Sounds good. The last couple of months has been great for touring with snow/weather playing ball, hopefully there will be a few more outings before the cover recedes and its down to the gullies.
Top tips? Buy my Fritschi bindings and put them on your existing setup so you can tour at home or abroad any time there is snow. Otherwise, enjoy!Posted 5 years ago
Well, I’ve gone and done it. End of April, flight booked to Geneva, Guide booked, valley accommodation blagged (Bourg Saint Maurice) just need some gear then it’s goodbye piste suckers! 🙂
Any ski tourers/ski mountaineers on here? I’ve been threatening to give it a go for a few years and it’s finally all fallen into place.
Top tips welcome.Posted 5 years ago
Enjoy – it opens up a whole new world.
Do you have your own kit or are you renting? If you are renting make sure you know and practice how to go from ski to walk mode and back again on both boots and bindings before you head out.
I almost never go on-piste now but then I live in Canada.
My vacation last week started with this…
Which allowed this
And was followed by some of this
Then the weather changed so we did a bit of this…Posted 5 years ago
That looks fantastic. That heli skiing looks like the way to gain height 🙂
Probably going to buy. It’s quite a bit cheaper in France and rental seems a bit harder to come by than downhill kit. I’ve been meaning to get into for a few years now and this just gives me an excuse to get cracking.Posted 5 years ago
It’s actually heli-assisted which is quite popular in Canada as opposed to full heli-skiing. A group of you gets lifted from valley bottom to ~2000m to stay in a lodge of some description for up to a week and you then do day touring. That way you don’t slog all the way through the dense trees each day and get to access the good stuff right from the front door.
If you are buying then check compatibility between boots and bindings as it is a real maze. I recommend a quick read of Wild Snow to make sure you understand the compromises. (And also that currently some makes of boot don’t appear to fit some makes of binding as well as desired)
For dedicated touring nothing beats a technical binding (Dynafit or simmilar) from a weight and comfort perspective but I regularly tour with people on Fritchi bindings who love them just as much and they are a bit happier using them on piste then I am on my technical set-up. For me the boots is where the true choice lies as you can get everything from almost a downhill boot that tours to a XC boot that just about skis downhill. You need to decided where on the scale you want to sit.Posted 5 years agoPapaWheelieMember
Nice pics of Rogers Pass. I never got to use a heli, tho.Posted 5 years ago
My advice to boblo: get great boots and spend some time in them.
Just as a hiker wouldn’t buy new footwear and immediately do the Haute Route, backcountry guys need to make sure their boots fit perfectly. A hotspot on Day 1 will turn into a massive oozing mass of skin and blood by Day 3.
Not that I’d have firsthand knowledge or anything. 😳
After a bit (lot) of surfing my shopping list looks bit like Maestrales or Skookums, K2 Wayback’s with Dynafit Radical ST’s. Boots TBC on fitting of course.
What do the tourers think of that combo please?
BTW, having to hold your own whilst with chalet girls is not what they’re best known for 🙂Posted 5 years ago
Maestrales or Skookums, K2 Wayback’s with Dynafit Radical ST’s. Boots TBC on fitting of course
I use Maestrales with Waybacks but with Dynafit TLT Vertical bindings. Maestrales are the best and most comfortable ski boots I’ve owned; strongly recommended if they fit you, I’ve often worn them all day without loosening the bindings and never had as much as a blister. The backward lean in walk mode is a revelation, you could walk all day in them. I did the Haute Route with them the year before last. There may be other boots now that have caught up though so look around before deciding; I believe Scarpa now do a stiffer version that may be better if you’re doing a lot of piste skiing as well. The Waybacks are tough and light but not too narrow so a good all-round touring ski, also have a look at the Dynafit skis, I’ve tried the Manaslus and they’re pretty good.
