Only a week ago I wrote a short “Heads up” post about the new Altai Hok short skis, or fast shoes. (My initial impression about the original Hok 125s can be found from here.) The last weekend I was at the annual meeting of the Arctic Club of Finland speaking about the Vatnajökull 2012 expedition but while there I also had a chance to get my hands on the new “Hoks” the Kar 147 and Tao CXD.
No, not the new skis but something similar used by Siberian natives. (A show piece at the Nanoq Arctic Museum)
The new skis are designed and made in Finland. To my understanding the people importing the original Hoks to Finland were not happy with the original Hok 145 and also wanted something more downhill oriented and thus decided to design new models. Apparently the people behind the project knew what they were doing and the end products are very convincing.
According to my sources the major problem with the original Hok 145 was the binding placement (there are fixed metal inserts the mount a 75mm tele binding or X-Trace Universal binding) with the binding located too close to the tip of the ski. In addition the tip was too stiff and there wasn’t much camber. This caused problems especially for down hill skiing but the lack of camber had also an effect on the cross-country skiing performance (a lot of drag from the skin and a wide ski tracking poorly on hard surfaces).
From the top: Tao XCD, KAr 147 and Hok 125.
The new Kar 147 is not a redesigned Hok 145 but a completely new ski. But the aforementioned problems have been taken into account and fixed. As there wasn’t any snow I wasn’t able to test the skis but balancing them on my finger tip the binding was dead center. The tip was also clearly more flexible and a bit wider, there was a subtle but clear camber and the skin material was changed into high quality mohair-synthetic mixture which enables smaller skin to provide the same grip but also better sliding properties. I would still like to see a version with an aggressive fish-scale base instead of the permanent skin insert but I’m very excited about these and eager to get a pair to put it into test. Unfortunately there is a delay with the cores of the skis so it’ll still take a little time to get them into shops. And judging by he popularity and demand of the Hoks the last winter I’m afraid the Kar will also sell out quite fast…
Base and ski inserts. Gain from the top: Tao XCD, Kar 147 and Hok 125.
The Tao XCD ski is a more down-hill oriented ski with dimensions borrowed from an old Karhu model but at least the tip is completely redesigned and there is a Hok style permanent skin insert included. The skin insert in the Tao XCDs is a lot smaller than the one in Hoks (partially due the ski being thinner) but should still provide enough grip for most occasions and make skiing faster.
Close-up of the skin inserts. Tao XCD, Kar 147 and Hok 125.
See the video below for the Tao XCD in use.
The X-Trace universal bindings have also been upgraded for this season and are now called the X-Trace PIVOT. The new swiveled base plate, which I was testing last winter, makes skiing a lot better and is now a standard feature. In addition the front and heel pieces are now a bit wider offering more control to the ski for down hill (or kiting) use. The front strap is also a bit longer in the new model thus making even bigger boots (think about Sorel Glacier boots for really cold winter trips) a better fit. I see the new X-Trace PIVOT binding to be quite a good option for many occasions. A good all-around compromise tool, just like the Hoks.
See the video below for some tele turns with the X-Trace Pivots and variety of footwear. Also suitable for the barefoot folk. 😉
The Arctic Club of Finland meeting was held at Pietarsaari in the Nanoq Arctic Museum which is an incredible place. Unfortunately my camera battery died so I don’t have photos of the museum but I can assure you that it’s worth visiting if you have any interest in Arctic and Antarctic regions, native cultures, expeditions and the like! The museum is built on a relatively large property and it consists of several buildings respecting the original architecture of the Arctic areas and there is a huge amount of items from early days of the native cultures to present expeditions, good collection of literature and films and so on. Definitely worth a visit!
The main building of the Nanoq museum. (Picture stolen from the Nanoq website.)
Curious complaints about the stiff tip on the first gen Hoks. I can see that being the case based on the proto 125s I used, but the production 145s I own are the softest skis (in pretty much every dimension) I’ve ever used. The forward binding placement is a bit odd to ski downhill, but it puts cord center close to boot center which I find works well in deep powder.
I wonder if something has been done with the bindings to make icing under the toe (of your boot) less likely? I found that to be quite bad on the ones I used.
