Ski touring a logical progression for many who find their in-bounds resort experience leaves them wanting a bit more from their ski days. Ski touring is skiing or splitboarding in the backcountry on unmarked or unpatrolled areas. As with any off-piste expedition, you will need the appropriate education, fitness level, and gear before embarking on your first ski tour.
Before heading out on any out-of-bounds expedition, you absolutely need to take an AIARE Level 1 course to familiarize yourself with how to travel in avalanche terrain. There are a number of courses that combine avalanche education with basic ski touring skill eduction, we recommend taking a course like this for beginners looking to get into ski touring. There is simply no substitute for learning from trained professionals, it may save your life.
Fitness can be one of the biggest perceived barriers to entry to ski touring. Thankfully, ski touring can take the form of anything from a short 1-mile jaunt to multi-day peak bagger. Ski touring is typically done at high altitude, so cardio strength and fitness is the most important factor. We've found that Leg Blasters are the most effective way to get in shape, and stay in shape, for ski touring.
Touring boots have a 'walk mode' which gives the skier a wider range of motion for the uphill portion of the tour. This makes for a far more pleasant touring experience and reduces the awkward motion and fatigue caused by walking in downhill boots.
Touring bindings are lighter than downhill bindings and are built to enable the heel to move freely away from the ski. While there a few different options here, it's important to know that weight and stability play a critical role here. If choose a lighter binding to ease your ascent, chances are that you may pay for it with a less stable downhill experience. However, new binding technology (the Salomon Shift binding, for example) is changing this perception.
Skins attach the bottom of skis and splitboards to create a surface on which the ski can grip as you move uphill. Skins keep the skis in place when placing weight on the uphill, and slide as weight is taken off of them.
Touring poles are adjustable, as you will often need to adjust the height of the pole while traversing over steeps or other instances when one side of the hill is significantly higher than the other.
You'll need a functional backpack with a size that is appropriate to the length of your tour. Check out our in depth look at ski backpacks to figure out which style of backpack is the best fit for you.
Shovel, Probe, and Beacon
You'll need all the proper avalanche gear and training for any off piste adventure. This is your most critical group of equipment.
We recommend a transition / photochromatic lens for most ski tour expeditions. It limits the amount of gear you have to carry (one lens does it all) and covers you through any conditions you might encounter.