Tech bindings are always a bit of a compromise but certainly better than any of the other bindings for touring, I think the height adjustment on the Radicals is supposed to be better and less prone to unexpected rotation than the Verticals. If you’re thinking of the Haute Route or similar I really wouldn’t bother with Fritchis or similar, go for tech bindings.Posted 5 years ago
Rio has said much of what I would have said but anyway, it sounds like a nice setup for DH oriented touring. You could lighten it or make it heavier (bigger) depending on how you intend to use it. Boots and bindings could suit a bigger ski but as an all round ski the K2s look good for various conditions. Don’t get too hung up on kit – a good skier can ski the downs well on almost anything and a fit one with good technique will make it up the climbs faster than an average one with superlight everything.
I like Maestrales, and they are very popular. I can only compare with NTN and older AT/ alpine boots and don’t have fussy feet so can’t offer much beyond everything that Rio says above. And I was pretty determined not to like them. Pretty light, but several lighter options that are also cheaper. And stiffer, heavier boots that are cheaper too.
You could go for a lighter dynafit binding if you wanted – advantages/ disadvantages of the various models documented and discussed pretty well on various forums. I would go for the cheaper and lighter version personally – the stuff some people do on them makes it seem that the more expensive ones are just for show, or silly big skis.
Whilst I’m converted to a tech setup, like globalti I do reckon fritschis are still very good for either dipping your toe in the water or if you are after one ski for everything. Rumours are they are bringing out a tech binding with some interesting features soon that may be worth waiting for. Depends on your priorities I suppose.
I’d be interested in hearing more reviews of the waybacks ( the K2 backups maybe worth considering also). Dimensions appear reasonable for all round use, look quite versatile, some good deals around on them.
Skins wise, I’d go for Black Diamond – they seem to last well, attachments are pretty reliable and straightforward in tricky conditions.Posted 5 years ago
Take a look at Rossignol Bandits as a good, lightweight, all-purpose ski. They are super turney in cruddy snow but too light for any excitement on the piste.
I got my kit from Au Vieux Campeur in Paris at about 2/3 of the UK prices. They were happy to mail stuff to me.
Also Mountainfeet in Marsden are a very good ski touring shop.Posted 5 years agodavetraveSubscriber
Also Mountainfeet in Marsden are a very good ski touring shop.
That’s who I would have put the OP in touch with – Si’s a mate of mine and he’s got a second hand set up for sale (if I had the money I’d have bought it myself…) – link here. Although he’s less in to ski gear sales these days and focussing more towards being a specialist outdoor footwear fitter/retailer.Posted 5 years ago
Maestrales or Skookums, K2 Wayback’s with Dynafit Radical ST’s. Boots TBC on fitting of course
That sounds like a nice touring specific set up. I like G3 skins for the extra glide but it does again depend on what your planning on doing.
The one thing I’d add is that if you’ve got all your own touring kit you should really price in a beacon, shovel and probe (plus the cost of some education in avalanches). With a full set of touring stuff the temptation to wander away from the controlled areas is going to be very strong….Posted 5 years agodjtomMember
Just got back from a week of splitboard touring around the Gran Paradiso region of Italy. Amazing week.
Reiterating what has been said above, make sure you are well up to speed on avalanche awareness and avalanche rescue, and additionally it’s worth taking a day or two to learn about crevasse rescue if you’ll be doing any touring on glaciers at all.
You may think “it’ll never happen to me”, but believe me, my touring partner and I were mightily happy we had done a rescue course when he fell into a crevasse on the Glacier d’Armancette when we got caught in a whiteout a couple of years ago. Luckily, that story ended happily, but it scared the sh*t out of both of us.
I don’t want to be a killjoy, but you need to be aware that when things go wrong (and it is “when”, not “if”!), they go wrong very quickly. You will be on your own, in the middle of nowhere, probably with no phone signal and with no support available to you, so it will be down to you to sort it out. It focuses the mind a bit, I can tell you! Having the right gear and knowledge is pretty important.
