Traditionally, the main distinctions between alpine skis and backcountry skis have been that backcountry skis were lighter, may have have been reinforced for tele binding mounting and had holes in the tips & tails. The first two distinctions don’t seem to be as common nowadays, but the third, holes in the tips/tails, is still a desirable trait for a backcountry ski. This often brings up the immediate question “So, what are the holes used for?” The main reason for tip/tail holes is that it allows you to build a sturdy rescue sled, but the holes can also be used for rigging up your ski as a tent pole or setting up a self-cleaning belay anchor. Some people prefer to drag their skis by the tip holes instead of carrying them on their packs when booting. I’m not a big fan of this technique, but clipping your tips to your waist belt when bushwhacking works really well.
Last Tuesday I was out skiing (translation: hitting rocks and wallowing in 20″ of sugar) and found a new use for tail holes. One of our group lost a BD tail clip off of his skins, but by cramming the polymer strap through the tail hole, it hardly mattered. The ribbing kept the skin nice and tight, and aside from the hassle of threading and stripping it, it worked as well as a tail clip.