Choosing ski gear

Ski gear should suit its use. Just as hiking boots are more robust than walking shoes, the skis, boots, bindings and poles that are best for cross-country ski touring in the mountains are more robust than those often used for skiing on prepared trails at cross-country ski areas.
Consider your needs in choosing gear, particularly when buying new items. For cross-country ski touring in untracked mountain snow, you will need wider skis, more stable boots and bindings and stronger ski poles with larager baskets than you might choose for skiing the groomed trails of a cross-country ski area.

Touring skis

Today, there are numerous names for ski types, often differing by manufacturer. By their generic names, the two principal categories are light touring skis and touring skis. Light touring skis are narrower than touring skis and often have no steel edgees og steel edges only on the midsections of their bases. They all have a good wax pocket and a slight sidecut. If you ski mostly at cross-country ski areas or in prepared tracks and occasionally go on tours in untracked mountain snow, light touring skis may be your best choice.

Touring skis are more robust and withstand rougher treatment. They are broad enough for skiing in untracked snow and have a more pronounced sidecut for better tracking and carving of turns. Most touring skis have full-length or somewhat shorter steel edges, but some models have no steel edges. Recommended touring ski characteristics:

  • Waist width should be 50 - 58 mm, for support in loose snow and to tolerate hard use. The broader the ski, the more weight it can support on snow. But broader skis are heavier and may be more difficult to bank. But there are special skis designed for skiing in untracked snow.
  • Sidecut improves tracking and turning. The sidecut of a touring ski should be 10 mm or more. A large sidecut and a broad waist width promote turning and tracking in loose snow.
  • Steel edges afford control on hard, icy snow. Full-length steel edges are best, but partial-length steel edges also are useful. Some touring skis are fitted with reinforced plastic instead of steel edges. If you ski tour with a dog, you may prefer plastic edges, to avoid injuring the dog's paws.
  • Camber should suit your body weight and ski technique. As a rule of thumb, stiffer cambers are better suited for heavier persons, for skilled cross-country skiers with powerful kicks and for those who ski on hard snow and for those who carry a heavy oack. Softer cambers are better suited for lighter persons and for skiers with less powerful kicks. A ski shop can help you choose a pair of skis that best suits your weight and ski technique.
  • Length should be slightly less than you would choose for a ski used on prepared tracks at a cross-country ski area. Longer skis have larger base areas, but are more difficult to turn. If you are heavily built, you nonetheless may choose a slightly longer ski.
Boots and bindings

Skis, boots and bindings work together. Broader touring skis work best with robust boots and strong bindings. Our recommendations are:

  • Boots should be broad and stable. They must be laterally stable to resist sideways twist and be high enough to provide ankle support. These characteristics are particularly important for tracking and turning in loose and untracked snows.
  • Moreover, in addition to providing support, boots should fit and not chafe your feet and be roomy, so you can wear an extra pair of socks for warmth.
  • Boots are made to fit various binding systems, so when you choose boots, you must choose the corresponding bindings. The traditional 75 mm Nordic Norm binding is the strongest and torsionally stiffest binding, so it's well suited for skiing untracked snows. If you want a lighter but nonetheless strong touring binding, choose the Back Country (BC) models in the New Nordic Norm (NNN) or Salomon Nordic System (SNS) systems.
Choosing poles

Poles for mountain ski touring must be more robust than those suited for skiing in prepared tracks at cross-country ski areas. Recommended touring pole characteristics:

  • Baskets should be broad, so they don't sink in deep snow.
  • Straps should be made of leather or nylon webbing to withstand wear, while grips should be of cork or leather for comfort and insulation.
  • Shafts should be made of tubing that tolerates rough use. Aluminium-alloy shafts are stronger than fibreglass or composite-material shafts.
  • Touring ski poles can be slightly shorter than ordinary cross-country ski poles. A length to just under your armpit is best.