Last winter (2022) when Larry and I (Stella) were in Crested Butte, we discussed purchasing a different type of cross-country ski. We wanted skis that were much wider and possessed more float to provide a better experience while backcountry skiing in really deep snow and on hills. We had researched three different companies that manufacture the type of ski were looking for and decided upon the Madshus Panorama M78 (this is a waxless ski). The Panorama M78 skis were a new model that year. We chose to wait to write this review until now, instead of shortly after we had purchased them because we wanted to give them a significant testing period since they are quite unique.
It was already mid-January, which is very late in the season to be purchasing equipment. Naturally, the Madshus Panorama M78 skis were sold out almost everywhere. After a lot of research and many phone calls, we found them online from The Mountaineer in Keene Valley, New York; we had them shipped immediately. Unfortunately, we had also (unknowingly) purchased the wrong type of bindings for them. When we took the bindings and skis to REI to be mounted, we were not very happy because we wanted them for our trip to Aspen that weekend.
We eventually got it worked out and obtained the right bindings after working through a bit of the logistics due to low/no stock almost everywhere, which was another part of the problem. So before I dig into the review for these awesome skis, I would first like to briefly discuss the bindings for them, which will hopefully prevent someone else from making the same mistake that we did the first time around.
The Panorama M78 skis are able to accommodate a variety of bindings, particularly the NNN BC, NNN, and the newer Xplore BC binding. We had attempted to pair our NNN boots (Rossignol combi boots) with a NNN BC binding, and they are not compatible. So pay close attention to this. We ended up getting an unusual binding, as seen in the picture above.
NOTE: It is important to mention an additional situation with these skis. Because we are using our combi boots instead of larger backcountry boots that truly fit this wide of a ski, it causes discomfort for me when snowplowing down hills. We were limited to the bindings and boots available when we had purchased these skis, and we didn’t want to replace our combi boots at that point in time. My advice is to purchase the ideal type of boot (i.e. backcountry) to pair with these skis in order to achieve optimal performance. For this upcoming season, we will be looking to swap out the bindings so we can use a backcountry ski boot.
Our first experience using the new skis was in Grand Lake, breaking trail through the Kawuneeche Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park on flat terrain in shin-deep, powdery snow. After that, we tested them on other trips in a variety of terrains and on different types of snow. The Madshus Panorama M78 performed extremely well, and provided a different (improved) experience for skiing in deep snow and for skiing up and downhill. NOTE: Do not confuse these with Apline Touring skis, which are similar but different.
Some features of the M78 skis overlap with that of our other skis and perform similarly in those areas (metal edges, kick zone, etc.) so please reference the reviews for our other skis to learn about these features. Because of this overlap, this review will solely focus on what sets the Panorama M78 skis apart. This can be narrowed down to two key features: Width and Length.
LENGTH: These skis are shorter, similar to that of Alpine skis. Larry’s M78’s are 192cm in length; mine are 162cm in length. The reduced length allows for better control because there is less ski dragging behind you, which is helpful when you are in deep snow, making turns and navigating between tight areas. As mentioned above, these skis are not intended to be light and fast. Like our other skis, the size guideline for the Madshus Panorama M78 ski is determined by weight, not height.
Also, there are two different types of release mechanisms available for bindings: lever; push button; pin. If you have a strong preference between them, pay close attention to ensure that you obtain the right one; we do not have a strong preference. Our bindings have the push button and are they very simple to use, which is not always the case.
WIDTH: Last year, Madshus introduced the Panorama M78 ski. Previously, their widest cross-country ski was the Panorama M68. The numbers 68/78 millimeters refer to the width at mid-ski (the waist). These are very wide for a cross-country ski, which is why they are designed for a very specific use: hills and deep snow that are typically found in the backcountry. The specs of the Panorama M78 are 109/78/95 or 109mm at the tip, 78mm at the waist, and 95mm at the tail. The advantages of a wider ski can be broken into three specific areas:
- Float: This refers to way in which the ski reacts in the snow, whether you sink down really far into the snow or float on top of it. When in deep snow, this is a pretty big deal because you want skis that will enable you to glide through it instead of getting stuck down in it. The very first time we used these in deep snow, it was a noticeable difference. Wider skis will naturally have more float ability due to spreading your weight more evenly along the body of the ski. And considering the shorter length of this ski, this really is amazing.
- Stability in deep snow: Naturally, a wider ski is going to provide more stability, overall. And this is really nice to have when skiing through deep snow where the terrain is varied. Having enhanced stability allows the ankles to remain in an upright, sturdy position versus wavering to left and right side due to the varying/unstable terrain. By varying/unstable terrain, I mean where the snow depth is inconsistent and/or the topography itself might change between flat, bumpy, hilly, etc. I have an unfortunate condition in my right ankle called Tendinosis (not Tendinitis), and my left ankle is heading that direction as well. It is a chronic, bothersome problem for me, particularly when skiing and snowshoeing due to the type of terrain that we venture in. Because these skis provide such an enhanced degree of stability for deep snow and hilly conditions, they prevent my ankles from rolling significantly! The Panorama M78’s have been a God-send for me and will help to prevent further damage to both my ankles and knees (I will be purchasing a brace for both knees this year). 🙁
- Stability on hills: As mentioned earlier, these are not downhill (Alpine) skis, but they can certainly be used on moderately steep conditions, without the need for skins. We have used them many times in steep terrain (slope angles from 25% to 40%) and they provide exceptional traction. Yes, they are significantly heavier than traditional cross-country skis, resulting in decreased speed, but we are not using them for that purpose. And the added weight also enhances overall stability. The width provides an ideal experience while climbing because they provide extra grip. Bigger ski = more traction surface area on the bottom of the ski. But the most noticeable advantage of the wider ski is when going downhill. The wider ski provides an enormous amount of control, and allows my ankles and knees to feel safe and secure without getting tipsy like I sometimes would on my other skis. I have to do everything possible to prevent further damage to my ankles and knees.
NOTE: When you look at the size chart, you will see that some of the weights overlap from size to size. If you are in between a size, and you are uncertain which size would be ideal for you, then consider the additional weight of the gear that you may be carrying. If you will usually be carrying a heavy pack, then you may want to go up to the next size. Please reference the size chart below.
162cm: 90-125 pounds
172cm: 120-150 pounds
182cm: 145-175 pounds
192cm: 175+ pounds
FINAL THOUGHTS: The point that I want to emphasize is that we have used our other cross-country skis in the same terrain/conditions that we now use the Panorama M78 skis for. But the Panorama M78 skis just make the experience that – much – better due to the enhanced stability and float, which is attributed to the overall design of the ski. And because we find ourselves skiing in the backcountry more often than on groomed trails, we felt this was an advantageous purchase.
Since we now have these amazing Madshus Panorama M78 backcountry skis, we reserve our other skis for groomed tracks and for areas where the snow is not deep enough to really need the Panorama M78 skis. And, if you have ankle and/or knee problems and you want improved stability for skiing outside of groomed trails, then these skis may provide a more comfortable experience for you.
Review for Stella’s skis ~ Fischer Spider 62 Crown IFP Cross-Country Skis
Review for Larry’s skis ~ Rossignol EVO OT 65 IFP Cross-Country Skis
Price Paid: $330.00 (per set) plus taxes and shipping.
Place Purchased: The Mountaineer
Link to Madshus Website: Madshus
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