Touring skis have special touring bindings, these bindings allow the user to ski the skis just like alpine bindings do when skiing downhill. However, when it comes to “uphill” mode or skinning uphill, touring bindings allow the heal of the boot to be released but the toe stays attached. This allows the user to raise their heal and slide the ski along the snow all without lifting the ski from the snow.
Splitboards are snowboards which can be split into two, to make two splitboard “skis”. Each of these splitboard “skis” also has a similar sort of touring binding enabling you to lift your heel and slide in the same walking motion across the snow.
To “slide” uphill you can attach “skins” to the sole of your skis or split snowboard. Touring skins are like natural animal fur in that they lay smooth and flat if brushed in one direction but are rough and grippy if pushed in the other direction. With skins attached to the bottom of the skis these enable the skis to grip the snow and not slide backwards as you ascend the slope. Once you reach your destination you simply remove the skins from the skis, lock your bindings into downhill mode, click both your toes and heels into the bindings and then ride downhill as with normal alpine skiing. If using a splitboard, you simply remove the skins, lock the two halves back together, and then snowboard back down the hill as normal.
Navigation, snow safety and mountain skills are fundamental to enjoying the backcountry and this presents further equipment consideration beyond the actual skis or snowboards.
Ski touring equipment
Basic ski touring equipment:
Link to Glenmore Lodge Touring Equipment Video
CLOTHING: When accessing the backcountry in the UK we will experience a huge range of conditions from “blue bird” days to driving sleet and snow. Therefor your clothing selection for each day needs to reflect the current conditions. These may include having a good layering system, waterproof jacket (with a hood that fits over your helmet) and waterproof pants (that fit over your ski boots), multiple gloves and googles may all be required depending on the conditions.
SKI BOOTS: Ensure you have well-fitted ski boots that are designed to match your touring bindings. Depending upon the type of touring binding you are using, the toe of the boot may attach differently. If using a frame binding you can use regular alpine ski boots, but these would be less comfortable for the ascent part of the day. If using a tech binding your boots will require a toe capable of taking pins. This video helps explain. (I can’t access this video – “private video?)
SKIS BINDINGS & POLES: You can use any type of alpine ski for ski touring, however lightweight purpose made equipment is always preferable. Bindings come in two types, plate and tech. For poles, you can get by with any alpine ski poles, however, there are purpose made poles with subtle differences.
SKINS: Skins allow you to go uphill on your skis without slipping backwards. They are long strips of material fitted to the base of your skis with one sticky side and one “bristly” side covered in hairs. The sticky side is stuck to your ski base and the bristly side touches the snow with the bristles/hairs point backward. In decades gone by seal skin / fur was used and influenced the man-made skins we use today.
RUCKSACK AND SAFETY EQUIPMENT: The mountain environment can be hostile if the weather turns on you, so planning is key to ensure you are venturing out in safe conditions and safe terrain. We strongly urge those new to ski touring to ensure they have sufficient knowledge and training to understand weather and the risks in the mountain environment. Part of mitigating risk is to carry a rucksack (something around 20 – 35litrs works well) depending on the equipment required that day.
Map, Compass and GPS: A knowledge of how to navigate using map and compass is essential for safe route choice in the winter mountains. GPS can be a very useful back up to map and compass navigation and can be achieved by simple mapping apps downloaded to your smart phone. With phone GPS navigation we need to be aware not to run the battery down if the phone is also the primary piece of equipment for calling for help if required.
T.S.P.: If heading into the winter mountains Transceiver, Shovel and Probe would be standard safety equipment carried by all accessing the backcountry.
Our partners Craigdon and Ellis Brigham offer backcountry equipment for sale/hire and sound advice as well as discounts to Membership of Snowsport Scotland
Second hand equipment can be found via the British Backcountry face book site
Equipment reviews –