Skip navigation

Fischer Carbonlite Classic Skis with ZR1XL Grind


Thu, Apr  5, 2007 - By Mike Muha

I've always liked a soft-tipped classic ski ever since I owned a pair of bright yellow Kneisel SuperStar WM skis many, many years ago. They flowed smoothly around corners and handled great in the downhills. I've been disappointed with every other classic ski I've owned since them. Not that I didn't like my newer classic skis, but the Kneisel's were special.

Until now.

I bought a pair of Fischer RCS Carbonlite Classic Plus and had Zach Caldwell at Engineered Tuning put a ZR1XL cold grind on them. I haven't been able to ski on them too much yet - I got them a little late - but I have formed an initial impression: These may be the best classic skis I've ever skied! I just wish winter had lasted a little longer so I could have skied on them more.

Fischer carbonlite classic cross country ski

The Ski

A few facts:

My weight and height:   152 lbs (naked), 5' 91/2"
Ski length:   202 cm (they come in 192, 197, 202, and 207 lengths)
Core:   AirCore Carbonlite
Tip and Tail:   New T300k Carbon Fiber (FCF)
Sidecut (tip to tail):   41 - 44 - 44 mm
Weight:    Fischer claims 990 grams for the 197 cm length.
Base:   Race WC Plus

The Grind

I decided to have a cold grind put on the skis. During the past couple season, it seemed most of the classic races had temperature hovering from 0F to about 16F! I have a couple pair of classic skis, and I wanted my new pair dedicated to cold conditions. So I asked Zach to put a cold grind on my Carbonlites.

Zach has two main cold grinds:

ZR1: A very light (0.01mm depth) crossing structure applied over a true linear "rill" at 2.3mm spacing. This structure handles all crystal types at moisture-deficit conditions, running into a moisture balance scenario. The ZR1 is markedly better than the Z40 in sharp, new crystals, and at the cold end of the range.

ZR1XL: This grind utilizes the same light crossing structure as the ZR1, but on top of slightly more aggressive true linear channels. This broadens the range when significant glazing is a concern, and is preferable to the ZR1 for a broad-range cold classic ski grind.

The ZR1 is better for skate skis, the ZR1XL for classic. He used the XR1XL for my classics.

Fischer carbonlite classic cross country ski with zr1xl grind from engineered tuning

Engineered Tuning sticker on tip of ski

Zach also hotboxed the skis, so when I received the freshly ground skis, the first step was to scrape and brush them.

The finish on the skis was incredible! Absolutely smooth, a deep velvet black, a fine linear pattern with a light crossing structure. The photo below doesn't really do it justice. It does show the linear pattern, but the cross structure is very hard to make out. Trust me: the grind is beautiful!

Fischer carbonlite classic cross country ski with zr1xl grind from engineered tuning

Close up of ZR1XL grind

I also noticed the groove was perfectly smooth. On almost all my other skis, you can tell where a router removed the groove material. I always figured this might cause a bit of drag. No such worries with the Carbonlites.

The second step was to remove the wax from the kick zone. I had to make an educated guess on where the kick zone was. I was fairly conservative about where I was going to apply wax remover - I didn't want to negate too much of the hotboxing! (More about kick zone a little later...).


I first skied on them in slow, soft new-snow conditions. They behaved well, well enough that I raced on them in the Gran Travers 16K Classic the next day. Tracks were hard and the downhills fast. OK, so maybe it was a little foolish not to break the skis in a little more before racing on them, but I was eager to put them to the test and I already felt comfortable on them with just a short test ski. I did test another pair of skis, but they did not feel as fast as the Carbonlites.

During a race, both a ski's good and bad characteristics quickly become apparent. The good:

  • The skis held the tracks very well around corners. The tips would twist around the track rather than plow out. Loved it!
  • Downhills were a piece of cake! The low profile of the skis made them easy to turn around fast corners. They felt more like my skating skis than my classic ski on downhills.
  • They were light and responsive climbing hills.
  • The ski were an extension of my body - I didn't have to fight them to go where I wanted them to. They seemed to naturally respond to my movements.

The bad: nothing. The Carbonlites stand out as a confidence inspiring ski.

Dialing in the Kick Zone

After the race, I stopped off at the Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Higgins Lake to dial in my kick zone. Bob Fry has a Fischer Test Board used to determining the kick zone on a ski. The board is perfectly flat and there's a metal shim that's passed under the ski to find the kick zone.

Bob had me stand on both skis with my weight evenly divided between the two. The shim moves forward and back under the ski until it stops. This determines the hard-wax kick zone.

He next had me stand with my entire weight on one ski. The distance the shim moves determines the klister pocket.

I also was asked to bounce up on down on one foot on the ski. Doing this, he determined a stiff area of the camber that he said I could build up several layers of wax without causing drag.

During the testing, which also included standing on the balls of my feet, Bob discovered that the skis were not evenly matched - the kick zone on one was slightly different than the other. Over time I would have figured it out as I noticed how my kick wax wore off while skiing, but it's nice to know up front.

Bob says,

The wax pocket testing is part of our "White Glove Service". There is no charge for the test even if you did not purchase the skis from us. We also are ready to help skiers determine the appropriate camber and ski type for their Skating Skis.  

We do not just have this service for racers. Many high end sport recreational skiers find us to be a great resource. Of course these sport recreational skiers might end up having so much fun skiing on well fitted equipment they may end up on a Michigan Cup Team  

Bottom Line

It would have been nice if the weather had stayed cold enough - and the snow hadn't melted: I really wanted to ski more on these skis. They were fun, responsive, stable - I felt I could kick my skiing up a notch. I would have liked to have test them in many different conditions and provide a more in depth review. Maybe next season.

They have the best groove finishing and the flattest bases I've seen in a ski (Thanks Fischer and Zach). And they are lighter than any other ski I own. But I think focusing only on the lightness misses the point: The Carbonlites ski great!

You might be able to find yourself some Carbonlites this spring or summer during the various shop sales. Or wait until fall: Fischer is changing the graphics, but the Carbonlite Classic remains the same.

Highly recommended.