Author of article: Dmitry Mikhailov, freeride and ski-tour guide, instructor of «WildGuru» ski-tour school.
In the past few years, most companies producing equipment for mountain skiing have begun to actively promote ski tour. In magazines, websites and various youtube videos you can see happy and carefree people with smiles on their faces heading straight to the top. Naturally, any good skier, who has ever been to the big mountains at least once, tried to, or at least, wanted to try off piste. A single ride in a fluffy powder snow can give you a feeling never to be forgotten. Then suddenly it turns out that there are a lot of such people, but unfortunately, only few easy accessible spots near ski lifts. Then you start licking your lips in anticipation, looking at the surrounding mountains, and thinking of hoisting yourself on some juicy top for the unique descent. Walking through the snowdrifts in the mountain on foot — a very thankless occupation, so this option we set aside immediately. The following simple opportunity to help ourselves is snowshoeing, but let’s leave it to our snowboard brothers, they are attached to them better, and do not require a radical change in their common favorite board for a two-halves splitboard.
Therefore, we begin to approach the appropriate options for our ski fraternity, and I must say we have plenty of them, and we can find a suitable solution under any wishes. That is skitour! It is a comprehensive system of boots, bindings and climbing skins on your favorite skis, which will help you to climb the peak with minimal effort and time. The basis of any set are bindings, exactly them will determine our setup purpose: is it designed for small attacks within the resort bounds, or inclined to aggressive high speed riding with drops or you want long and distant tours with large elevation gain. I have to say that tour adapters for any usual alpine bindings and MDF plates will not be considered, given that they are already obsolete, and now, if desired, at flea markets, you can find different options for adequate cost of the new equipment (older seasons) or used ones.
Skitour in the resort area
Let’s start with the most simple option — heavy, sturdy and reliable mount for ski touring based on the plate Tyrolia Adrenalin, Salomon Guardian, Marker Duke, Baron. This are heavy enough mounting options, which will suit absolutely any shoes (in case of ordinary boot just release the top clips, it turns out to be quite bearable). This option is ideal for small approaches within the resort to climb to the top, to roll back into the valley and back to the lift. (In Gudauri a perfect example is Mount Chrdili). Despite the fact that ordinary shoes will go well for small approaches in the resort and its near surroundings, I recommend to use special touring boots (with ski/walk switch) for longer routes, in the long-term conditions the difference in comfort is significant.
The main advantages of this setup:
- reliability of the design as a whole – bindings are suitable for aggressive and / or heavy riders with good technique;
- release system operation in case of crash is absolutely the same as in usual alpine binding;
- the relative cheapness.
Well, now for the cons:
- all pieces of equipment are massive: the weight of skis + boots + mounting is almost always more than 10 kg. In short runs within the resort it does not matter much, but long walks will become quite tiresome;
- opening angle of usual alpine boot is small, and, again, it is substantial during long tours;
- snow clogs actively between the binding base and the ski during touring, and must be very carefully cleaned out before the descent.
- I’d add that my first time ski tour was in Chile in alpine boots 130 stiffness and Salomon Guardian bindings. At that time, it was a delight, but soon I realized that it is not the best option for my goals.
The ‘compromise’ freeride
The second option — a lightweight version of plate bindings Fritschi Diamir Freeride Pro (and more low-end models), Marker Tour and similar.
onceptually there is no difference from the previous group: the same plate, and the principle of operation is similar. But why do they stand alone? Main object is the weight of a pair of bindings is up to 2 kg, but this quite good weight loss has reverse moments — a reduction in reliability. Many parts are made of plastic instead of metal. If you ride safely and accurately without extra regular multimeter drops, aggressive turns, then this option would be enough for you (especially for low weight skiers). Set assembled on these bindings must be significantly lighter — focus on the weight less than 8 kg. Setup will focus more on the walk than active skating within the resort. Accordingly, you should look for lighter skis and boots specialized for ski tour. This setup is quite accessible and easy to acquire.
Fast & Light
Well, the most advanced and lightweight layout on Tech bindings.. Now they have a fairly wide range in the market, the most famous, and convenient options are: Dynafit Tlt Radical, G3 ion, Marker Kingpin, Diamir Vipec.
Weight loss is huge. Given that you will need special boots (your usual ones will not fit uder any circumstances), you can get the difference of more than 3 kilos. Accordingly walking in all of this is times nicer and easier: the snow will not clog, easy to adjust the heel, during the motion you do not have to lift a heavy plate. Nevertheless, there is a downside — it’s reliability and safety. These factors discourage many people, which is not surprising – it took myself several years to gather the courage to complete a set. Now I can say one thing: you should not be afraid of the latest generation of Mounts are made taking into account many of the mistakes of earlier models, resulting in becoming much stronger and safer. Of course, it is not necessary to perform wild-drops with hard landings or to try to do downhill on noisy powder, but for moderately aggressive skiing in soft snow or slipping neatly into a steep icy couloir modern Pintech-bindings are well suited. Separately it is necessary to notice that such a standard is also used for the Ski-Runing. Their bindings are way to light and not suitable for any normal ride.
In general, it is all that is worth knowing about the current gear for ski touring. If you have any questions — write them in the comments, I will answer with pleasure. And of course I wish you unforgettable ski tour travel!
View the article about splitboard equipment