January 18, 2011

Equipment Review: Rossignol BC65 Nordic Skis

The latest addition to my ski quiver is a pair of Rossignol BC65 POSITRACK 195cm backcountry Nordic skis.  I chose these to replace my aging Madshus Voss MG, which have seen me through thick and thin (snow cover, that is) for over five years.  The Rossis are designed to be a backcountry nordic ski and feature a full-length metal edge with Rossignol's Positrack waxless pattern.  The ski measures 65mm at the tip, 53mm at the waist, and 60mm at the tail, which Rossignol claims to aid in flotation and turning.  I chose Voile's HD Mountaineer 3-pin (75mm) binding since these are lightweight, durable, and are compatible with my nordic and telemark boots.  I ski the BC65s with Alpina BC 1575 boots, which are comparable to a medium-stiffness hiking boot.  Just like running SPD pedals on my road and mountain bikes, having one binding system makes everything easier.  My experience with system bindings, specifically the Salomon SNS BC, is that they are prone to failure and do not offer sufficient lateral stability for attempting turns...but that's a topic for another day. 

I got the skis and bindings online from Onion River Sports out of Montpelier, VT.  This is the second ski rig I've purchased from this outfit, and their customer service and pricing is spot on.  Check their website.  ORS will mount bindings free of charge upon request.

Float.  Since Christmas, New England has been blessed with at least three good snow wallops so I've had ample opportunity to test the Rossis.  The first outings found me breaking trail in up to 18 inches of powder over minimal base.  Did they "float" as advertised?  Well, not really.  Most of the time, the tips were submerged beneath the powder and occasionally porpoised above the surface.  I attribute this to the shape of the tips, which don't curve up very far in comparison to my previous skis (picture the tip of an elf's shoe).  Plus, any Nordic ski is going to punch through light powder.  Once I had broken trail, the goings were obviously much easier but the ski didn't track very well and kept wandering out of the trail.  To be honest, was more the result of my unfamiliarity with the ski rather than the side cut, but this ski, by design, won't track as well as traditional Nordic ski meant for a groomed trail.  But, I bought them to be BC skis, so no big deal.

The quiver.  The BC65s are 2nd from right.

Climbing.  Frankly I'm a little disappointed with the Rossi's ability to straight-climb even moderate slopes, by Nordic standards.  Keep in mind though; I have been skiing in cold, fresh, untracked powder, which is typically a challenging condition to get grip on any waxless ski.  Kick-waxable skis will outperform waxless skis any day of the week in fresh snow.  Once the fresh pow was packed down by skiers and snowshoers at my favorite haunt, the climbing became easier on the low-grade slopes but I still had to herringbone on the "steeps".  The metal edges gripped nicely on the climbs.  I have not had the chance to ski the BC65s on wet spring snow but I'm confident that the waxless pattern will prove its worth.

Turning.  Hey, it's a skinny ski.  It likes to go straight.  Just like any Nordic ski, don't expect to do any grand slalom carving; the best you can hope for is some awkward stem turns if the conditions permit, or maybe some kicked-out telemark turns if your boots are up to the challenge and the snow is light and fluffy.  Making shuffled-Alpine turns will be easier in the early spring when there is a light layer of corn over a solid base.  That said, I have a penchant for dropping stupid lines on Nordic skis (Mt. Moosilauke carriage road, Teardrop on Mt. Mansfield, and  Sherburne on Mt. Washington), and I fully intend to keep that trend going with these skis, regardless of how poorly they may turn in comparison to telemark gear.  Descents in anything but icy conditions will be slow because of the waxless pattern, and don't be surprised if you find yourself double-poling on moderate downhills just to keep moving.

Gabby dog prefers 3-pin, too.

Overall Impression.  I think the BC65 is a good ski for its intended purpose, which is exploring fire roads, hiking trails, and golf courses.  The ski manufacturers and retailers love to blow smoke about the multi-disciplinary abilities of backcountry nordic skis.  Be realistic.  It is a waxless ski so it will not climb particularly well and does not have the effortless glide of a waxable ski.  It will not turn like a telemark ski.  Therefore, do not expect to take these skis out alongside your buddies who are skinning and dropping slopes on tele or AT gear.  You will suffer and die.  However, the ski is well suited for day adventures on moderate terrain and can even be used on groomed Nordic tracks.  Aside from some occasional glide wax, there is no maintenance.  The construction of the ski seems rugged yet relatively lightweight, and I am anticipating years of trouble-free skiing. 


  1. So how do you like them compared to your old Madshus Voss's?

    Thanks for your review!

  2. I have been on the Rossis many times since I wrote this post. The Madshus were faster, climbed better, and were overall more easy to maneuver. The Rossis descended better, and the 3-pin bindings were far more stable than the Salomon step-in system I had on the Madshus. If you really enjoy kick and glide, even in the "backcountry", the Rossis may be just a bit too wide. That said, I've had a lot of fun with both pairs of skis.

  3. What type of boots do you use with your 10th Mountain?

  4. I use Scarpa T2 telemark boots with the 10th Mountains.