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.)
I had a pair of 125 cm long Altai Hok “gliding snow shoes” or “fast shoes” for test the last winter and I really liked them (see my Initial Impressions). Though there were few things I would’ve liked to change. I would have preferred:
– the longer model (wasn’t available for test at the time) for more floatation,
– maybe removable skins or some other way to make them a bit faster
– and a bit more camber for better skiing.
I was told some secret information about new models being developed in Finland but I never got any specific details…
Lurkin’ down a forested hill with the Hoks. It’s fun!
But now it’s all public information!
According to my sources the new models are designed and made in Finland by OAC! The new models are:
– “Kar” 147 cm, 125-110-122, 2700g (i.e. 2cm longer and 50g lighter than the original Hok 145)
– “XCD Tao” 160cm, 85-72-80, 1850g (i.e. very different design, maybe better suited for relaxed telemarking on forested hills?)
On paper the Kar looks almost identical to the original Hok 145 model so what’s the point? This: both models have more camber than the original Hoks and have more narrow skins which should make them better suited for cross-country skiing travel. And the Tao seems quite different from the original Hoks, more like a short Karhu Guide XCD. To me it looks more like a cross-country downhill type of ski just like the name implies.
Click to see the official info (in Finnish).
I have to say that I’m quite excited! The 147 cm long Kar sounds like a perfect tool for traveling the forested and bushy areas of Finland. It should provide more flotation, be faster and about just as agile as the 125 cm model I was testing. I was planning to get a set of “alpine touring” type gear (Dynafit stuff) for the winter but as that gear is expensive as hell and people only have two kidneys, I might seriously consider buying the new Kars, 75mm bindings and some low-cut plastic tele boots…
Hok 125s at camp after a day of skiing through bush. Notice also the new X-Trace baseplates that I was testing. They are now in production!