Part 1 and Part 2 of this series covered what Alpine Touring actually is, and the basics on how, where, and what you’ll need, to get started in AT skiing, yourself. In this post we’re going to get into the specifics of what gear you’ll actually need before you head for the hills. As mentioned, you’ll need skis, bindings, boots, poles, and skins, plus a small collection of safety equipment. You can find a number of these products right here on SKIS.com. So, let’s start with the staples.
Alpine Touring Skis:
Pretty much any downhill ski can be used for alpine touring, and just like with resort skiing, different skis will suit different types of skiers. With that said, though, there are characteristics to look for when shopping for touring specific skis. Generally speaking you should look for lightweight skis (don’t forget you have to go uphill, too) designed to perform on a wide variety of snow conditions (you never know what you’ll find in the backcountry).
These ultra-light, wood-construction skis are some of the best all-around touring skis on the market. They are lightweight and relatively narrow (by today’s standards) underfoot, making them glide smoothly and easily uphill, but they are quite stiff, and wide at the tip and tail, allowing you to attack your downhills aggressively. This ski is meant for true experts ready to bust through crud or float on top of powder.
These skis have similar specs to the Backlands, allowing you the same freedom and efficiency when it comes to uphill travel. They are slightly heavier, meaning they’ll easily power through cruddy snow conditions, and will provide a bit more stability to intermediate skiers. If you’re just getting started in the backcountry, this might be the ski for you.
Alpine Touring Bindings:
Equipment designed for alpine touring attempts to strike a balance between uphill travel and downhill travel. Lightweight efficiency is key for the way up, but stability and durability are important for the downhill considering the forces that aggressive skiing applies to your gear.
Salomon MTN + Brake
This binding straddles that line between uphill and downhill design as well as anything else on the market. The minimalist construction makes your climbs smooth, ensuring that the high altitude is the only thing that will be sapping your energy. On the flip side, these bindings will lock you in like a vice when you’re ready to speed back down the mountain. No matter which ski you decide on, these bindings will help you ride them to their full potential.
Alpine Touring Boots:
We put up with it because we love to ski so much, but admit it, walking around in ski boots – in the parking lot, at the lodge, up the stairs to the condo – is the worst. One of the unsung benefits of AT skiing is how much easier it is to walk in touring boots. They’re smaller, not quite so stiff, and they have a walk/ski setting switch that actually makes a difference! Alpine Touring boots are designed for every possible type of skier and the situations they might find themselves in. I prefer to tour in a stiffer boot that gives me complete control of my equipment on the downhill, like I have on my front country set-up. Lighter, more flexible boots are great for those that are planning to spend more time skinning than skiing, or for those that envision themselves attacking climbs that can only be done with your skis strapped to your back. No matter what you’re hoping to do, you’ll find the right pair of boots here.
Tecnica Cochise Pro 130
These are AT boots with a design slanted heavily toward the downhill portion of the alpine touring equation. They may be a little too stiff for multi day touring trips where you cover more flat miles than anything else, but man will they help you rip the steep stuff. If you are the type of backcountry skier who lives for the ride down, then these are probably your speed. They’ll offer you a bit more breathing room and flexibility for your climb, but when you strap in at the top, you should hardly notice a difference in performance between these and your resort boots – definitely the piece of gear you’ll want when you’re carving through the no-fall zone.
An all-around performer, the Atomic backland is a better fit for the newcomer to Alpine Touring skiing. Their flexibility, lightweight design, and grippy rubber soles make them a dream to both walk and skin in. And sure, you lose a little bit of downhill performance in return for all that comfort, but it’s a lot less than you might expect, and there’s no doubt that you’ll still be able to tackle some serious terrain in these boots. When it comes to versatility, it’s hard to top the Baclklands.
I can’t say it enough, but I’ll say it again: Backcountry skiing can be dangerous. That’s why it’s important to bring great ski gear, but also the necessary safety gear along with you whenever you do it… Beacons, probes, and shovels will all be available on SKIS.com in the coming months. So check back soon for deals on all of those items, and ensure that your next visit to the backcountry is equal parts safe and fun.