A Beginner's Guide to Ski Touring

Customer 9 Feb, 2021 · 12 min read

If there’s one positive outcome of this closed ski resorts winter season, it’s the comeback of great alternative activities to skiing. The closure of ski lifts isn’t enough to stop us from being out on the mountains and neither should it stop you. 

Over the last month, many of you have asked for ski touring lessons with the instructors on Maison Sport, which they were happy to give. For those of you who don’t know what ski touring is but are still yearning to get out on the mountains in any way possible, we have put together a beginner’s guide to ski touring in order to get you started and ready to book your instructor.

Ski Touring

What is Ski Touring?

If this is your first time reading about ski touring, don’t let it intimidate you, it can be quite fun, exciting, and not as difficult as it may seem, but let’s start with what ski touring actually is. Ski touring involves going up a mountain without the use of ski-lifts but instead with special gear which you will read about later, once you get to the top of the mountain you then ski as you would usually downhill. The best comparison we can give is hiking, ski touring is basically hiking on a snowy mountain with skis on instead of shoes. 

Ski touring has been, for many people, an escape from the crowded ski slopes and a way to discover new paths with untouched snow, but more recently, and this year especially, ski touring has become the go-to sport as an alternative to your regular ski day. Many ski resorts have their ski lifts shut down due to Covid, but fortunately, they can’t close off the mountains, so many people are turning to ski touring as a way to still enjoy a few downhill runs this season. 

How Difficult is Ski Touring?

We are not going to lie to you, ski touring can be challenging, but not at all impossible, it mostly depends on the uphill path you will be taking. When most people hear they will be going uphill with skis on, they panic, how is that going to be possible right? Well, the first thing you must know is that you will have skins for your skis, these are a specific type of fabric attached to the bottom of your skis that provide friction in order to prevent you from sliding backward when you are going uphill which is definitely essential. 

Your skis will also be a little different from the skis you usually use for downhill runs. Ski touring skis have a different binding, called touring binding, that allows your ski boot, which should also be a touring boot, to detach from the back and remain attached from the front in order for you to lift your heel when going uphill, making it easier to walk and more practical. To better understand just imagine the movements you will be doing, your skis will not have to be lifted from the ground, you will slide them forward, lifting your heel, and pushing from the front of your feet in order to advance.

All in all, it is not that hard, it really depends on the path you will be on and how steep that will be. If you’re a beginner make sure you ask your guide to take you on an easier path the first time so you can get the feel of it without committing to a three-hour hike. Although, we’re sure you will enjoy it because you get to discover a whole part of the mountain you probably didn’t know.

Tips For Ski Touring 

Enjoy Your Surroundings: The great thing about ski touring is actually the uphill hike because ski touring originates from off-piste skiing, on the way up you also walk off-piste in wonderful paths many times in the middle of nature, parts of the mountain which you might have never known about if it wasn’t because of ski touring. So pay special attention to your surroundings when going uphill because we are sure there are some sights you will not want to miss out on. 

Layer Up: When going ski touring it is better to use the layers when dressing, this is because you will undoubtedly get hot while you’re touring uphill, but remember sooner or later you’ll have to come down again and that descent can get chilly. We recommend wearing many but thin layers in order to store them easily and not have them weigh too much. 

Steady Pace: There is no rush to get to the top, the best part will be the path to get there, so don’t try to rush it. Keep a steady pace, stop when you feel the need to, take a breath, enjoy the view, have a drink of water, and then keep going. Make sure you let your group know when you are stopping they’ll probably love to have a break too, or at least they’ll know where you are. 

Have a Guide: If you are new to ski touring it is always better to have a guide to accompany you the first few times. Most of the ski instructors are also qualified to take clients ski touring, this is better because not only will you have somebody who knows the ropes the first time you are embarking on this new sport, but they can show you the best paths and the most amazing views there are, which let’s face it, would look great on your Instagram.

Safety Measures: You always have to be careful when out on the mountain, but since you will be going off-piste where the terrain can be more unsteady than a prepared ski slope, make sure you are ready for any unexpected event you could encounter. Bring a whistle, to help others in your surroundings locate you easily in case you need help. 

A metal shovel is also a must, it is important that it’s metal because a plastic shovel won’t work in an avalanche situation.  An avalanche probe and transceiver are also a must-have when going ski touring. The probe is a metal pole that allows you to pinpoint the exact location of someone buried under the snow and also understand the depth at which they are, making the rescue mission faster. The transceiver is a device you wear on you which continuously emits a radio signal which is picked up by other transceivers in order to locate somebody easily and quickly. You will find that the shovel along with the probe and transceiver are sold as an avalanche kit because they are absolutely essential and should not be left behind.

In case you want to give ski touring a try on your own, make sure you tell somebody what path you are taking and stick to that path. Of course, it is nice to wander and explore a little bit but stay within your chosen area and make sure others know where to look for you if needed. In addition to this always have a map and compass with you for orientation. 

Equipment Needed 

Making sure you have the right equipment is essential when going ski touring, not only will it make the uphill easier, but it’s also crucial for you to have the correct avalanche equipment with you at all times. Here’s a list of essential equipment to take with you, but always consult with your guide in case you need anything else. 

  • Skis with touring bindings 

  • Boots for ski touring 

  • Skins for your skis 

  • Metal snow shovel 

  • Avalanche probe

  • Avalanche transceiver 

  • Map/Compass 

  • Whistle 

Now that you have everything you needed to start this exciting sport, you are ready to embark on your first ski touring expedition. For now, this is the closest we can get to a normal skiing experience, and let us tell you it’s not bad at all. If you are in a country where ski lifts are closed don’t get discouraged and try something new, most of the instructors on Maison Sport are also qualified to take people ski touring, here are some that have already given ski touring lessons. Click on their picture to check them out! 

To book your ski touring guide just go on Maison Sport select your resort, the dates, and under the lesson tab select skiing, from there just ask your selected instructor if they guide ski touring missions and enjoy. We promise the feeling of reaching the top and the views will be worth it. 

The Maison Sport Instructors are Waiting for You 

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