A summary of the technical equipment and clothing required for our Intro to Ski Touring courses in the Alps. Ski touring involves a reasonable effort in the ascent, sometimes in warm spring weather and others in cold, windy conditions so having the right equipment and adaptable clothing will make your experience much better.
Keeping things as light as possible is also good, this goes for your rucksack and clothing, avoiding packing unnecessary items, and having heavy, insulated clothing as it is usually too warm for ski touring.
Ski & Technical Equipment
Skis – for ski touring you need to have a freeride/touring ski that is not too heavy; a really light-weight ski will come with some costs to performance on the descents and are only recommended for very good off-piste skiers. We normally recommend skis for touring which have an underfoot width of around 85-97mm.
We recommend Dynastar skis and Black Crows skis who both offer some excellent touring and freeride skis that are both versatile and lightweight. A good example of a suitable ski is the Dynastar M-Tour 87
Ski Touring Bindings – You need to have ski touring bindings on your skis for any ski touring trip. Many more people are seeing the advantage of the “pin” binding system now offered by a number of manufactures; they are light and offer ever improving security despite their minimalist looks! Dynafit, Marker, Salomon, G3 and others all offer a Pin system binding and most touring boots and hybrid freeride boots now have Pin inserts in them so are compatible with this binding system.
Please make sure you are familiar with the workings of the bindings as we cannot guarantee to know the details of all new bindings and their use.
Ski Touring Boots – You must have ski touring boots for this trip and walking uphill is much more comfortable in these boots with a walk mode and greater flex; a dedicated touring boot or a hybrid freeride boot is ideal. An example is Scarpa’s Maestrale Touring Boot. There are many manufacturers to choose from, the most essential part of any ski boot purchase is that the boot fits your foot correctly and is suitable for the task for which you intend to use it for. Visiting a reputable boot fitter is your best way forward to get the correct boot. If you intend on buying boots in the UK we recommend you contact Profeet, Backcountry UK and Lockwoods to discuss what you are looking for and make an appointment with one of their boot fitters.
Ski Poles – Ski poles should have wide baskets for powder snow.
Ski Skins – these are skins that are made of either mohair or artificial fiber, they stick to the bottom of your skis and allow you to walk uphill. They must be cut to fit your skis exactly, so if you are bringing your own skis you must provide your own skins; it is not possible to hire skins only.
Ski Crampons – Ski crampons or Couteaux, most ski touring bindings have ski crampons specifically designed for the binding. Again, if you are bringing your skis and touring bindings you must provide your own ski crampons.
Harness – a simple lightweight harness. The key feature is that it should have fully adjustable leg loops for putting on over ski boots, crampons, etc. Petzl Altitude harness is a perfect ski touring harness. If you do not have one we will lend you one for any glacier skiing.
Rucksack – Ideally a ski-specific rucksack is better than using a trekking or climbing pack. It should be around 30 liters in size, any bigger and it’s too big! It should have attachment points to carry your skis on your pack, either diagonally or one on either side of the pack. Ideally, the pack should un-zip around the sides of the pack (as opposed to a top opening), this enables you to reach items towards the bottom of the pack without having to get all your kit out! A separate avalanche shovel/handle/probe pocket, helmet carry system and an ice axe attachment point are key features. The Mammut Nirvana 30 is an ideal backpack for ski touring.
Avalanche Transceiver – a modern digital avalanche transceiver e.g. the Mammut Barryvox
Avalanche Shovel – A metal (not plastic) shovel which is lightweight and compact e.g. Mammut Alugator Light
Avalanche Probe – A telescopic probe, aluminum, lightweight minimum 240cm long e.g. Mammut Probe 240
Ski Helmet – We strongly advise you to wear a helmet while skiing, it is not however mandatory. If you plan to bring one, ensure you can safely attach it to your rucksack while you are ski touring up, you will get very hot & sweaty if you have to wear it!
If you do not have these 3 items then you can hire them from us for a reasonable rate, please contact us in advance to book kit.
- Waterproof Shell-Jacket – Gore-Tex material or similar that provides a high level of waterproofness and breathability. A helmet-compatible hood, external & internal pockets and waterproof zips are good features to look for. A good example is the Arc’teryx Sabre AR jacket available in both men’s & women’s.