Above all else, find someone who knows what they are doing, and get out there and try it. Powder turns are all the sweeter when you have earned them 🙂Posted 5 years ago
Excellent advice. A buddy and I nearly killed ourselves through sheer inexperience skiing on one of the small glaciers off the Grands Montets; we were stooging around looking for good snow when we suddenly found ourselves on blue ice, unable to stop ourselves sliding over an ice cliff and into a crevasse which, luckliy, was choked with snow. We both fell about 15 feet and he dislocated his shoulder, which popped back in again a few moments later (old rugby injury). Had we gone in, we’d still be there or out of the bottom by now because nobody knew where we were and we had no equipment.Posted 5 years agophatstanleyMember
yup, overall mountain knowledge is key: route choice, navigation, avi training, emergency readiness (i.e. i pretty much plan/pack to be able to spend at least one night outdoors if the poopoo hits the fan), weather forecasting etc., but i guess it’s different if you’re being guided…
and, you don’t even have to leave the uk to score killer conditions. here is part of a run from a trip to the ben lawers range last friday with a buddy that still puts a smile on me face:Posted 5 years ago
Gents thanks for your feedback. The shovel/probe/transciever is also on the list. The choices were a little less mind boggling so I didn’t want to divert attention from the main course 🙂
I don’t want to come over as a gear freak but I’m asking here as I’m starting from a pretty low knowledge base.
@ Rio. Good to hear. Are there any aspects of your set up you would change if you were buying again?
@ bajsyckel. Do you have any specific recommendations for alternatives please?
@ Globalti. I’ll have a gander at the Bandits thank you. I was planning on stopping at Au Vieux Campeur in Albertville en route just a bit concerned about their stock levels…
@ Davetrave. Thanks for the tip. Boots might be a bit big for me mind, I’m more 27 assuming standard sizing.
Thanks for the av/training/safety reminders. I don’t want to sound cocky but I come from a mountaineering background so already have some Alpine/big mountain experience. I’ll be asking the guide to do some av/beacon training as this is new to me.
Thanks for our help. Any more tips/tricks/info gratefully received.Posted 5 years ago
I go up something most weeks through the winter though this year I’ve mainly stayed in the areas made safe as it’s been risk 4 or more much of the time. I do the odd race and favour light kit although not superlight as my feet don’t like thermoformable inners.
My favourite non-race skis are old Atomic Tour Guides which are easy through almost any snow except crusted. Madame likes skis that don’t sink too much so now has Elan Alaskas which have transformed her ability to get down yucky, claggy, lumpy sludge.
On a good day I can still climb at over 1000m/hr but I’m more and more careful on the way down as I’d like my ageing knees to last a few years yet.Posted 5 years agobeicmynyddMember
A good rucksack is worth having, found it hard at first to make turns as my pack was swinging round and acting like a pendulum ok on good snow but a pain on crud etc. straps on the side are useful also to carry the skis.
good fun and you get to ski and see places you would normally never go. got stuck for three days once in a small bivoac hut under the brigthorn and above chervinia so be prepared for the worst!Posted 5 years ago
A bit of context would help on the gear front – Is this a dedicated touring set-up or are you planning to spend days hammering the pistes as well with it?
Surprised you find the choice of avy beacon less confusing to be honest 😀
Tech binding wise Dynafit are the market leader but an alternative is made by G3 (Canadian). If you’re skiing in Europe though I’d stick with Dynafit as most shops will recognize them. I have the vertical which is the slightly older; cheaper version and it does fine for me. As bajsyckel states – people ski some amazing stuff on Dynafit so fine for us mere mortals.
Pros for the vertical:
Heel rotation using ski pole means with practice you can de-skin without taking the skis off without doing limbo
I prefer the way of activating the heel risers on the vertical
Pros for the radical:
Front toe piece is easier to clip into
Doesn’t autorotate to ski mode (doesn’t happen a lot anyway though)
If your going to the Alps later in the season (which it sounds like you might be) then ski crampons might be worth getting at the same time. Does make early morning ski tracks on sun baked slopes much nicer.Posted 5 years ago
A word of warning about the latest Dynafit Speed Radical binding with the flip over calle de montée. Our team mate has them and when traversing the pressure of the boot heel on the cale make it turn to the descent position – minutes lost because you have to take the ski off to return to the climbing position. He’s not the only one to have problems – I specified the old model on my latest skis.Posted 5 years ago
Context? 70% touring/30% freeride/off piste. I already have downhill stuff for on piste skiing. The kit I’m looking for is light but not stupidly so as I want to maintain the freeride capability. I think the balance is about right but would welcome any feedback.
