What is Ski Touring?
A type of skiing which involves hiking up the mountain on specially adapted skis, whereby the heel of your boot is detachable from the ski. This allows you to venture off-piste and away from the crowds of the ski resort. This can be riskier than normal skiing, as ski touring is often done out of bounds.
Ski touring is a form of skiing which takes the sport back to its roots, before the luxury of chairlifts or T-bars could be used. Ski touring involves hiking up the mountain on specially adapted skis, before skiing down as normal. In order to hike up on skis, you must first attach what are known as ’skins’ to the bottom of your skis (a thin layer of material), which miraculously gives you the grip needed to walk up the slope on skis! As well as skins, you will also need special bindings on your skis which detach from the ski at the heel, to allow you to hike up the mountain as if you were walking. If your next question is ‘do I need special boots for ski touring?’ then yes, you are correct in thinking you do. Ski touring boots are made to be compatible with ski touring bindings. They differ from normal ski boots in that they are a bit lighter than normal boots, are more flexible and generally have a sole with a bit more grip on it. As you will spend the majority of your time in the ascent while you are touring, you want to make sure your boots are as comfortable as possible, while still being stiff enough for skiing down in.
Ski touring goes beyond just the instant gratification of an adrenaline-filled race down the mountain as most people enjoy skiing. Rather it is more about the hike up the mountain itself, knowing that you have put in the work to get to the top instead of easily just hopping on a chairlift to take you there. When you reach the summit, what makes the skiing even more enjoyable is the satisfaction of knowing that you have earned every turn you make through beautiful, untouched white powder in the backcountry, because you made the effort to hike up there.
Another significant attraction of ski touring is the ability to get away from the crowds of the main ski resorts. Ski touring allows you to reach areas out of bonds of the main ski area, to find peace and quiet, and get as far away from civilisation as you so desire! Obviously, this comes with it’s risks and dangers, as these areas are not patrolled, and the avalanche risk increases significantly when you ski off-piste. For this reason, it is essential to carry all the necessary avalanche equipment with you any time you are skiing off-piste or away from patrolled areas.
As you might expect, ski touring is a very physical activity and requires a high level of fitness as well as determination. As you could be hiking for hours before you even get your first turn in, I would advise you to have done a few hikes or a bit of hillwalking prior to giving ski touring a go, just to give yourself the best chance of succeeding and enjoying yourself.