Ski touring is the new number one in winter sports. Every season there are more and more snow addicted skiers that are leaving the comfort of well-groomed slopes and want to explore the greatness of deep snow in the mountains. If you also aspire to reach out for the winter peaks using your own strength, you will find many useful tips in this article that help you to find your perfect ski-touring equipment.
- What is the right equipment for you?
- What kind of ski tourer are you?
- How to chose your Setup – ski, binding and boots?
- Summary – what equipment do you need for ski touring
- What is also important to know when choosing the right equipment?
- Checklist: what do you need for ski touring!
WHAT IS THE RIGHT SKI TOURING EQUIPMENT FOR YOU?
WHAT KIND OF SKI TOURER ARE YOU?
With different ski touring preferences, you need different ski touring setups. First, you have to find out what kind of tour you would like to go and then you can decide which kind of ski touring gear you need.
In general, there are four distinct types of ski tourers.
Of course, there are further variations within these four types but these are the most common ones. In the next part, we will describe each one of the basic four types and suggest the right gear setup.
The Allrounder – A little bit of everything
As a versatile winter sportsman or sportswoman, you are looking for a gear that will prepare you for any conditions. Your equipment needs to be flexible enough that it fits a ski touring beginner as well as an experienced rider. It doesn’t matter if you plan a little local tour or a high-alpine transalp – your skis have to be there for you at any time.
The Uphill Ski Tourer – The goal is the way up
For your speedy ascents, you have to think about every item, you pack in your backpack because every extra gram plays a big role. As a super sporty ski tourer, you like to go fast uphill and have the lightest gear possible. It doesn’t matter, if you choose your local mountain, a multiple day tour adventure, a super long ascent or a high alpine tour – your purpose is to go uphill as fast as possible with the lightest weight on your shoulders.
The Freeride Tourer – Powder snow ride in untouched terrain
When you go on a tour, you always watch out for a smooth freeride terrain, untracked powder descents and deep untouched snow! Sometimes you are looking for adventures with your own powers; sometimes you use the help of the ski lifts. At the end, you simply love steep faces, challenging couloirs, fast turns and high drops. Do you enjoy escaping the madness, which is happening in the ski resorts? Then, you belong to the freeride tourer group.
The Racer – The faster, the better
The group of race ski tourers might be the smallest of the four main ski touring types, but it is also the one with the highest focus on performance. Race ski touring is made for advanced ski tourer who already gained some experience in this sport and wants to level up this passion. As a performance oriented athlete, you pay attention to the weight of your gear. You want to get fit and be prepared for your next competition; you train anywhere, even at night, in order to be better and faster! You focus your energy more on the ascents than on the descents and as a result, you know, that the weight is the deciding factor. You don’t expect any wonders going downhill, your skis have to work without a flaw and your technique matters the most.
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE YOUR SETUP – SKI, BINDING, AND BOOTS?
Now, as you know what type of ski tourer you are we can head on and find the perfect setup for you. As a result, it is really important to pay attention to your choice so that your ski touring equipment will fulfill your needs and wants, but at the same time it will be fully functional.
The Allrounder – Ready to go up and down the hill
As an Allrounder you want to have both – fun going up, as well as fun going down. Therefore, it is not so easy to choose the right skis – a compromise has to be made.
Classic allround touring skiers are between 82 – 95mm wide in the waist and are suitable for both going uphill and riding downhill. It will weight about 1200 to 1400g.
If the ascent makes a big smile on your face, we would recommend you the downhill oriented skiers, which are about 1400 to 1600g. If you get skis with a waist of 95mm upwards you will be rewarded going downhill and have more leverage at a faster pace.
Generally heavier skis are more stable and therefore offer you the possibility to go faster with more power on the downhill. The lighter skis are well fit for a medium pace, which is perfect for riders that are beginners in this sport or for someone who likes to go slower while enjoying the beautiful mountain views.
The most suitable allround tour bindings are frame bindings and lighter Tec-Bindings. Advanced and heavier riders will find plenty of models with higher release range. But watch out: Not all frame bindings are compatible with all kinds of touring boots, so choose the boots and the binding carefully or ask our experts in the customer service for advice. Your adjustment range has to fit the length of the ski boot.
The same thing is true for allround ski touring boots which come in four-buckle models – which are more suitable for downhill – and three-buckle models – which offer you more flexibility going uphill. These lightweight, flexible boots are relatively stiff at the same time and therefore perform well in descents.
