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Marine Corps Wants New Military Ski Systems with Universal Bindings

Marines and Sailors with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 18.1 ski toward their next objective during a winter warfare training exercise at Haltdalen Training Center, Norway, April 12. The Marine Corps is searching for a new ski system with universal bindings. Marine Corps Systems Command will release a Request for Information to formally conduct market research and inform the contracting strategy. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Clinton Firstbrook)


The Marine Corps is searching for a new ski system that can withstand harsh conditions during training and cold weather missions.

The goal is to acquire a system with ski sets that are compatible with the Corps’ Extreme Cold Weather Vapor Barrier Boots and the Intermediate Cold Weather Boots, eliminating the need to purchase new specific ski boots. The sets will include the skis, poles and universal bindings.

In order to deliver an over-the-snow capability before the end of fiscal year 2019, Marine Corps Systems Command will release a Request for Information to formally conduct market research and inform the contracting strategy. MCSC will then establish a 5-year Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contract with an initial order of 1,500 military ski systems with universal bindings.

Currently, the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier is also evaluating skis with universal bindings, and the Army’s 10th Mountain Division has procured and used similar systems with favorable results.

“When we went to contract the NATO ski system last year, there were delays in procurement,” said Christopher Woodburn, Capabilities Development director of the Deputy Maneuver Branch at Combat Development and Integration. “Because of the Army’s exploration with cold weather equipment, we know there are other sources for a ski system that will satisfy the Marine Corps requirement and offer the capability more rapidly.”

MCSC gathered feedback from Marines at the Mountain Warfare Training Center to ensure the future ski system chosen will meet mission requirements and improve existing cold weather equipment. Marines want a lighter, low-maintenance and easy-to-use system that is also easy to learn for new or intermediate skiers.

“We’ve been talking to Marines at MWTC to make sure the current equipment they have is still viable, and we also made a few updates to the Marine Corps Cold Weather Infantry Kit,” said Capt. Ryan Moore, project officer in Infantry Combat Equipment at MCSC.

The Marine Corps Cold Weather Infantry Kit is comprised of multiple components, including avalanche probes, hatchets, shovels, snow saws, cook sets, thermoses, a tent and anything else Marines need to survive in a cold weather environment. Each kit serves four people and is pulled on a sled by Marines on skis.

The RFI will help MCSC assess possibilities and find a solution to field the ski system to scout snipers, reconnaissance Marines and select infantrymen.

“We are trying to do our due diligence with tax payers’ money to make sure we get the best value, while also pushing out capabilities as quickly as we can to Marines,” said Woodburn.

Infantry Combat Equipment is part of the Ground Combat Element Systems program at MCSC.

By Kaitlin Kelly, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication | Marine Corps Systems Command

12 Responses to “Marine Corps Wants New Military Ski Systems with Universal Bindings”

  1. John says:

    We tried to get new skis back in 2010 when I was the S4 for 3-509th up at JBER. Called the manufacturer and no one was making new ones at the time. Hopefully 4-25 and 10th MTN get in on this action.

    • jon says:

      you didn’t like the white suicide sticks? The MSR snowshoes were nice, but didn’t even bother with the ski’s much. I was in 716th at JBER from 2010-2011 (then they moved me to wainwright).

  2. Dan says:

    I see a lot of pain for some marines in the near future!! Retro fitting non-ski boots to ski’s will be a miserable time for anyone involved… I mean it’s hard enough with specific AT / BC gear… Being smarter with tax payers money should involve buying the most cost effective gear that is fit for purpose, not blatantly cutting corners to save $$$. This is going to cost double, money for this crap idea and then the money spent over again buying AT gear that should have been bought in the first place… good luck

  3. Pro Patria says:


    There has been a lot going on behind the scenes for this. I’m no long part of the work, but much thought and discussion has gone into the binding issues. There are now several technical approaches available that appear to provide our soldiers the needed capability, from companies established in the industry.

    This effort also reflects many of the issues we have found with our footwear. We have had various purpose specific footwear in the past, but they creat their own issues like being hard to walk in Off skis.

    I am very interested in where this leads. The Army testing is still on going, and now the CORPS is thinking about d parting from the telemark type solution they had been pursuing.

    Than SSD for keeping us up to date, as I didn’t catch this today on FBO, which has been preety active lately for the USMC program.

  4. Kirk says:

    So long as you want to use the standard boots for everything, you’re gonna run into problems. The US military needs to look at what the Scandinavians are doing for ski boots, and copy that. The classic “Mickey Mouse Boot” is a flat-out ‘effing nightmare for skiing, and when I see they want to use that as the baseline? Sweet ‘effing jumping Jesus… That is not the boot I want to be skiing with. Dear God, I’ve still got the scars from the limited amount of time I spent trying to use those boot-like abortions.

    Buy some real damn ski boots, folks. That’s the way to go, and skip the Mickey Mouse BS for everything except standing guard. Adapting those things to skiing is just going to lead to utter and complete failure.

  5. Dan says:

    Thanks for the response, having some experience in mil snow activities, I feel its such an arduos working environment already, utilising gear that is not really designed for primary purpose is going to be painful… I mean in the pic the guys are on hardpack, but I can only imagine breaking track in powder in retro fitted walking boots is going to be beyond punishing! I mean it’s hard work in a fit for purpose AT setup… I have no doubt that a lot of thought is going into it, but I feel it might be more based around what is the punishment marines can withstand as opposed to what is the most effective system to fight in

  6. Co says:

    In Norway now more and more units are focusing on snowshoes.

