Have you got the ski touring fever, but can't see the forest for all the equipment, technology and planning? Here you will find tips for getting started in the world of ski touring and answers to the most pressing questions.
A contribution by Fabian Reichle - Bächli Bergsport
This winter is special for piste skiers. The crowds at the mountain railways put you off, even if the protective measures are possibly solid and safe. Nonetheless, it is understandable if someone leaves the snow groomers in the basement this season. But how can the hunger for skiing be satisfied? With ski tours!
However, many of the amenities of piste skiing are no longer available - no lifts, natural hazards and more complex equipment. In return, you gain an experience of nature, freedom and, last but not least, hopefully fantastic descents through thundering powder snow. Despite everything, the world of ski touring can seem overwhelming, especially for beginners. We therefore provide an overview. A starter kit, so to speak.
The skis for ski touring
Of course, nothing works without two slats on your feet. In contrast to alpine skis, other factors play an important role in touring skis. Remember that not only are you going downhill, you also have to climb climbs. Less weight pays off: A good compromise is around 3 kilograms per pair.
Oriented towards advancement or powder hunter?
If you are more climbing-oriented anyway, then a ski with a narrow sidecut makes sense. For a more enjoyable descent, on the other hand, you prefer to invest in a wider model, which gives you more surface and thus more lift in deep snow. A good intermediate thing is a ski width of up to approx. 95mm under the binding.
The same applies to the length: a shorter ski is easier to climb, while longer skis are more suitable for the descent. Calculate about minus or plus 10cm of your height. Of course, the shape also plays a role. A rocker shape will keep you on the surface, especially on snow-covered days.
Ski rating for orientation
We have put together the following ski rating for current models, which you can use as a rough guide.
The bond to ski touring
First of all: There are two basic types of touring bindings. Pin and frame. The latter is most similar to an alpine binding, but has a major weight disadvantage compared to the pin binding. We therefore focus on pin binding. Speaking of weight - that's one of the most important factors when you want to invest in touring bindings. Models made for touring races weigh around 200 grams in extreme cases. However, these lightweights forego comfort and safety.
As is so often the case, a compromise is ideal for getting started. Pay attention to amenities such as heel pads of different heights so that you can adjust the height of your heel to the degree of incline of the slope. If you want to rely on security, you should look around in the area of hybrid bindings.
Banal but important: don't invest in an ultra-light binding if you have a heavy ski. And make sure that the binding is also tailored to your ski waist.
The ski boots
You probably know this from alpine skiing: if you push your shoes, the day is ruined. The same applies of course to touring. The most important credo should therefore be that the shoe fits you.
Otherwise the locking system is relevant. How many buckles there should be depends on your preference. Less of it means more freedom of movement (and less weight), but less stability.
Another point is the sole. You may have to be able to walk certain stretches in touring boots. Vibram soles provide the necessary grip in such situations.
No ascent without fur. These often consist of a mixture of mohair and synthetic fibers; this lets you slide comfortably on the snow and keeps the skins robust.
Skins are glued to your skis. Don't worry, they can each be removed without leaving any residue. So that the length and waist are correct, it is best to have your skins cut by a professional - for example in our branch. This has to be done once, then you are ready for the ascent.
By the way, if it gets icy, you can combine the skins with crampons that bite into the hard snow. These are each mounted under the binding.
The clothing and the layer principle
You will quickly notice that the padded jacket you wear on the slopes is not practical on a ski tour. It does not do justice to the strenuous ascent with the change to the windy and cold descent. Ideally, you dress according to the layer principle.
Underwear, insulation and weather protection
The first layer is your underwear - for example made of merino wool. It lies directly on the skin and has the task of transporting moisture to the outside. That keeps you warm and dry. Finally, there is the insulating layer, which serves to transport further moisture. Their biggest task, however, is isolation, i.e. it should keep you warm. This can be a softshell or primaloft jacket, for example. Ultimately, you wear the weather protection layer that protects you from wind, snow and rain. Hardshell jackets are usually used here. The same system also works for the legs.
A small addition to the layering principle: You don't have to stubbornly follow it. Sometimes you will need more, sometimes less. Hopefully that should be common sense.
Don't forget the little details: you will hardly ever wear a helmet with ski goggles on the ascent. So you'll be happy to have a hat and sunglasses. A pair of light gloves are also beneficial on the ascent.
