By Jack Stone
Over the past few years, Stone Harbor has been on the cutting edge in terms of
backcountry skiing with our offering of the Altai HOK ski. Over this time, I have talked to many about the skis, reciting what I heard from the company, web sites and employees who have used them.
This year as I was ordering more, Nils, the owner of Altai, asked me an embarrassing question. He asked how I like his skis myself. I sort of stuttered a bit and admitted that I have never used them.
Wow, what an admission. I knew they were very well received by customers and staff alike but I have been so involved in other stuff I had not been on them. Finally, on Christmas Eve, this changed.
The first thing I noticed was that it would have been a lot easier to adjust the length of the bindings in the comfort of my house or garage. Snow is cold on the fingers when doing this on the trail. Fortunately, they are easily adjusted and attaching the skis to your boots is a snap.
Off to the trail. It started out with a slight incline and all went well. I got to the the intersection of the forest service road and the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT for us locals) and I was off. My first impression was admittedly underwhelmed. I kind of scratched my head and asked, “is this all there is?” I then got very distracted by some wonderful scenery. A winter wonderland. Snow shrouded trees. Quiet–only the sound of the skis. Then I realized I had relaxed and I was no longer fighting the skis, the trail, the ups and downs. The longer I skied, the further I went, I found myself, to steal a cliché, one with the skis. And since I am at it, one with the trail and one with the moment.
I left the SHT and returned to the forest service road I had started on. The experience was one that I will not soon forget and one I am looking forward to repeating later this week with my grandkids. Now I know what everyone has been raving about.
If you are in the area, stop in a rent some of these. Be forewarned, many who rent these skis come back and purchase a set of their own. But have no fear, we will deduct your rental from your purchase price.