Ski Touring part 1: skis
Ski touring is on the rise. That’s a silly joke, since the essence of ski touring is that you go up the mountain without using the lift. On muscle strength and with the help of climbing sheets, so that the skis have a grip on the way up.
But this form of moving on skis is growing considerably. In the Alps, more and more locals are choosing to leave the massiveness of the ski areas and to seek the tranquility of the valleys where tourists don’t go. A lot of skiing is also done as a workout.
There are different goals for ski touring. I have already mentioned the workout. Here the focus is mainly on the physical exertion and serenity or trance of raising the skins (“skins” means walking up with skins under the skis). That can be short trips, even in a ski area. But this is also possible in multi-day trips, where people spend the night in cabins for example. For both variants, the center of gravity is on moving up or horizontally on skis and skins. And so much less on skiing the descent.
On the other hand, the descent is central again for the off-piste skiers. Down through the fresh, virgin powder! To get to that fresh powder, you have to go a bit further away from the lifts in the ski areas, or even to slopes where there are no ski lifts at all. They then fall up with the aim of making a nice powder descent. It is therefore specifically ski touring to descend off-piste. This form of ski touring is also called “free touring” (a contraction of “freeride” and “touring”)
Different types of skis
For ski touring you always need: skis, climbing sheets and a binding that allows you to both walk and descend. Other articles follow about skins, bindings and about the different types of ski boots that are available for ski touring. Now let’s concentrate on the skis.
If the way up is central, or the long duration of, for example, a “transalp” hut tour, the efficiency in felling and weight is the most important consideration. With every step you take, you drag a shoe, binding, ski and skin over the snow. Usually up. So saving weight saves a lot of energy. And since the way up in this case is more important than the descent, the concessions you make if you opt for a super light ski are acceptable.
Every mainstream brand now produces specific touring skis. The most important characteristic of these skis is that they are light. Light construction, light materials, not too wide either, little rocker (and therefore a larger grip surface for folding up) and only the essentials. Often metal reinforcements (for damping and rebound) are not present in the ski. In many cases, that means light, but fairly soft skis. In heavier, wetter snow that means often some loss of stability and strength. But they are light. And that’s what matters. The way up is important here, the descent is secondary.
De Zero G toerski’s van Blizzard voor seizoen 2019-2020
With free touring it is exactly the other way around: the (powder) descent is central. The ski must therefore have good qualities for skiing. The way up is less decisive, and therefore saving weight is less important. Often a ‘normal’ freeride ski is chosen. Sidewall, metal in it – everything is allowed. In fact, they often provide the desired ski properties, even when the snow is uneven, wasted or heavy. It may not be advisable to choose the toughest models (which means that the way up takes more energy – you don’t want to be exhausted even before you start that sometimes tough descent). The “light” freeride ski is a solution here.
What is light?
Light is of course subjective. To give an indication of what these categories of skis are now, I use the Austrian brand Blizzard. At Blizzard, for example, these are the models that it is about (based on the 2019-2020 line-up, approximate weights):
Blizzard Zero G 95 – the specific touring ski of 95 mm under the foot. No metal in the ski, but a full sidewall. ~ 1300 grams per ski @ 185 cm.
Blizzard Rustler 10 – the “light” freeride ski of 104 mm below the foot. One layer of metal in the ski (trimmed at the ends), full sidewall. ~ 1800 grams per ski @ 188 cm.
Blizzard Cochise – the “heavy, sturdy” 108-mm freeride ski. Two layers of metal over the entire ski, full sidewall. ~ 2280 grams per ski @ 185 cm.
I would recommend the Zero G to the pure tourer or hut tent customer. I would recommend the Freetouring enthusiast for the Rustler 10 and I would suggest the Cochise for the “lift access” freerider (and the addition to not want to skate with that ski at all). So there is – with most brands – a choice. A suitable ski can be found for every kind of tourer or freerider.
Finally, some simple criteria that are often used:
Tours and excursions (ascent> descending): low weight (max 1500 grams per ski), small width (max 100 mm), as little rocker as possible
Free tour (descending> ascending): not too heavy (max 2000 grams per ski), but stable enough. Wide enough for real float, can also have some tail-rocker for in deeper snow
Lift access freeride (lowering only): weight is not a consideration; no further restrictions.
KIJK OOK OP: GIGISKI