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  • Writer's pictureJani Heino

Testing hybrid skis in snowy northern landscapes

Updated: May 18, 2023

This winter, I became enthusiastic about testing different types of skis, snowshoes and especially ‘hybrids’ between the former two. All of these are most suitable for off-track hiking, including landscapes with lots of snow and a variable terrain ranging from lowland areas to landscapes withn steep slopes. Here, in this blog, I focus only on the hybrids and share some experiences with using different types I have tested so far. The variation in the type of hybrids mainly centers around the bottom material, width and length, with the hair bottom being suitable for frost snow, and the skin bottom being more generally usable and also suitable for conditions with wet snow. When it comes to length, a rule of thumb is that longer versions are better in open landscapes, whereas shorter versions do well in forested landscapes as well.

Altai Hok can be considered a forerunner when it comes to hybrid skis. These have a special hair bottom, which appears to be suitable in different kinds of landscapes and weather conditions. I have a pair of these, representing the 125 cm long version. The tests I have conducted thus far mainly were in forested landscapes and on river banks. In general, Altai Hok did well in most cases, including on locations with relatively steep slopes. The special bottom material of Altai Hok facilitates climping river banks uphill, but do not too much prevent or slow down skiing donwhill. The photos shown below were taken in a forested landscape on March 16th, 2023. There was about 50 cm snow on the ground, much of it being fresh frost snow. It was an enjoyable hike.

Haghus has quite many different hybrid ski models. I start with the Haghus fish skin bottom model, with the length of 145 cm. This model is the widest I have tested so far and, therefore, does well in landscapes with lots of fresh snow. I have tested this model mostly on open peatlands, semi-open forests and on icy sea in the Bothnian Bay area. This version does well in deep snow but is a little problematic to operate on hard snowy ground with only a little fresh snow. The photos below were taken on March 13th, 2023. Snow cover was about 15 to 40 cm depending on the location.

A second Haghus model I have tested can be considered a brother of the model above. Basically, this model has hair bottom, but is also of the length of 145 cm and wider than 15 cm. This model is very suitable for conditions with lots of fresh snow. I have tested this model mostly on open peatlands, where they can be a model of choice. Like the other Haghus model above, this one does poorly on hard snow and ice, and cannot be recommended for hiking on forest roads and ski-do tracks with hard snow and ice. I took the photos shown below while hiking in an area covered by peatlands and forests with different kinds of tree cover. The photo was taken on March 12th, 2023.

Anar model with the length of 160 cm and with hair bottom is closer to ordinary rough-country skis than hybrids. This model is not very wide when compared to other hybrid model. Hence, this model should not perhaps be used in landscapes with lots of fresh frost snow because of obvious reasons. This version easily sinks deep into the snow and should only be used in conditions with less than 10 cm fresh snow on the ground. This said, this model is instead very good for hiking on frozen sea with some snow cover. I have tested this model mostly on the Bothnian Bay, as well as in the delta area of the River Iijoki with variable terrain. The photos below were taken on March 15th, 2023.

A third Haghus model I have tested so far is the 160 cm version with a fish skin bottom. This model is robust, as it is thick, quite wide, and suitable for various landscapes. Among the hybrids, I would call these “Jack-of-All-Trades”. I have used this model in forested areas, on riverbanks, on open peatlands, and on frozen sea. They indeed do quite well in all landscapes and in many kinds of weather conditions. The photos below were taken in the delta area of the River Iijoki on March 17th, 2023.

To summarize, when choosing hybrid skis, one needs to consider his or her own height and weight, landscapes he or she would like to visit, and weather and snow conditions at the time of the hike. The guy who tested the above models is 180 cm tall and weighed 77 kg at the time of testing. Typically, equipment weighing between 5 to 10 kg was included in the backpack, sometimes a little more than that. You might want to consider such background information when choosing a model that might suit you the best. Keep in mind that there are many more models available than those described above. Finally, you should consider the bindings, as some bindings may not be reliable enough to be used in long hikes. At the very least, be sure to have extra straps and other equipment with which you can literally save the day if the bindings fail. Enjoy your hikes in snowy landscapes!

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