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You'll need weird skis

  • Are those Marquette Backcountry Skis? | Yes

  • Where can I buy some? | They are discontinued you have to get lucky and find them on resale. About 6000 pairs exist in the world.

  • I heard those skis suck though. | They are very niche and unfun if used wrong. They are slow and heavy. They excel at small vertical steeps and allow you to lap those areas with no transition as long as the up route is mellow. 99% of skiers won't like them because they will try to use them like XC or downhill or AT skis. They are none of that. Move along. 

  • What about Altai, Voile, Black Diamond scaled or skin skis? | Not the same. Have edges. Expensive. Not durable. Need better snow. Less stable. But I'd still like to try them. *Update* I tried the Altai skis and wrote about it here. 

  • Why can't I buy them? | inadvertently became the exclusive seller/controller after legal conflict in 2019 and has chosen not to produce any of them. The mold of the ski has the word Backcountry on it and they don't like that, but they never actually wanted to be the steward of the product. They control it as a side effect of a self inflicted legal mishap. The current management was not involved at the time of that event. I hope someday to convince them the value of this inexpensive, durable, local use backcountry ski but that day is not here yet. They've never skied it. They don't have any. 

  • They look simple let's just start making them..? | Blow mold injection requires an expensive $50K-ish setup and you might get sued by the above IP holder. 3D printing would make you one terrible knockoff. The original mold likely sits at the factory in Michigan and could be easily updated to remove the word backcountry so that production could restart easily and quickly. This inexpensive ski does not have a massive appeal but it also has zero customer service headache and sells consistently, when permitted to exist. I email Backcountry annually to encourage this conversation. One day they will reply. I hope. Encourage them. 

  • Is every Marquette the same size? | Yes they are all 140 cm and 130 mm underfoot. These are blow molded solid plastic beasts that allow you to confidently point it down limited snowpack terrain traditional equipment would be ruined upon. 

  • Can I use them with my alpine boots? | Bad idea.

  • Can I use them with my AT boots? | Bad idea. 

  • Is it a Telemark turn? | No. It's an alpine style powder turn on a tele setup. Go watch a video of me. 

  • Do I need skins? | No they have scales. They can go up moderate slopes but there is a limit on steepness for sure. 

  • Why don't I just use a traditional AT setup? | I ski the local terrain outside Golden, Colorado which is steep and boney and of limited vertical drop. I never sit in traffic or drive far. The Marquettes allow me to ski this underutilized roadside terrain with no transition time and without concern for obstacles like stumps, rocks, etc. Most of my laps are 100-500 vertical feet. All of my terrain would be not fun on traditional equipment. Or splitboard. 

  • Can I ski mellow terrain on them? | Not really they don't glide. You'd be pushing. They need at least a moderate pitch to ski well. The foothills offer those pitches without being avalanche terrain.

  • Can I wax them? | I've tried but it didn't help with down speed or up grip. So no, you can't.

  • Can they be fixed with P-Tex? | No they just get slowly destroyed if you are using them aggressively. Cannot be tuned. No one uses them as aggressively as I do so they'll last many years for most folks. They still function pretty well when beat to hell. I have tried sanding them down and carving divots as scales but not sure if that will work in reality. 

  • What kind of boots and bindings? | The best are 75mm tele, like the old Scarpa T2. You want a triangle pattern binding with a heel cable. My website is covered in photos of this exact setup. 

  • Can I use these for uphill at a ski area? | You could but it would be terrible.

  • Can I use these on packed down snow? | No they need to sink into the surface to operate. No edges. They are powsurfing on skis. 

  • Will I help you? | If you live near Denver (or visiting) I will take you out on my demo fleet and show you. But you might need to wake up early and be reliable. I'm tired of people who say they want to go but then never actually do the minimum it's a waste of my time. And they ask lots of questions already answered on this website and in my social feeds for years. Inform yourself a little and I'll gladly outfit you. For most people this is not a good fit and that's ok. 