Thanks for this update!
I can’t really comment on the complaints as I haven’t personally tested the original 145s. The forward binding placement is now days a standard for deep powder with the traditional long forest skis here in Finland but doesn’t really work for downhill. I’d assume the centered placement would still work well in powder with Hoks but that can be foung out only by trying.
I didn’t have any problems with the X-Traces icing under the toes but I used them mostly in very cold powder conditions. Probably nothing done for that. DIdi you have the pivoting model or the old one? The pivot might actually help a bit.
Spelt: You’re welcome!
These look really interesting. I was just about to pull the trigger on a pair of Hoks. Any idea if these will be made available to north america ?
Unfortunately I don’t know if the new skis will be exported to USA. I’d assume so but don’t really kno. And as the core delivery is late it’ll take still some time to get the stuff on the shelves. You could ask directly from the OAC Finland?
Many thanks for the info and pictures!
Just to make sure:
All three models will be produced in Finland, right? Not just the Kar and Tao, but also the Hoks?
Those “new” Hoks, are they unchanged in design, binding, etc., compared to the original Hoks?
Good question and important point to clarify! The title maybe a bit misleading, sorry for that. Only the Kar and Tao are designed and will be made in Finland. Hok 125 and Hok 145 are made in China (and designed in the USA), though apparently the Hoks sold in Finland have the skin insert cut to shape and clued in place in Finland…
Some repetition for clarity there are no “new Hoks” but the new skis are “Kar 147” and “Tao XCD”, no word “Hok” in the name.
Actually the Hoks are made in Rimouski Quebec Canada. The administration part is in the States.
Thanks for the information Pascal. I must have been misinformed or mistaken in the topic and will correct it to the text. Any source for this information as it doesn’t read on the Hoks I’ve had nor on the Altai Skis website?
My source is directly from one the two founders, François Sylvain. I’m covering the skis for an outdoor magazine here in Quebec. I first thought the skis were made in the States only to find out they were made in my province when I called François up. The biggest problem they have right now is meeting the demand. Althouhg they are made here you won’t find them in a store you have to buy them online.
But I’m very curious about the KAR 147 and the TAO XCD though I sure hope to try them ou one day. Good review thanks!
Thanks Pascal, that is a reliable source. 😀
Apparently it’s the same thing with Kar 147s. The demand is way bigger than the people at OAC were prepared for. But I guess it’s a good thing. 🙂
The Kar 147s are somewhat different than Hoks though share the about same dimensions and same philosophy. The TAO XCDs should be more like traditional CDX skis. I’m also eager to tryt hem out but there has been problem in sourcing the materials to make the cores for the skis (as these don’t have wood cores).
Curious why do the Kar 147s and the TAO XCD have the Altai Ski logos
Long story short, as I know it: OAC did first import (and still does) Altai Skis to Finland and they did some development and testing with the idea of selling the skis under the Altai Skis brand but something went wrong and they took different paths. Apparently the companies/people have differing views of the perfect 2fastshoe”. OAC is still importing and selling Altai Hoks in addition to their own models. I don’t know if it works the otherway and Altai Skis would be importing and distributing OAC skis?
It would be nice if someone would import the OAC XCD, Kar 147 into the US.
I have both sizes of the Hok – 145, 125. On a hard, icy crust the Hok 125 gives a better grip but the Hok 145 wasn’t that bad either – Feb 2014 after a +5C thaw then freeze.
The XCD dimensions seem similar to a Fischer S-Bound 88 so the Fischer could be your XCD with fishscales.
I have the X-Trace binding on my Hok 125. For the Hok 145 I started with a 75mm binding then switched to an SNS X-ADV for better kick and glide but certainly not downhill control. I have gotten a 2nd pair of the Hok 145 this winter and mounted a Voile 3-Pin Cable Telemark Binding. The cable is removable so I mostly use the binding in 3 pin mode.
As for the Hok skis being produced in Quebec, I believe I saw it somewhere on the web site, but I don’t see it in the main Hok product description. They talk about their Kom being produced in Quebec – altaiskis.com/2013/04/29/testing-and-development-of-the-kom-2/
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