Published the 20 January 2016
In the second of these articles devoted to ski touring, today we’re going to focus on skis and bindings. Weight, length… all your questions will be answered!
As we saw in our article on getting started with ski touring, the weight of your equipment is very important. Touring skis are made differently to Alpine skis and so the criteria for choosing them is also different.
To select the right skis, first of all you need to know which type of ski touring you’re interested in.
If you want to be able to go everywhere throughout the season, you need to opt for skis that suit all snow conditions, are light enough for climbing and secure yet fun on descents.
All manufacturers now offer multi-purpose touring skis which, thanks to the use of lightweight wood and composite centres, are lightweight (around 2.5kg a pair) and easy to ski with.
With decks around 80 to 90mm in width, these skis also guarantee good movement on fresh snow. As a bonus, the arrival of Rocker tip technology a few years ago improved gliding on powder snow while making it easier to carve into a turn.
I recommend that you choose skis up to approximately 5cm shorter than your actual height, which will make it easier to perform kick-turns and to cross difficult terrains (forests, narrow paths…)
Examples of multi-purpose touring skis: Atomic Backland 85, Dynafit Baltoro, Black Crows Ova Freebird, Trab Maximo...
To complete your touring skis, opt for insert bindings, also known as low-tech (LT) bindings, which are the lightest on the market. If you can afford them, go for the latest generation of insert bindings such as the Marker Kingpin, Diamir Vipec 12 or Dynafit Radical ST 2.0. Every bit as lightweight, they are safer should you fall thanks to their improved trigger mechanism system.
However, you should note that low-tech bindings require compatible ski boots. All recent boots now come equipped with inserts, but it’s something you need to be aware of when buying new equipment.
Racing / Fitness
Are you an experienced runner or road cyclist? Do you love pushing your limits and getting a big burst of endorphins? Then this is the equipment for you!
They’re the lightest skis on the market and are often used in competitions. Real engineering treasures, they use the best materials and most up-to-date expertise.
Carbon usage is taken to its highest extreme here, with certain pairs of skis weighing under 1.5kg, such as the famous Dynafit DNA or Trab Gara Lirace. Obviously, these skis are fragile and require meticulous maintenance to maintain their performance level.
They’re also very slim skis, with classic camber and decks that are less than 70mm in width.
They’re reserved for use by strong skiers because they’re so lightweight, rigid and made from unusual materials, making descents somewhat demanding and they often take some getting used to…! Competitors go for ski lengths around 10 cm to 20 cm shorter than their actual height and every gram counts.
If you’re taking more of a fitness approach, you can still find skis that are a bit less extreme than racing models but which still maintain a high performance level.
Choose a ski that weighs between 2kg and 2.5kg per pair with a deck width of somewhere between 72 and 80mm. In terms of length, opt for skis up to around 10 cm shorter than your actual height.
Example fitness skis: Trab Maestro, Atomic Ultimate 78, Dynafit Carbonio 74
To maintain their performance, these skis must be used with very lightweight bindings. Most competitors choose to forgo stop-skis and any non-essentials. The following, for example, are binding models that weigh in somewhere around just 100g: Dynafit Low Tech Race 2.0, Plum Race 99…
Finally, with this range, every gram counts so pay close attention to what you’re buying… even if sometimes, your excitement takes over!
A massive trend over the last few years, say goodbye to lugging heavy equipment around in search of a remote off-piste itinerary. In just a few minutes, you can now make your mark far off the beaten track without sacrificing descent performance.
These lightweight skis offer optimal lift and stability.
I say “lightweight” because with a deck width of 100mm (or even more), you don’t need to wait for a miracle solution or keep to the mind-set that you need to set off on long treks or hikes with limited vertical drops.
In the “freeride/freerando” category, I recommend that you choose skis up to 10cm shorter than your actual height.
Example freerando skis: Black Diamond Carbon Megawatt, Blizzard Zero G108, Dynafit Chugach
I recommend that you use robust bindings with this kind of ski. To cope with jumping over raised terrain and difficult handling, it’s better to be able to rely on top of the range bindings. For a few seasons now, manufacturers have been making dedicated equipment: Dynafit Beast, Plum Yak...
That’s the end of this little buyer’s guide, remember that this advice should all be adapted to suit the individual skier; a lightweight skier may prefer skis that are a bit shorter than recommended here. Also think about asking a professional for help and hiring before you buy if you can’t decide.
I hope this has helped you to find a pair of skis to suit you this season and that you’ll come back to post your ski touring photos in the comments section.