My Side Country Dilemma: Debating the Nordica Hell & Back and Rossignol Soul 7 // Ski Reviews

Side Country Ski Dilemma: Lead Image

It's just about mid March now, which means I'm already thinking about what new equipment I'll need next year. If I can figure it out quick enough, I can usually cash in on some late seasons savings.

This time around, I'm realizing that I want to get into more AT-Skiing next winter. Currently, I have a pair of old Volkl Explosiv's that I've been borrowing from my co-worker as my only Alpine Touring option. Still, despite their barely noticeable sidecut and layers of metal, I've managed to have enough fun on these this year to convince me that what I really need is a proper touring setup.

So I've been thinking about it, and I've decided that what I need is something around 100mm, and lightweight. After all, I'll probably only really be touring on the East Coast for now, so I don't really need a ski that's much wider. Just something with enough width to help me stay on top of the snow as I climb. I've also realized that being in Vermont, I have a great opportunity to not only explore the Green Mountains, but also the Adirondacks of New York and the White Mountains in Maine. Of course these mountains often have long approaches, meaning I'm guaranteed to be putting a few miles on my skis each day I go out.

There's a catch though. Between the season's pass for next year, the new bindings, skins, and of course skis... I'm expecting to only be able to afford one pair of skis for the year, which means they'll have to perform not only on my touring days, but also on the mid-fat mountain days. The ski I'm looking for has to not only be lightweight, but it has to have excellent downhill performance.

Side Country Ski Dilemma: Rossignol Soul 7

With all of that in mind, I've narrowed my choice down to two pairs of skis, both of which have been getting great reviews all season long. The first ski I've been eyeing is the Rossignol Soul 7. This ski start making waves last Spring when Rossignol introduced their line of “Air Tip Skis.” Essentially, this is just a honeycomb pattern in the tip and tail of the ski which reduces the material used, and therefore the weight of the ski. That's also the main reason why it's piqued my interest. Between it's super lightweight construction and it's 106mm waist, its really a perfect candidate for what I'd like to use it for. With it's mid fat waist, it would be perfect for the small powder days at the resort and would be the perfect width for touring. Not too thin, not too fat. And of course, the Air Tip feature is attractive as I know I won't be lugging around extra weight on my feet.

The second ski that I'm considering is the 2014 Nordica Hell & Back. Similar to the Soul 7, these skis feature a mid fat waist with a lightweight construction. At 98mm underfoot, they're another good option for those smaller powder days on the hill, and they're an even better width for my AT adventures. To handle the weight issue, they use Nordica's I-Core construction which is a technique that reduces material in the ski's core, making them 20% lighter than most full wood core skis. The Nordica Hell & Back is another solid option in that it's a ski that could go anywhere and do anything for me, which is exactly what I need.

Side Country Ski Dilemma: Nordica Hell & Back

So which ski am I going to go with? Well, I haven't quite figured that out yet. Both skis claim to be 20% lighter than their competition, so weight certainly won't be a deciding factor for me. I think what it'll all come down to is which width I'd rather have. On one hand the Nordica Hell & Back has the better width for long tours. At 98mm, they would be just a little bit easier to handle in the variety of uncertain situations that can arise during a tour. On the other hand, the Soul 7 is the better option for those powder days at the resort, and at 107mm it's not quite wide enough to make me overly concerned about it's touring performance.

At the moment, I'm not sure which ski I'll end up with. I know that both skis will do what I want, and I'm sure I'd be pleased with either choice. I also know that now's the time to buy and it won't be long before these skis sell out at the prices they're at so if I want to cash in on those late season savings, I'd better act fast! But it looks like there's some powder in the forecast, so it's all going on hold for at least a few more days.


Written by on 3/18/14