I still prefer wood cross country skiis. Here are the crown jewel pairs from my collection, all dating from the late 60’s to mid-70’s. As with kayaks, each has its unique function and performance characteristics. And though I do have a couple of pairs of modern waxless fishscale skis I use when the snow is goopy, I much prefer the woodies’ pine tar bases and application of temperature- and surface-specific waxes to get them to do what I want when the snow is prime. And they are sooooo pretty.
I don’t know of any major ski maker who still makes these labor and time intensive wooden skis but there has been a resurgence, as with kayaks, in individual craftspeople producing them to order and even offering workshops for DIY’ers to make their own. The tools and technologies are similar to that of wooden strip and SOF boats and paddles (and surfboards!): laminating, steam bending, shaping.
Left to right (all made in Norway, mostly of hickory with compressed hickory “lignostone” edges):
- 195 cm Latu light touring made of oiled laminated hickory (my favorites, super light and high fast camber);
- 190 cm Bonna 2400 backcountry skis with 12 laminations and a cracked steel mid edge (these are very tough – the late extreme explorer/mountaineers Galen Rowell and Ned Gillette used this same model in their traverse of Ellesmere Island);
- 195 cm Madshus Birkebeiners (these are also supposed to be oiled but a prior owner varnished them). The Birkies are a legendary and coveted model but I find them a little squishy on the trails, don’t have the lively spring of the Latus.
These are all mounted with modern Salomon SNS bindings and have been used within the past two seasons. I keep them displayed on a wall in a corner of my living room. along with my cedar Greenland paddles.