Rossignol Xium F2 Skate, Boot, & NNN Binding
December 21, 2003 - By Jim Hull
Since rediscovering Nordic skiing several seasons ago, Iíve skated exclusively on Salomon Boots with profile, and then Pilot bindings, riding on a mixture of Fischer, Peltonen, and Atomic skis. Iíve got a number of biomechanical issues such as narrow rigid feet, prominent ankle bones, and a bowlegged stance that have made riding a flat ski something of a challenge. Basically the uncorrected pressure patterns from my feet look like a mirrored pair of commas. Up till now Iíve settled on prescription orthotics, as well as the red Salomon 3 degree binding cants to compensate with some success. I still usually have some foot and ankle pain after longer outings, especially on harder trails, and the skis never quite feel perfectly aligned where there is less loose cover to hide the alignment issues.
I attended a Rossignol clinic earlier in the year, and came away quite impressed with their product line, expertise, and claims that their equipment would do a good job of assisting me with my various issues. As a result, in spite of being satisfied with my 02 Atomic RS10ís, I pulled the trigger this fall and bought a complete Rossi Xium skate setup at the Wild Rose Rossignol open house. Jim and Kurt, the Rossi factory guys, did most of the fittings there, and gave quite a bit of personalized attention that I suspect is usually reserved for skiers that are a LOT better than me. Jim, who I later found out also fits most of the Rossi racing team boots, did a very thorough heat molding of the Xium boots, as well as flexing some F2 186ís for me (~6í/165#) to complement my RS10 marathon flex.
I can safely say that other than my custom made Bont speed skating boots, no other piece of sporting footwear has ever fit my oddball feet this well. We did the Thanksgiving camp at West Yellowstone, and switching from the Pilot boots to the Xium s after the first morning session was heaven for my hammered ankle bones. I found the feel of them to be different; with the Pilots I am very aware of the rigidity of the boot, and it feels almost like you are standing on a well-coupled short stilt. In contrast, the Xium feels as if you are sitting IN the boot. As a result, the ďcockpitĒ design makes it feel like my orthotics are more effective. I wondered if the Xium boot, and their design to be less torsionally rigid in the forefoot, would cause control issues, especially in light of the not having the multipoint connection of the Pilot binding. While I havenít skied anything truly icy yet, I cannot sense any lack of control. It will also be interested to see how they age; if I had one disappointment with the Pilots, it was that they pack out so quickly. With my narrow feet, it made keeping a good fit challenging.
The NNN was much less of an issue than I imagined. Again, if there is any loss of control, Iím not noticing it. The skis are MUCH more stable than the other brands Iíve been on; Iím not sophisticated enough to tell if the wider platform of the NNN is playing a part in this, or just the ski design. I know that they certainly tend to load up with snow a LOT less than the Pilot two pin system. It will be interesting to see what happens when I switch my Atomics over to NNN, as being able to ride the same ski with both systems should be illuminating.
Wow. Iíve tried numerous other brands (Madshus, Fischer, Atomic, Peltonen), and to date NONE of them have worked like this.
When I bought the skis, I handed the requisite pair of binding cants to Jim for mounting under the bindings. He handed them back and told me ďIím quite sure you will NOT need theseĒ. Now, Iíve been to a number of demo days, and previous experience had shown that to date no ski would track or edge properly for me without those shims due to my aforementioned biomechanical challenges. It would end up feeling like I was skiing on ice, or that there was a big ball bearing right under the middle of the ski. To say I was skeptical would have been an understatement.
With Jimís confidence and credentials, I decided to take his advice, and I have to tell you, the F2ís track like a friggen laser (place pinkie to corner of mouth here). No hint of washout or swimming, a feeling of less polar inertia on the skate off, and good turnover on the climbs. I havenít tried them in deep powder or totally skied out trails yet, so the full test is still incomplete, but they are superb everywhere else. With their firmer shovel feel, I expect they wonít match the Atomics in the soft, but it will be fun to find out. They definitely feel more positive than the RS10ís as the trail firms up. As a plus they seem to be a good grind right from the factory, and feel like they are coming up to speed after only 6-8 waxings. My Betaís and RS10ís also glide well, but always seem to take awhile and quite a bit of TLC to get there.
To summarize, even though Iíve had boot fit problems from day one, I was always hesitant to change due to the dominance (or perceived dominance) of the Salomon system. Iíd encourage anyone, especially those with foot issues, to take a look at the Rossi boot. While I certainly think more time is warranted for a full evaluation, so far Iíve not noticed any negatives to the NNN binding system. The significantly lower price of the Rossi boot is also a plus! As far as skis go, that is probably just as personal a choice as the boots, but the F2ís feel like the real deal to this point. Iíll try and give an update when I have more Kís regarding how the equipment continues to perform. If it ages well, Iíll be looking into more Rossi equipment in the future.