SKI TOURING: ALL THE GEAR YOU NEED TO GET STARTED
Want to start earning your turns?
Here’s a run down of what you’ll need:
Looking to add some adventure to your skiing? Or perhaps you simply want to access fresh powder that gravity alone cannot provide … Either way, touring changes the game.
Thankfully, the vast majority of resort skiers don’t have a touring set up meaning you really don’t have to work all that hard to get the freshest tracks or deepest snow. And then there’s endless opportunities to explore untouched valleys and access true mountain wilderness, it really is a totally different experience to the hustle and bustle of popular ski areas. Of course, as always with skiing there is a plethora of lavish kit available, but it is possible to earn those turns on a relatively modest budget too..
For those not in the know, ski touring can be achieved by applying a “climbing skin” to the bottom of your ski, a sticky carpet-like surface that allows movement upwards and applies friction stopping you slip backwards. To make this movement comfortable and allow smooth motion, touring bindings allow the boot to come away from the ski at the heel while staying attached at the front of the boot.
Once at the top of your chosen mountain, your reusable skins are quickly peeled off, then locking your bindings back into place, you’re free to make fresh tracks down as normal.
The Basics : Skis, bindings, boots & skins
When choosing your ski touring system, bindings is probably the best place to start. There are two types to consider; frame bindings are very similar to alpine bindings, however with a built in hinge mechanism meaning they come up with the boot when in touring mode. These work with normal ski boots (ideally with a walk mode) and perform very well for alpine skiing too. “Tech” or “pin” bindings are the choice for serious ski touring due to their freedom of movement and lighter weight however, they do require touring-specific boots so come at a higher price.
For anyone seriously interested in more adventurous days, the pin binding setup is a must, but for someone looking for a quick fix, or shorter freeride tours, frame bindings such as the Salomon “walk to ride”, (STH2 WTR) will do the trick just fine. The main noteworthy drawback comes in the form of weight — they are considerably heavier than both normal bindings and touring bindings. All bindings are rated with a maximum din (the force it takes for the boot to come out). Your exact requirements will depend on your weight and how aggressively you ski but this generally ranges from 10 (adequate for most people) upto 16 (required for big mountain freeriders). When selecting your binding, make sure your brake is at least as wide but no more than 20mm wider than the centre of your ski.
Next up, boots — if you’re going down the pin binding route, you’ll need a boot that is compatible. For any touring boot, a walk mode is important to release pressure from your shins and free up your ankle. Where touring boots once could never compete in downhill performance, new technology has really closed the gap, however, weight and downhill performance still remains a compromise.
For skis, you could change the bindings on your own or choose dedicated touring skis which you guessed it, usually come in lighter. For allround use, you’d be looking for a ski around 85–95mm under foot, for something more powder focussed aim for 95–110mm. Twin tips are best avoided as they can make attaching skins a little problematic.
There are plenty of options for skins, just make sure they’re wide enough to cover the majority of the ski’s base, and they usually come with a tool to trim them down if needed. They come in a range of lengths which need to fit your ski. There are two main types, synthetic which generally come in cheaper and offer more traction, or mohair which are a little better suited to long days due to their smooth glide motion.
The essentials: Shovel, probe & transceiver
If you’ve skied much in the backcountry, it probably goes without saying these items are total essentials and should be purchased ahead of skis. They are your essential tools to stay safe in the event of an avalanche and you also need to be sure the others you’re skiing with are properly equipped too. A good ski backpack will make carrying these items more comfortable, but a standard hiking one may do the trick if you’re on a budget.
The extras: Ski crampons, Boot crampons, telescopic poles, ice axe
For those going deeper into the backcountry or on more serious terrain, you’ll want to consider some additional pieces of equipment. Telescopic poles are simply extending ski poles that can go longer for increased reach during uphills. Ski crampons are extremely useful on steep slopes and are only compatible with pin bindings, they comprise of metal teeth that clip onto the centre of your skis providing additional grip at gradients where skins can no longer hold traction. Any steeper than this and you’ll be “boot packing” meaning crampons for your ski boots may also be required, and depending on snow conditions, an ice axe.
Quick mention for splitboards meaning snowboarders can also join the fun using specialist snowboards that split in two to become skis for the up and then clip back together to enjoy the descents the old fashioned way.
Those looking for a high performing all-round combo, we recommend a 85–100mm ski, the salomon shift bindings and a touring specific boot. For someone looking for their powder fix and wants to save some cash, look into fitting some salomon walk to ride bindings on less specialist skis, and there are now plenty of alpine freeride boots with a walk mode built in meaning you can get one set up for it all. Here are some examples of great kit we’d recommend!
For the Allrounder
Skis: Faction Agent 2.0
Boots: Scott Super Guide
For the Freerider tourer
Skis: Faction Dictator 3.0
Boots: Atomic Men’s Hawx Ultra
For the Ski mountaineer
Skis: Atomic Backland 85
Boots: Salomon MTN Explore (Women’s also available)
For the Splitboarder
Bindings: Spark R&D Surge Bindings
Boots: Fitwell Freeride