    Yea, using skies will get a single person from a to b faster if the level is above novice but with a larger unit and with gear – even for Norwegian units one sees that one gets to where one need to be with less noice and non-op gear and with more fight ready soldiers.

    Also combine that a lot of maneuver is now done full or partly motorized/mechanized it is a lot easier to stow away those full aluminum snowshoe then more fragile skies.

    Not to mention: what do you do when transitioning from “getting from a to b” over to assault/maneuvers: its not like the snow is gone and assaulting a fixed position is nearly impossible with skies on your feet – been there, done that..

    • Marc says:

      +1… In mountainous areas, skis aren’t stable enough for assault, even with skins on. And snowshoes don’t allow efficient movement uphill or downhill.
      It means your unit needs both. And each of your soldiers needs to be proficient in the transition phase. Lots of resources and training time.

  7. Jon, OPT says:

    If the USMC thinks they can rapidly deploy a force into an operational area, quickly field this equipment for combat operations to a partially or wholly untrained force, and be resoundingly successful, then they have absolutely no idea the level of training required to simply become proficient with Nordic Skis sans combat gear, much less with a full combat load on.

    I’m not saying they shouldn’t pursue this, but the key to training in the snow is a lot of training, it’s not plug and play. I’m sure they are aware of this, and hope they have a sustainment plan built in that is something other than “we’ve developed a core cadre of SMEs”.

    I won’t start to skin the equipment they chose, but developing or implementing existing military systems over using time proven civilian ones, isn’t the route with this. Think how the layering system was implemented, not how to keep the poly-pro in circulation, to use a paradigm that was crushed 15-20 years ago.

    *cough* look at what the existing Nordic military solutions are *cough*.

    Lucky for them, they are far more forward thinkers (it seems lately) than the Army have been lately, and will come up with solutions that prepare them for success.

    • Gear Guy says:

      The Marine Corp has, and never had, a plan to field nordic ski systems to all forces. The Jaeger ski systems that were being procured, 2100 total sets, were for scout skiers and reconnaissance units only. The general purpose force would still utilize snow shoes and white rockets, until another system could be fielded. Because the contracting issue blew up the procurement of the Jaeger ski system, the Marines are looking to fall in line with what the Army has been testing. The Marines understand that it is cheaper and easier for them to join another service who is conducting the same type of procurement, in order to maximize their R&D efforts and save money at the same time.

      In my previous position, I worked extensively with the Marines, Army and Natick on this project. There are a few new types of bindings that actually work very well with the Mickey Mouse boot and the newer Canadian Mukluk and they provide a lot more stability when used together. The Mickey Mouse boot has it positives and negatives, and like it or not, it is what is issued. The ski system that is getting rave reviews is outstanding and is a far better solution than the nordic ski system. It is also a bit of a departure from what traditional nordic skis are. Plus they are made right here in the good ole US of A.

      • Jon, OPT says:

        I’m using Nordic skis as a generalization to separate them from downhill, since downhill is what most think of when skiing is mentioned. Either way, skis of any sort, or even snowshoes, aren’t a plug and play system to the common troop, whether SOF or pseudo-SOF or GPF.

        I wasn’t suggesting all forces get fielded it, that’s crazy, and really expensive, even the Army isn’t that dumb. However, having done Arctic operations and experienced first hand the training involved after a childhood around snow, I have seen just how non-intuitive snow stuff is to those who never used it, for me the difficult dimension was adding the combat load.

        Good to see that cooler heads are prevailing on implementation. VB boots are a freaking pain in the ass, but awesome for static operations or short movements. I am pretty sure we moved in negative 35 in Rocky boots on snowshoes during the majority of our exercise, but that was 18 years ago, I’d have to pull up reference data I don’t have easy access to from my location.

        Thanks for the info, this isn’t something I’m following closely, but it does touch on one of my passions which is snow sports, and how the military breaches subjects like extremely austere operational areas (Arctic, Mountain, Jungle).

  8. TheGuy says:

    I really want the Marine Corps to work this out, but I doubt they will. The Marine Corps has been trying to replace its ski system for many years, but has failed for a variety of reasons. Mostly due to

    1) The lack that of an operational unit that is dedicated to mountain warfare. MWTC is a training center. As such, it does a fine job of developing instructors and familiarizing units with winter operations. The issue is that the cadre are, for the most part, completely new to skiing when they start, they just barely get dangerous on skis during their tour, then rotate out. This prevents the Marine Corps from developing career mountain warriors that possess the expert-level knowledge required to develop informed opinions on ideal equipment, and being able to critically conduct a gap analysis between issued equipment and technology available in the civilian market.

    2) The Marine Corps hasn’t defined its approach for winter operations. It has doctrine, but the Marine Corps is not committed to a strategic approach to ensure that it will be the most lethal force on a completely snow covered battlefield. Selection of a strategy will drive equipment selection.

    3) Regulatory requirements prevent the Marine Corps from purchasing equipment from manufacturers that know what they’re doing. Nearly all well designed ski equipment is not Berry compliant. Most quality skis, Boots and bindings are manufactured in Italy, Austria, China, etc. this alone prevents the the Marine Corps from awarding contracts for large volumes of high quality equipment.

    3) SYSCOM has no business running equipment evals. Their testing methods lack rigor, and evals poorly planned, executed, and documented. They have no engineers on the team that know anything about mountain equipment. The Marine Corps cannot expect to obtain the best equipment for the job with an outfit like SYSCOM at the helm.

    My two cents