Last year in February of 2014, I reviewed the Altai Hok for www.womensgearguide.com. I’ve posted my original review and made some updates since I’ve used them in more conditions. Jebb also now has a pair of 145 cm Hok’s using a tele-binding.
The Altai Hok is described as the love child between a backcountry ski and a snowshoe. It is a short wide ski with a fully integrated climbing skin under foot and enough length to be fun going down hill. They’re designed to ski where ever and whenever.
Altai ski’s are inspired by the people of the Altai Mountains, the origin of some of the earliest written records of skiing exist. Altai Skis was conceived by Nils Larsen and Francois Sylvain in 2009.
The Hok comes in two lengths, 145 cm and 125 cm, has metal edges for turning and is wide enough to float on fresh snow.
Like a snowshoe binding, the Trace binding can be worn with any boot. The Hok comes with inserts matching the extended 75mm norm hole pattern. This is compatible with current 75mm 3pin bindings as well as the universal binding we are offering with the ski. An adapter plate is available that is compatible with new Rottefella NNN BC and Solomon BC bindings
The 145cm ski rides more like a ski than a snowshoe, and is great for more mountainous terrain, and for backcountry skiers who can tele-turn. The 125cm are more comparable to a snowshoe, yet is great for backcountry, cross-country skiing where there are ups and downs and tighter trees and shrubs. It’s shorter wider platform is more maneuverable than a long cross-country ski.
My first experience with the Hok, I borrowed a friends 145cm pair and used it with winter/Sorel-type boots and the Trace binding at a closed ski area. The climbing was so easy and light and I loved that I could just ski down hill whenever I wanted to without having to take the skins off. These are great for powder laps. I found I wanted a more stable boot when coming down in faster speeds since I don’t know how to tele-turn.
After that day, I thought they were so unique and fun that I wanted more time to test them and was sent the 125 cm Hoks to test and review.
Since the Hoks arrived, it’s snowed about three feet so the conditions here have been perfect for testing. I’ve tested them on rolling meadows, hiking trails, and woods runs on the 500 or so acres and 600 vertical of conservation land behind my house in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. I’ve tested the Hoks with both winter boots and my snowboarding boots.
5 (out of 5)
Design The Trace binding is easy to adjust and the inserts on the ski make it very easy to change the binding to a telemark binding if you want to. I think the built in climbing skin is very well designed and the ski has enough tip and tail that are not covered in skins to make going down hill fun. +1
Style: The top sheet design is simple and stylish. Simple graphics and natural fibers combine with design themes from the the Altai Mountains for a unique look. +1
Durability: Both the Trace binding and the ski are very well made and seem quite durable. The Hok features a synthetic climbing skin integrated into the base of the ski, steel edges for durability, and a light weight cap construction. I’ve not tested these over time. +1
Performance: I tested the 125 cm Hok several times in changing snow conditions. I found that in 6-12 inches of fresh powder the Hok performance was outstanding. It was easy to break trail going up and I felt very stable leaning back on the heels and going down hills. I found that I preferred using my snowboarding boot because it was stiffer and easier for turning. Later when it warmed up and the snow got faster, I did find the 125cm was less stable going down bigger hills and I would have preferred the longer length.
Update: I’ve skied on these now in early season, and am able to have just as much fun in less than three inches of snow. Once, when the snow was quite shallow, and the ground not yet frozen, I did start to have snow stick to the skins. This hasn’t happened again since the ground froze. I’ve also skied terrain I’d have been terrified to hit in my regular skinny nordic ski’s, I’ve been able to access more of my back hill. I still highly recommend a very stiff boot with the universal trace binding.
As a ski enthusiast, I would use these over snowshoes on any given day with the exception of on snow with a significant ice crust. With the narrower base than a snowshoe, breaking the crust felt more unstable and my ankle was more likely to tip. Compared to a cross-country ski the climbing grip of the skin is much more secure, their shorter length makes them more maneuverable, the width makes them more stable, and you still get the glide of cross-country technique. +1
Innovation: I think the Hoks are very innovative. Designed for “pocket backcountry” and skiing right out your door, the simplicity of the design and integration of the built in skin make it nothing like anything I’ve ever used. I find the innovation of this ski so exciting that I’ve been telling every snow enthusiast I meet about these cool new skis! +1