Ski touring

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Skiers in western Norway.

Ski touring is a form of skiing where both uphill and downhill travel are possible without needing to remove skis.[1] Typically touring is done off-piste and outside of ski resorts. Tours can often extend over a period of more than one day. Typically, skis, bindings, and boots allow for free movement of the heel to enable a walking pace, as in Nordic, and unlike in alpine skiing. While ski mountaineering can be practised recreationally or as a competitive sport,[2] touring is always recreational.

Ski touring and ski mountaineering have grown in popularity. It has been adopted by skiers looking for new snow, by alpinists, and by those seeking to avoid the high costs of traditional alpine skiing at resorts.[3]

Touring involves independently navigating and route finding through potential avalanche terrain, and often requires familiarity with meteorology along with skiing skills. Ski touring can also be faster and easier than summer hiking in some terrain allowing for traverses and ascents that would be harder in the summer. Skis can also be used to access backcountry alpine climbing routes when snow is off the technical route, but still covers the hiking trail.


The sport's pioneers include:


As the slope angles increase, the climbing ski-tourer will make switchbacks, using kick turns to change direction, typically resulting in a line that climbs at a moderate angle of 20-30 degrees. Skin tracks can be seen as zig-zags heading up a snowy mountain. Ski-tourers try to maintain the up-tracks in avalanche-safe zones as they head up the mountain, staying out from under dangerous cornices or slide paths. Setting a proper and safe skin track requires a great deal of skill and avalanche knowledge as the tourer spends most of their time climbing. Traveling quickly up the hill is important for safety as well. Thus physical fitness is one of the most important elements of safe mountain travel in potential avalanche terrain.

Ski touring requires the ability to ski off-piste, good navigation skills, and good awareness of the risks of the mountain environment in winter. In particular it requires the knowledge to assess and test snow conditions to minimise the risk of avalanche.


Alpine touring ski boot, binding, and ski crampon
  • Avalanche rescue equipment.
  • Going uphill or across a flat also requires grip, so that the ski will glide forward but not slide backwards when weighted. Dedicated cross-country touring skis may have a fish-scale pattern engraved into the base of the ski to enable the ski to grip, but most types of ski require the use of sticky wax or climbing skins for their smooth surface to grip.
  • If the snow is particularly icy or the skin track very steep, then the ski tourer may choose to attach ski crampons, sometimes called Harscheisen (German), couteau (French), or rampant (Italian). Crampons are like knives that cut deeper into the snow.

Styles of equipment:

  • Nordic ski touring is skiing with bindings that leave the heels free all the time. Thus, Nordic skiers do not have to change back and forth between uphill and downhill modes, which can be advantageous in rolling terrain. At the lighter, simpler end of the scale, Nordic skis may be narrow and edgeless cross-country types for groomed trails or ideal snow conditions, used with boots that resemble soft shoes or low boots.
  • Backcountry Nordic: heavier than a traditional Nordic setup, but not as big and heavy as a full Telemark setup.
  • At the heavier end of the Nordic skiing equipment spectrum lie Telemark skis for steep backcountry terrain or ski-area use.
  • Alpine Touring (AT) or randonnée equipment is specifically designed for ski touring in steep terrain. A special alpine touring binding is used that allows the heel to be clipped down for more support when skiing downhill, and allows it to be released to swing resistance-free from the toe when climbing.
  • Alpine skiing equipment can be used for ski touring with the addition of a removable binding insert that allows for free heel swing on ascents.

Ski Touring Regions[edit]

Spring ski touring on Hardangervidda, Norway

Ski touring can take place anywhere that has suitable snow and terrain. Some examples include

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A Complete Guide to Alpine Ski Touring Ski Mountaineering and Nordic Ski Touring Including Useful Information for Off Piste Skiers and Snow Boarders. Authorhouse. 2014. p. xvii. ISBN 978-1491888087. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  2. ^ Volken, Martin; Schell, Scott; Wheeler, Margaret (2007). Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering. Outdoor Expert Series. The Mountaineers Books. p. 339. ISBN 1594850380. 
  3. ^ Volken, Martin; Schnell, Scott; Wheeler, Margaret (2007). Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering. Mountaineers Books. p. 12. ISBN 978-1594850387. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  4. ^ "Ski Touring". Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  5. ^ "Ski Touring in Rogers Pass and The Winter Permit System". Parks Canada. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  6. ^ "The Wapta Traverse". Yamnuska. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  7. ^ "Backcountry Skiing". Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  8. ^ "Backcountry Huts". Ski Golden. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  9. ^ "Kananaskis Country". Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  10. ^ "Backcountry Ski Huts". Parks Canada. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  11. ^ "Online guide to backcountry skiing on Teton Pass". Retrieved 2010-04-09. 
  12. ^ "Online guide to backcountry skiing on Loveland Pass". Retrieved 2010-04-09. 
  13. ^ "Online guide to backcountry skiing on Berthoud Pass". Retrieved 2010-04-09. 
  14. ^ "Ski Touring New Zealand". Retrieved 28 September 2015. 

External links[edit]