Thanks for the tip Edukator.Posted 5 years ago
If I was changing anything it would probably be the bindings. Main problems with the Verticals are the tendency for the rear binding to rotate (bit of a nuisance if it just reduces the lift but a real faff if it locks down when you don’t want it to) and on some versions the weak mounting for the harscheisen which can crack and leave you in a potential mess if the only way out is an icy climb. Happened to a friend of mine recently, luckily we were able to ski out. I wouldn’t go for one of the newer minimalist bindings for general touring though; those Radicals look good and fit for purpose.
The skis I find are fine; anything lighter will be delicate, anything wider gives more potential descending but don’t underestimate the difficulties of following a track that’s been broken on narrow touring skis if you’re wearing planks.
Boots as I said are excellent, but I’d like to try the stiffer version to see if it’s as comfortable.
I guess you’ll learn about the other equipment issues – safety stuff covered above but skinning in sunshine is a seriously hot and sweaty activity so layering and vents are essential, as is some means of hydration, head sun protection (buff with a peak is excellent) and thin gloves for when it’s really hot – I use fleece linings in a Goretex shell; when it’s too hot the shell comes off. If you’re buying new poles get some with grips most of the way down – you’ll spend a lot of time holding one of them half way up. Skins – you can get custom ones for the Waybacks, I use generic Koler ones from Sport Conrad that will also fit my downhill skis at a pinch (Scott Punishers with Marker Barons). If you progress to hut-to-hut tours there’s a whole lot of other advice but it sounds as though you’ll be on day tours to start with.
Edit: Just seen Edukator’s post about the Radicals; maybe there’s no such thing as a perfect tech binding! Don’t these people try these things before they market them?Posted 5 years ago
@Rio. My first tour is hut to hut.
As above, I’m used to using the huts in the Alps from previous climbing trips so the whole making progress in an Alpine environment thing is a known quantity. What else do I need to know from a ski touring perspective please?
Now a length question…. I’m 1.80m/80kg and ski ~165’s downhill. I was going to go for about ~180’s for the touring ski’s, that’s about right isn’t it?Posted 5 years ago
There is an argument that says my downhill skis are too long! I’ve tried touring on 170s and they were great for climbing on well-packed trails being maneuverable and lighter but they have more tendency to sink in softer snow, and having the cut trail collapse under you makes climbing hard work both for you and anyone following, hence I’m happy with the longer skis which also have benefits descending. I guess there’s a degree of personal preference though.Posted 5 years ago
183cm height; weigh 75kg plus kit; ski on a set of 177cm G3 Saints and wouldn’t want to go any longer.
Doing kick-turns on the ascent with long skis is an acquired skill which I don’t yet have.
Also (in the Rockies) you often start / finish down summer footpaths through the trees. These are known as luge runs for good reason and a shorter ski is more maneuverable.
Rio + 1 on the poles with grips down the shaft; very beneficial for traversing steep slopes.
Edukator – Respect for 1000m/hour!! 😯 I’m happy if I’m doing 500m but I’ll console myself that it’s often in knee deep blower powder 8)Posted 5 years ago
Long skis can be a pain doing conversions on steep ground. Overly parabolic skis can be frightening when traversing verglas as the ends twist and the middle boings without touching so there’s very little grip. Even if you like wide skis avoid getting too short a radius.
For the variety of snow I’ve skied on in Europe I’ve found a ski with a radius of between 17m and 25m, and 10 or 20cm shorter than a giant slalom race ski suits me. When my son was 14 his giant slalom race skis were almost exactly the same shape as my favourite rando skis – but three or four times the weight.
