@TBeal, first off, to be fair, the Altai Hok bindings are not manufactured by Altai Skis, so i didn’t mean to impugn the skis. they’re compatible with many bindings.
My uses of the Hok were mostly in temperatures yielding very cold snow, and usually the kind with some crust on the top and fine powder or chunky crystal powder under the crust. The other thing that comes into play is terrain. My use was in a wide, flat river valley with a frozen river, cutbanks, and islands. For the most part, I was in ares where there were no trails. When I left the river, I had to scale vertical banks and navigate willow or alder thickets to get to frozen bogs with lots of deadfall and bushy junk in the snow. There are no significant hills to speak of in the immediate vicinity of the particular camp I wintered at. I had hoped that the Hoks would work in this environment. I have the longer ones, and with or without a small pack, I sank everywhere. When off the river I’d get hung up on all sorts of tangles under the snow, curse the gods, and wish I’d had snowshoes. I have nothing bad to say about the Hoks in general, just that they didn’t work for me in this application.
David said they worked fairly well when he used them in slightly warmer conditions with wetter snow. But David also has dogs, and I don’t know if he was skiing on his own power, or being pulled. I don’t remember how the bindings broke, and didn’t see them after. He did say something like, “yeah, I knew by looking at them that they would eventually break there, the plastic is too thin, and it’s plastic in the cold. It seems like a design flaw.”
Maybe my experience was simply a matter of low skill level. I don’t think that’s the case entirely, because there just wasn’t enough surface area for floation and that’s just physics. But I’m sure better technique could mitigate the tips constantly snagging on submerged obstacles. There was a day when, after crossing areas with 2’ of off-trail crusty powder, I got on the trapline Glenn and Jeff were putting in, and very much enjoyed the Hoks on that trail that had a bit wetter snow (it started snowing wet snow after I came out of the forest onto a lake, and there was about 1/2" of wet snow on the trail.
So the question is one about tools for season, terrain, trail/no-trail, snow depth, use, and a lot of other variables. It’s my belief, that generally speaking, those conditions generally favor snowshoes in the Yukon-Tanana valleys. It is my belief that the cultures in the area (Athabaskan toward the interior, and Yup’ik toward the lower Yukon) probably reached the same conclusion through testing, and not through lack of technological awareness.
My bias is toward minimalism. I never once found myself on snowshoes wishing I had skis. I do recall hikng out a logging road on foot, sans snowshoes, and wishing I had skis. I definitely wished I had snowshoes while I was on skis, and not infrequently.
My other main use-case is pulling a sled behind a fatbike, generally for trips of 8+ miles per day on snow machine tracked rivers and/or sled trails. In this mode, I carry snowshoes for the not unlikely event that the trail will be blown in or the float too thin to prevent the tires from falling through. When those things happen, I toss the bike on the sled, and put on snowshoes. Skis don’t seem to be the best tool for this either.
So, I have Hoks, and I’m not sure how much I’ll end up using them or how many more times I’ll pack them from camp to camp. In a sedentary mode with garages and closets and things, I’d probably keep them for the rarer occassions where they would be handy or fun.