The ideal backpack for ski touring
In theory, you can pack any of them, but in practice a tour-specific backpack makes sense. Above all for safety reasons.
Before buying, you should decide whether you want to invest in an avalanche airbag or not. The higher price and weight can save lives. Now that you've clarified this basic question, there are a few important details that you need to keep in mind.
It is essential that your avalanche safety equipment is quickly at hand. There are specific compartments in modern backpacks for shovel and probe. Pay attention to it.
Your backpack should also have the option to tie your skis. You will appreciate that if you ever have to walk.
In the end it all comes down to personal preference. Make sure that the backpack fits properly and is comfortable. Think about how much capacity the backpack should have and which additional options are relevant for you (e.g. integrated hydration system).
You can also find out everything that has to do with equipment from the mountain sports advisors at Bächli Bergsport. They will be happy to help you - book one right now personal consultation appointment.
The avalanche equipment: Avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe
You shouldn't go on a ski tour without an avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe. We have highlighted the three devices for you in a separate article
In order to be equipped with the best equipment, you can go to Bächli Bergsport Safety set buy - put together by professionals.
The route planning
Are you equipped? Well, then we can start. Before doing this, however, you should deal with the tour planning. Learn how to read the avalanche bulletin, interpret the weather and how to assess dangers on the map. The credo is: practice, practice, practice.
Self-taught you will be able to read a lot of theory, but it is essential that you are introduced to practice with professional guidance. In short: Attend courses and training, you will learn the fastest and most solidly.
With the program Bächli on tour Bächli Bergsport offers you such training: from avalanche courses to beginner tours on which you can gain experience. Also at Mountain point you will find many courses.
Exciting links to keep in mind are the following:
- Ski tour guru
Comprehensive portal for ski tour planning.
- Summit book
Tour portal with many reports.
Another interesting tour portal.
Website to assess the current avalanche situation.
- Swiss avalanche research
Current avalanche bulletins
- SRF Meteo
Weather forecast with reliable forecasts.
- Landi weather
Weather forecast from Landi. Perhaps not very obvious, but since the service is primarily made for farmers, the precipitation radar in particular is very efficient.
Now it's time to get down to business. On the skis and towards the peaks. Here again applies: Practice makes perfect. Those who are inexperienced can join an experienced group or set off with a mountain guide. Experiments have lost nothing in ski touring - on the mountain in general. So always proceed conservatively, taking risks is not worth it. Even traveling alone is not a good idea.
If you have a person who can guide you, you first do an avalanche transceiver check. If the devices are OK, you can leave them in transmit mode and wear them under the bottom layer of clothing or in a pocket that can be closed with a zipper.
You don't run with the skins on, you slide. Don't lift your feet, but pull the skis over the ground. You tend to try to take big steps, the pressure stays on your heel and not on your toes.
Even if you are an experienced skier or walk a lot in summer: Don't be fooled, the movements and energy consumption are different on ski tours. Try to walk calmly and evenly.
At some point you will not be able to avoid it via the famous hairpin, especially if you are on steeper terrain. This is explained in three simple steps:
- Find a "parking lot" where you want to change direction.
- Push both sticks into the slope so that you stand clean and stable. You then turn the ski on the mountain side like a windshield wiper in the targeted direction.
- Shift your weight on the twisted ski, otherwise you run the risk of tumbling backwards down the slope. Support yourself on the sticks, lift the second ski and swing or kick it in the desired direction.
Incidentally, it is advisable not to practice the first attempts in a 40 degree steep, newly snow-covered couloir. Find a flat spot and just try.
Expertise on ski touring
Books could be written about ski touring - what was actually done in Online shop of Bächli Bergsport you can find a lot of them. This introduction is therefore by no means complete. However, we hope that we have been able to shed some light on the darkness and look forward to seeing one or the other on touring skis soon.
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- Movie about the hardest ski touring race: Patrouille de Glacier
- Light and warm: the Ghost Whisperer down jacket from Mountain Hardware
About Bächli mountain sports
Bächli mountain sports is the leading Swiss specialist shop for climbing, mountaineering, expeditions, hiking, ski touring and snowshoeing. At currently 13 locations in Switzerland, Bächli Bergsport offers its customers expert advice and high-quality service. Published on LACRUX Bächli mountain sports periodically exciting contributions to the topics climbing, bouldering and mountaineering.