- Waterproof Shell-Trousers – Gore-Tex material or similar that provides a high level of waterproofness and breathability. Side-zips on the legs are a useful feature as it makes it easier to put them on in tricky situations. Arc’teryx Rush Men’s Pant or their Sentinel Pant for Women is a good example.
- Down Layer – It is essential to have a down jacket with you for colder conditions, a jacket with a fill of around 700 – 750 should do it. It should be packable, warm, and have a helmet-compatible hood. Example Arc’teryx Thorium AR Hoody available in both men’s & women’s.
- Mid-Layer(s) – It is best to have a number of lightweight layers to make up your clothing system. Fleece layers are ideal for this as you can add and remove them according to how you feel and the conditions. Stretch fleece jacket, half or full-zip options all work well, an example is Arc’teryx Kyanite LT hoody available in both men’s & women’s.
- Base Layers – this should include your underwear (pants!) and base layer top and legs. Wearing natural fibres like merino wool next to your skin is good for comfort, breathability, and warmth; not to mention they smell a lot less than synthetic fibers. Merino or a similar wool base layer for your top and legs is ideal, Smartwool, Icebreaker and other brands all make suitable products.
- Hat / Balaclava – You should bring a warm hat for cold conditions and if you have a balaclava, bring it. Neck gaiters / ‘buffs’ can be useful. You will need a sun hat or cap for warm summer conditions to keep the sun off your head / face.
- Gloves – You will need a warm, waterproof glove for most of the skiing. You should also bring a lightweight softshell or grippy leather palmed glove for when you are skinning. Your hands will get hot and sweaty when you are exercising and if you wear your big, warm gloves they get wet then cold. Have a spare pair of gloves in your rucksack also. Glove examples here.
- Socks – It is best to only wear 1 pair of socks inside your boots, a medium thickness pair, possibly in wool is a good choice.
- Goggles and sunglasses – you should have 1 pair of good ski goggles and a pair of Cat 3 or 4 sunglasses to use.
- Sun cream & lip salve
- Water & Food – You should bring a minimum of 1 litre of water in a bottle (better than a water bladder as this can freeze). Bring enough snack food for each day to carry in your rucksack.
- Ski Strap – you will need to have an elastic or velcro ski strap to tie your skis (and poles) together with if you need to carry them on your rucksack e.g. Black Diamond Ski Strap
- Lift pass, cash for cafe breaks
- Personal Medical Items – Blister kit, plasters, painkillers, glasses / contact lenses as necessary
- Personal Admin Items – Mobile Phone, Cash, Passport if necessary, Insurance details – see our Insurance FAQ
- Mobile phone with the Chamonix PGHM (local mountain rescue) number programmed in: +33 (0)4 50 53 16 89
The Guide will provide other items like a group shelter, first aid kit, navigation equipment etc and you may be asked to carry some of this during the course. We can also provide crampons and ice-axe if required but these are generally not needed for our intro and intermediate ski touring courses.
Take a read of our useful article on What’s in your Rucksack for Skiing Off-Piste & Day Touring? This also has some packing advice and other top tips!
Ski touring equipment & boot hire can be arranged directly with Sanglards Ski Shop in Chamonix, Argentiere or Vallorcine.
Please follow our Sanglards Ski Hire link below to access your 15% discount (more in quieter periods), or tell them in the shop you have a booking with High Mountain Guides for the same discount.
Buying New Kit?
If you plan to make some new kit purchases for this course then we recommend a few places to look online that not only provide a good range of clothing and equipment but also some excellent advice on suitable products for your chosen sport. They are:
Needle Sports – An independent climbing gear shop that supplies mountaineering, rock, ice, alpine & expedition climbing equipment. They have a shop in Keswick in the Lake District.
Facewest – with 20 years of providing an excellent online retail experience and plenty of knowledge and enthusiasm, they stock a wide range of products for climbing, skiing, running, and hiking.
Sport Pursuit – is an online retailer, mainly of clothing who sells, at highly discount prices, end of lines, and unsold stock from shops and brands. If you look carefully through their website you can find some excellent clothing items at a really great price.