The Uphill Tourer – Every additional gram counts
The uphill oriented ski tourer will reach out for lightweight, agile and relatively narrow skis. The uphill tourers have to decide whether the only aim is to go uphill or if they also want to enjoy a little bit of downhill. The lighter version weighs around 800–1100g with a waist width of 72-82mm. Therefore these skis offer an excellent ascent performance and are ideal for fast and demanding ski tourers.
The slightly wider versions – with a waist width of 82-95mm – have more surface to offer, while skiing downhill; therefore, they offer more stability and control on the descent. The weight per ski is about 1100 – 1300g, but the extra 200g will pay off when you will go downhill. The high-end models with 88mm waist only weigh 1000 grams. That means more speed and stability but still less weight to take in the ascent.
For ascent oriented skis the light tech-bindings are the best. Preferably you should pick one with adjustable release range. It is up to every skier’s personal decision if they want to save precious grams on ski stoppers. A strap can work as well against losing your ski.
If you are an ascent oriented ski tourer then you also have to pay attention to boots. Light ski touring boots weigh around 1300 grams. They dispose with two or three buckles and offer great angle adjustability. They are perfect for ski tourers, especially because of their reduced weight and great flexibility. This kind of lightweight touring boot does not perform downhill as well as some heavier models do. Plus: The weight reduction also means less insulation.
The Freeride-Tourer – Release the freedom!
If you enjoy being out of the ski slope and prefer the freedom of choice for terrain, then you are a true freerider. With the fat skies and skins under your planks, you can climb any mountain peak on your “to-do” list under any given conditions. Because of the tough material, conditions will not stop you from going out anymore.
Regular freeride touring skis have a waist width of 95mm upwards and offer a great downhill performance. Every ski can weigh between 1300 – 1700g.
With the downhill oriented models, which are 110 – 120 mm wide in the waistline, you will get more stability in deeper snow and advanced terrain. That means more weight with additional 300 – 500g. If you prefer to rip hard while going down, you will find yourself riding skis which are heavier, have more stiffness and offer stability. Lighter models perform excellently in light and dry snow; however, a hard surface will shrink their limits.
Downhill oriented tech bindings are perfect for freeride touring, as well as sable frame bindings, epecially with a higher release range. Keep in mind, that bindings with stoppers are more suitable for you than the ones with straps because they`ll decrease the risk of an injury while crashing. Be careful, not all frame bindings are compatible with all kind of touring boots, so don’t forget that your adjustment range has to fit the length of the ski boot.
Freeride touring ski boots should be stiff and stable, with a typical four buckle system. This kind of boot will offer you a powerful transfer of strength on your skis.
The Racer – Light, lighter and the lightest
The racer wants to bring the equipment as fast as possible up the hill, even though they are doing just a Transalp tour; the speed is definitely essential. As a result, the deciding factor is the weight of the equipment, which is being used.
Race skis are 65mm wide underfoot, and the length of ski should be between 151 – 161cm. The weight of one ski is between 650 and 800 grams. This will help you win every race.
The same counts for your bindings. Here, you also should pay attention to the weight. Light-tec bindings are under 130g but be careful not to choose the cheap variant of the adjustable release system. Additionally, the bindings do not have a stopper in order to save weight.
The optimal race ski boots offer you maximal flexibility for your ascents. You will go up as comfortable as a lightweight hiking shoe. Race boots offer the maximal weight reduction and weigh around 850g. Less weight means, that there is not much of isolation material left. You also have to compensate your downhill performance with the right ski technique.
SUMMARY – WHAT EQUIPMENT DO YOU NEED FOR SKI TOURING
- Classic allround skis: ∅ waist width between 82-95mm/ 1200-1400g per ski
- Downhill oriented skis: ∅ waist width between 95-100mm/ 1400-1600g per ski
- Tec-binding with a high release range or frame binding
- Ski touring boots with more than 2 buckles fit the best. Be careful about the boot choice because not all the boots are compatible with all bindings
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Equipment for Uphill oriented ski tourers
- Light, agile and narrow skis / ∅ width between 72 – 88mm / 1000-1300g per ski
- Tec-binding with an adjustable release range
- Flexible and agile ski-touring boots with 2-3 buckles / weight around 1300g
Equipment for Freeride ski tourers
- Classic Freeride skis: ∅ width 95mm and up / 1300-1700g per ski
- Downhill oriented freeride ski: ∅ width between 110-120mm / 1600-2200g per ski
- Tec-binding with a high release range or frame binding
- Ski touring boots with more than 3 buckles
- Again, be careful as not all boots are compatible with all bindings
Equipment for race ski tourers
- Length of the ski between 151 – 161cm / ∅ width 65mm / 650 – 800g per ski
- Tec-binding with less than 130g
- Light ski touring boots with a high flexibility and agility/ up to 850g
WHAT IS ALSO IMPORTANT TO KNOW WHEN CHOOSING THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT?
