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Anyone can do long powder runs and icy slopes. But to actually gain yourself the descent, you have to get up on the mountain first! You love having the entire mountain for yourself, enjoying nature and its calmness? You appreciate the struggle of having to go up meter by meter to reach the peak or need that exhausting training through the snow? Then you are in need of touring skis, and these come in a great variety of types, widths, lengths and brands.
TOURING SKIS COME IN DIFFERENT TYPES
Touring is a sport done by diverse groups of people with different needs. There are the uphill ski tourers, who put much value on the ascent. Whoever finds the descent through the powder more important, will get himself freeride touring skis. And the allround touring ski has some advantages for everyone. And then there is also the racing touring ski: performance oriented, to climb the mountain in the shortest amount of time. Based on these needs, there are various lengths and widths. Furthermore, these skis come equipped with different types of rocker, radius, camber constructions and sidecuts. Manufacturers such as Atomic, K2, Völkl, Dynafit and Fischer offer the best skis for your ski touring adventures.
CONSTRUCTION AND BUILD OF THE TOURING SKI
Most touring skis come with a rocker construction, as for example the Dynastar Mythic with its Tip & Tail Rocker. This is can be understood as a negative camber along the entire ski, or just in the tip or tail. The full rocker ski is bended upwards on tip and tail, creating a point of contact between ski and snow around the binding. Through this, the ski gets more float in powder or corn snow. Especially the tip rocker makes turning easier. On the other hand, there is the full camber construction, basically the reversed rocker. While there is no weight on the ski, contact points will be around the tip and the tail, while there is a gap between the ski and the snow underneath the binding. As soon as you put pressure on the ski by standing on it, the entire ski edges will be on the snow. This is especially useful during great speeds and on rougher snow conditions. To make the assembly of the touring skins easier, each manufacturer has created set-ups on the tip and tail. Of course you could buy adjustable skins, but it is advisable to purchase those skins that are already made to fit your specific ski. Purchasing the fitting skins does not only spare you the hassle of cutting and adjusting them, but also makes it easier to mount them on the skis.
WHAT MATERIALS ARE USED IN TOURING SKIS?
When building touring skis, manufacturers try using material as light as possible. For this, the ski core is essential. Most of the time, this will be made of paulownia wood, ash tree or as seen in the K2 Wayback 88 Ecore, made of so-called ECore - balsa wood. Glass fiber and titanium are also used to keep the ski light. Generally however, it can be said that with greater weight comes greater stability. As of this, many producers use carbon: To increase torsional rigidity, meaning the stiffness of the ski around its longitudinal axis, oftentimes carbon structures are built around the core or used in the ski tip. This leads to more stability and edge grip.
THE BEST LENGTH AND FITTING RADIUS OF YOUR TOURING SKI
Generally, your ski should be about 10cm shorter than you are. This will keep it maneuverable for the ascent and stable enough for the descent. Uphill ski tourers will oftentimes choose a shorter ski, making those kick turns easier, while the freeride tourer will opt for a longer ski. However, (unless you are a racer) the ski should not be shorter than your chin. The radius of the touring ski is, as with any other ski, based on its side cut. The stronger the side cut, the smaller the radius. The smaller the radius, the easier it gets to initiate turning. A greater radius will lead to more stability. In touring, you need both. Therefore, the radius for allround touring skis, freeride touring skis and uphill oriented will be at around 15m. Race touring skis have less side cut and therefore a larger radius of around 20-23m.
THE RIGHT TOURING SKI FOR YOUR WANTS & NEEDS
The Uphill Tourer: The focus of this ski is its weight. It should be light and it should be agile. No matter if doing a short tour as your daily workout or multiple days with several ascents, it should be easy to get up there. As of this, this touring ski is rather slim with its width of about 80mm and 1100g. As for example the Salomon S-Lab X Alp with its 79mm and 950g. Whoever wants some more downhill performance can also chose a ski a little bit wider, which will then weigh a tiny bit more. When it comes to bindings, this ski is best with a tec-binding. As you already focus on light weight in the ski, then the binding should be as light as possible as well! To further decrease total weight, one can skip the ski brakes. Of course, for best performance, the right touring boots are essential as well.
The freeride touring ski: The freerider puts all his devotion into the descent through the powder. Therefore, this touring ski will have characteristics of freeride skis, with the binding being different. As of this, the ski is very wide with about 100mm and up to 120mm underneath the binding. Equipped with rocker, it floats on the snow. With 1300-1500g, it weighs a little more than the uphill touring ski. But since the saying goes “the wider the more stable”, this ski can also put 2000g on the scale. On great powder, every freeride touring ski will be amazing. When there are rougher conditions, the wider ski will be easier. The Völkl VTA 108, weighing 1620g is a great in-between option. Along with a stable ski, the bindings also need to be accordingly stable and have a high release value. Therefore, you could either go for a downhill-focused tec-binding such as the Dynafit Beast 16 Light or use a frame binding, which generally come with higher release values.
The allround touring ski: This ski combines light weight and agility with downhill performance. As the name already tells, this ski is an allrounder, good for long-established tourers, as well as beginners. And no matter if you are doing a quick tour on your local mountain or a multiple-day tour in the versatile Alps, this ski will always be suiting. The width will be around 88mm, as with the Fischer Transalp 88 or the Dynafit Speed 90. Weights ranging from around 1200-1400g. The downhill focused allround ski is a little wider with 100mm under the binding. Coming to bindings, both frame and tec-bindings work well: The tec-binding will keep the ski lighter while the frame bindings will mostly be more stable due to higher release values. Especially beginners ought to go for frame bindings as these are oftentimes easier to handle.
The racer’s touring ski: The faster the better! For the racer, it is all about performance and records. And this will only be achieved if the ski is light. Therefore, the racing ski with 650-800g weighs the least. It is very narrow and agile: 65mm. But as of this, this ski will be somewhat weaker during the down-hill. Impressive performance is guaranteed with the Atomic Backland UL 65 and its 680g. Along with light weight, you also need appropriate bindings and boots. Tec-racebindings, weighing around 130g, no stopper non-adjustable release value are needed.
What is more, you also need the suiting outdoor equipment: Bindings, climbing skins, boots, poles, ski touring apparel and most importantly: avalanche safety equipment! Our advice: When purchasing your skis as a set with bindings and skins, it will be cheaper over-all! For more tips and infos, visit our skitouring guide!