  • Is it always "fun"? | No often the snow is bad and you're out there for the fitness and exploration.

  • Where do I use them? | Where there are jeep trails, mining roads, state parks, public lands whatever. Expect to break trail a lot.

  • What's the 100 Project? | I had been trying to do 100,000 local vertical in a season. Took me three years but I finally did it in 22/23. We'll see if I can do it again or not. 

  • But why? | Really? Here's a twitter thread I did in 2020 that has a lot more reasons and details.

  • You still reading? | Ok keep going below... 

Where does this work?

Your season length will vary based on your location. Some regions like the MidAtlantic will have brief windows, only a few weeks a year where you can get out there locally. The Northeast, Upper Midwest, Rocky Mountain West, PNW, etc will have longer seasons. Near Denver where I live I'm forced to drive to higher elevations 30-45 mins from home early and late season but when the snow is good midwinter I am able to get great turns 10-30 mins from home. 1000'+ vertical in 60-90 mins thanks to embracing weird skis. Read on... 

How is this different than backcountry skiing or split boarding?

Those are typically pursued in big mountains often far from home, with avalanche risk, complex expensive equipment and deep snowpacks. Simple Skiing is about your local parks and public lands, limited snowpacks, less driving, less crowds, less risk, etc. And typically untracked snow. It's like going to the gym or the supermarket but instead it's the forest.  Select the type of equipment that lets you go up and down without attaching and removing skins. So you can get a ton of fun in within a couple hours not a whole day. 

I don't need skins?

No. There's an entire class of non XC skis that have scales or permanently attached skins. My favorite is the Marquette Backcountry ski (now sadly discontinued) because of it's low price, durability and stability in very low snowpacks and lack of edges which allows it to hit rocks and stumps on the way down, but there are many other skis in this market as well. Never adjusting skins allows for much less clothing as you don't get cold putting them on or taking them off. This factor drastically reduces preparation and gear required. 

How do I mount them?

However you want. They can be mounted for use with a common snow boot but that's not recommended for aggressive downhill. Better for dog walking or checking your trap line. I prefer cable telemark bindings and 75MM telemark boots. The turns on the down are not telemark turns. All can be found at yard sales, goodwill, craigslist etc for low dollars. 

How do I identify useful terrain?

Determine how far you're willing to drive. Then identify the public lands in that radius. Identify the underneath surface. Grass needs little snow to be good to go. Steeps of rocks and forests will need more. Go scout in the summer/fall. Be willing to explore and fail. Settled snow is better than immediate deep fresh. Beware melting fresh snow in the sun. Does it face north to keep the snow good longer? Is it near the road? Are there webcams nearby that you can check from home? Are there pre established hiking or ATV trails that will help you navigate and not always be breaking trail? Is there cell coverage? You only need vertical drops of 80+ feet to have fun because of your equipment update. 200-400 is best. 

But... why?

I spent most of my life living in ski towns. Then I had kids and moved to Denver. But I still want to ski powder as if I live in a ski town. I don't have entire days to battle traffic and my work/dad schedule means I need to make use of 2-3 hour windows of time. I have mountains nearby that get snow but are generally not skied. This equipment and mindset update makes them good to go. Now I get tons of fresh without the headaches the rest of the skiing public just accepts while complaining about it. Maybe you have kids or a job that sounds like mine. Maybe it snows near you. Maybe resorts skiing is just sort of boring now. It took me a year of exploring my area to find all my good spots. Put in the work. 

Why is the Marquette Backcountry Ski discontinued?

The founder no longer controls it. It's a very long story. Start in 2019 when started suing many businesses including Marquette Backcountry. Fast forward to now when they went from exclusive seller to vanishing the product and ignoring all inquiries. I wish I had better news. If Backcountry would ever like to learn about the thing they own (and ski it) so they could sell Simple Skiing to the masses I am happy to help. It would be the best outcome for all. If they'd like to change the name before relaunch then sure why not!

2019 interview with founder of Marquette

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