Naturally, the heavier the skis are the more stable and calm they are at high speeds. On the other hand, lighter skis with a small portion of carbon are functioning the best at medium speed; therefore, they are highly recommended for beginners and riders who enjoy the way up but also way down with views.
The rocker technology is spread around all touring skis and it provides a better handling, manageability, and control in turns.
The rule of thumb would say: You have to take your height and deduct 10 cm. This ski length will guarantee a comfortable feeling while ascending, with enough stability and power on the downhill section.
Experienced ski tourers and downhill-oriented skiers can choose skis which are a bit longer but do not exceed the body length by 10cm. On the other hand, uphill-oriented tourers can choose shorter skis which are end at the height of the chin. Even bigger exceptions apply to racers who take skis even shorter in order to save weight.
To read more about the right ski length, go to our Ski Length Guide.
Ski Touring Boots
The ski touring boot is one of the most important parts of your touring equipment. It might happen that your first tour will be horrible because of painful blisters. As a result, keep in mind to choose your boots carefully. If possible, test them for a longer period of time – maybe just walk around at home – and do not try to save too much money on your boots.
To get the right size of the boot, you first need to have your foot measured. If you add 1 cm to the actual length of your foot, you will get your Mondopoint Size – which is usually used by each brand. If your foot is 26,5cm long for example, your Mondopoint is 27,5cm.
If the right size still doesn’t fit, many brands offer models with thermo moldable inner-shoes. They can be heated and fitted on your foot at our stores. If even that is no help for you, you might go for a fitting of the outer shell of your ski boot.
The difference between women and men ski boots reflects the anatomical differences between the male and female human body. Women usually weigh less than men of the same size, which allows building a lighter shell of the boot. Moreover, the calves reach lower on a female leg; therefore, women-specific boots are usually a bit shorter than models for men.
To avoid mistakes, you should keep in mind that some pin bindings might not be compatible with all kind of ski boots so choose carefully or ask for an advice. The functionality of the shoe might be compromised by a mismatch.
For climbing skins, it is very important, that they stick properly to the bottom your ski and allow you to proceed in your ascent. Otherwise, they can make your tour a pain in the a** or even dangerous.
Many brands offer pre-cut climbing skins for different models of skis. You can also have your skins cut according to the waistline of your ski. The accurate cut of your skins is crucial for you, the skins cannot overlap with your ski edges, otherwise, you could lose grip, while going uphill on harder surfaces. Find our guide for cutting skins here.
Skins are essentially made out of two different materials: Mohair Skins – which are preferred during colder temperatures, because of their glide and smaller tendency to ice up. Nylon skins – are in comparison sturdier, durable and cheaper. These skins have a better grip on steeper and icier surfaces.
Climbing skins also come in a Nylon-Mohair-Mix, which offer a great compromise. Currently, they became a standard in the ski touring world. The impregnation of your climbing skins will make them more waterproof and prevent them from icing up.
Climbing skins out of solid Mohair fabric are the best for racing. Thanks to the little slot at the tip of the skis – which fits the rubber nipple of your skin –it is possible to detach your skins without stepping out of your binding.
Once the surface you are touring on is frozen and icy, the climbing skins tend to lose their grip. Before you put yourself in danger, mount crampons on your skis. Hard and sharp crampons will help you to retrieve the lost grip. To allow the crampons to completely irrupt the surface, it is advised to climb without any ascent aid.
Every brand has their own crampons, which perfectly fit the brand’s bindings. To find out which crampons are the best for your binding, please refer to your specialized retailer.
Not every crampon is compatible with every binding and every ski. For example, they should be slightly wider than the waist of your ski.
CHECKLIST: WHAT DO YOU NEED FOR SKI TOURING!
- Touring skis, proper ski touring binding and ski touring boots
- Telescope ski pole
- Climbing skins and crampons
- Safety equipment (helmet, tracker beacon, avalanche probe, shovel, airbag backpack, first aid kit, etc.)
- Ski touring apparel
- Ski touring backpack
- Something to eat and drink
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