Cut skins short and shave the last cm with a razor so they don’t come unstuck. Put your couteaux on (or proper front-pointing crampons) before you start slipping around as I spent two months visiting a friend in hospital after he slipped doing a conversion and went over a couple of cliffs.Posted 5 years ago
OP – re specific recommendations, I’m not a gear freak and don’t change my stuff year on year so am happy skiing anything really. All I meant what you suggest would be more than enough down and up for a good skier. Most will be fine with lighter/cheaper options, unless you are a heavy skier and fancy yourself as the next Seth Morrison, incessantly charging huge drops etc, in which case you might benefit from going stiffer/bigger/heavier. From trying others’ gear and my own there’s doesn’t seem much bad new stuff around so it’s really down to preferences – which you won’t know for a while but can make a good guess based on what you currently do downhill at least.
Re length of skis, like others I’d go a little shorter than you suggest but its totally down to preferences. For reasons given by others above, reasonably straight and not massively wide too. Other than reasons given above, for me the logic is that I’m skiing mostly in the UK where big skis aren’t always best. I also prefer shorter skis on my back when inevitably ending up in silly situations, and I feel like for steep gullies (or anything narrow, trees – not often in the UK) that they are a bit easier to handle for someone of my abilities. Having said that if I was living on Hokkaido or in some shack in BC where it dumps feet of fresh for 6 months of the year then I’d go for a massive swallowtailed thing…Posted 5 years ago
One practical or housekeeping note: if the huts you use are anything like the ones I’ve used, there will be nowhere for washing. This means you’ll be using the bog then eating with unwashed hands; on the Haute Route I suffered with steadily worsening diarrhoea, which made me feel increasingly weak and was unwelcome on the final day when we had three cols and three glaciers to cross. Some antiseptic wet wipes would have solved that problem and it would have been nice to have a refreshing face wash every evening as we got quite sweaty during the days. Thin gloves are a must and if you buy a base layer, choose a white one because the traditional Helly top in dark blue soaks up a lot of heat from the sun when you’re skinning up in a snow bowl in hot sunshine.
Sun block (100%) for your nose, lipsalve with sunblock, sun hat and very dark glasses are also vital.
What I remember from the Haute route is not the skiing, which was fairly easy, but the psychological difficulty of the diarrhoea, lack of sleep and living in stinking clothes! If the weather had been bad or I’d suffered with blisters or an injury, that would have finished me.Posted 5 years ago
Thanks Gents. Yes, being in the Alps is a bit of an acquired taste. The huts are usually very basic. As you say, no facilities and either a chemical loo, a fetid pile to add to or a draughty long drop down the side of whatever crag the hut is on. I must have climbed in the Alps probably two dozen times and the scrap to get out onto your route is still a pleasure to behold….Posted 5 years ago
Well just to update this with the ‘after’ stuff.
Just returned from a 4 day hut to hut tour around Val d’Isere with a Guide and two chums. I’ve been climbing in the Alps many, many times and this was the first Guided trip for me.
Each day we skinned about a 1000m of vertical ascent and skied another 1000m of descent. Weather and snow conditions were absolutely shite. Very warm with strong southerly winds, very poor viz with flat light, wet cement to ski and very high avalanche risk….
I bought boots (Scarpa Maestrale RS’s) before I went and picked up skis (Scott Cruise Airs), bindings (Dynafit Verticals), skins, poles, ski crampons and touring specific crampons/ice axe over there. I also picked up a decent transceiver/probe/shovel package a well. Prices are much cheaper than the UK especially in Albertville but choice was a bit restricted right at the end of the season.
Despite crap conditions, I’m really up for it again next year as I see it as a natural development to my piste skiing which is getting a bit routine. I’m going to concentrate on improving off piste as this is not something I’ve spent a great deal of time working on in the past.Posted 4 years agomugsys_m8Subscriber
Great stuff. Love ski touring but in reality of it done very little:several 4000m peak trips and quite a few day hits from here in Grenoble. Off to do the dome des écrins on the 14th and might pop up the barre on foot if time allows. Got some brand new waybacks and plum guides sitting in the garage.Posted 4 years ago
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