feet shorter than the traditional 6-foot length will be standard rental issue at many nordic centers throughout the West. While they won't replace the traditional designs for serious racers or experienced back-country mountaineers, beginners and experienced recreational skiers will find them easier to maneuver on groomed trails with set tracks.

RETHINKING CONVENTION

Since the late 1960s, when cross-country skiing began gaining popularity in the United States, nordic ski lengths have typically ranged from 190 cm for women to 210 cm for men. These long, skinny skis were well suited to prevailing conditions where skiing was truly cross-country and skiers set their own tracks on ungroomed slopes.

As nordic ski centers and mountain resorts began setting tracks and grooming trails, skiers just plunked their old skis onto the new trails. Today, according to John Slouber of Royal Gorge (near Tahoe), the largest cross-country ski resort in North America, approximately 75 percent of all recreational skiers use groomed trails.

While Slouber wasn't the first to recognize the benefits of shorter skis, he had the clout to convince Fischer Ski to make a ski measuring just 147 cm for both men and women. The Revolution was introduced in 1992; other manufacturers were quick to follow with their own lines of short skis.

Designers claim that the arching camber under the foot and the stiffness of the tail - which is nearly as rigid as that of an alpine ski - allow both track skiers and ski skaters of different weights to get plenty of push without sacrificing much glide. …

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