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More and more of us are heading into the backcountry under our own steam. Hopping from hut to hut in order to traverse an entire range or to skinning up to untouched pockets of snow away from the prying eyes of resort skiers is becoming a possibility for advanced skiers around the world thanks to recent advancements in kit.

Low weight is, of course, a key aspect for touring kit, the less weight you can carry up the skin track, the more energy you have to enjoy the descent. Conditions in the backcountry can be unpredictable, perhaps more so than in resort, any number of different snow conditions can be encountered in a day in the wild so gear that performs in all conditions is key to enjoying the backcountry. Heading away from civilisation means that ski tourers are more dependent on their kit to get them out of trouble so it’s not only low weight and performance that is vital, it’s reliability too.

With so many different variables and a wealth of kit on offer claiming to be the perfect solution, picking out the right gear for you can be a little confusing. Luckily, the Ski Club is at your disposal to help you find your perfect touring setup with our 2019 buying guide, with a little help from our friends at Snow+Rock

Looking for a burlier freeride setup? Read our Freeride buying guide here.

Jonny Cass

Skis

The largest piece of equipment ski tourers carry is their skis, and therefore this is where we find the largest weight shedding potential. However, removing too much material from the construction can have an adverse effect on the skis handling characteristics, a compromise must be found, balancing lightweight build and performance. In a bid to work around this, increasingly innovative materials and novel constructions have been deployed, largely to good effect!

Something like G3’s FINDr is a fantastic example of a ski of perfect compromise, of the 94mm wide ski, the brand says “a balance of low weight with ultra-high performance in the field” – and we think that sums it up pretty well. Not the lightest touring ski on the market, these planks are a carefully balanced combination of lightweight climbing ability and downhill charge-ability. Featuring a slimline construction but maintaining a full sidewall with a carbon fibre backbone means that the FINDr is able to hold an edge on steep icy chutes as well as on the toughest black runs while also climbing faster than a mountain goat in the skin track. In deeper snow, the ample waist width and rockered tip profile help the ski float on deeper days.

A more traditional ski is the Dynafit Tour 88, which is available in both a men’s and women’s model. The touring and backcountry specialists sty the ski is designed with ‘classic ski touring in mind’, think long ascents, plenty of kick turns over variable aspects and snow conditions. Where the G3 could be skied in bounds, the Dynafit is an out and out touring machine – weighing in at only 1.28kg, efficiency is the name of the game. If you are looking for a touring specific setup that won’t see a groomed run in its lifetime then this is the kind of ski for you.

A variety of touring skis, including the G3 FINDr 94 and the Dynafit Tour 88 are available online and in store at Snow+Rock.

Bindings

Touring bindings differ greatly from alpine bindings as they are required to fulfil two uses, climbing and descending. Known as ‘pin’ or ‘tech’ bindings these specialist bindings have two pins that clamp either side of the boot, forming a pivot that when in walk mode allows for the heel to move freely to allow for easy ascents. In ski mode, the special inserts on the heel of a touring boot engage with the pins of the heel. Unsurprisingly, these bindings are much lighter than their alpine counterparts, but it should be noted that they do not share the same predictable release characteristics of regular alpine bindings. We have picked out two of our favourite pin bindings from Snow+Rock’s range of bindings below…

Marker’s new Alpinist 12 binding. Super lightweight construction coupled with a robust DIN of 12. Extensively tested and critically acclaimed, the skimpy binding is packed with features perfect for weight conscious backcountry explorers. 

Read the Ski Club’s review of the Marker Alpinist binding when we exclusively attended Marker’s launch event in the Alps last season.

For those looking for a more substantial binding, the new wave of DIN certified bindings offer the safe release characteristics of alpine bindings, but with the convenience of a tech binding. Fritschi’s Tecton binding is one of the industry leading models with an alpine style heel which is DIN adjustable from 5 to 12, just as the toe piece is, this ensures safe release when things go wrong. Yes there is a weight sacrifice with the more robust binding, but the plastic construction does its best to minimise this, for many though, the added weight is a worthy trade-off for the added safety benefit. Other similar bindings on the market are the Salomon/Atomic Shift and Marker Kingpin.

Head to your nearest store or browse Snow+Rock's website to find out more about the Fritschi Tecton and Marker Alpinist 12 Bindings and other touring models.

Boots

Boots that offer incredible downhill performance and a massive range of movement at a fraction of the weight of their alpine counterparts are now commonplace in the market. Commonplace in touring boots are pin inserts in the toe to allow for engagement with tech bindings, rockered soles which are grippy when hiking and a walk mode that allows the upper cuff to move freely when walking.

A few years ago, these features were offered mainly by niche, specific brands at a pretty penny. But, as touring has grown in popularity, mainstream brands have taken note and offer many of the same features, their ability to produce products on a much larger scale has dropped the price of these specialist boots significantly in recent seasons.

Atomic is a great example of this, creating a touring capable model of their tried and tested Hawx Ultra last. The female-specific Hawx Ultra XTD 110 W model offers ladies who have their sights set beyond the resort boundaries touring capability to escape the lifts but more than enough downhill performance to blast around the pistes. As this boot is based on an alpine model it is an ideal first touring boot for those familiar with inbounds boots looking to explore further afield.

Another household name who has recently expanded their touring range is Salomon, and their top of the range S/LAB MTN boot is the perfect clog for those in search for the pinnacle of powder hunting performance. This through and through backcountry boot is stiff enough for the hardest chargers yet ticks the boxes for gram counters and experienced tourers looking for an uncompromising range of movement. This boot is best suited to experienced off piste riders, but softer versions with the same last are available for novice powder riders.

Both the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 110 W and the Salomon S/LAB MTN are available online and instore at Snow+Rock and make up part of an extensive lineup of boots, spending time with Snow+Rock’s boot fitters is the best way to ensure you find the best boots for you from their extensive range. Head to your nearest store to find the boots for you, discover more about the process online here.

Poles

Although it is mostly your legs that you use when gaining altitude on skis, Touring really is a whole-body workout. Poles play a vital role when climbing and descending but, on each occasion, may require to be different lengths. On the ascent, poles should be adjusted to match the gradient to help uphill propulsion and useful balance aids on more technical terrain and during kick turns, longer grips than alpine poles also allow for greater flexibility over mixed terrain. When ski tips are pointing down poles play a key role, as any instructor will tell you, providing balance and a useful contact point for sharper turns on steeper terrain, especially jump turns. It goes without saying that as a piece of touring kit, the poles need to be light!

For many years, Leki has been at the pinnacle of ski and walking pole technology, and their top of the range Tour Stick Vario Carbon Pole is another industry leading design. The pole fulfils all of the criteria listed above and more. Carbon construction keeps the weight down while the adjustable shaft suits a variety of terrain, the basket has also been specifically designed to help hands-free adjustment of heal lifters and boot buckles in a nice touring specific touch. Leki have also utilised their signature speed strap system for extra speed and safety with a touring specific grip designed to retain heat on long ascents. The poles are also collapsible which is of real benefit to those with their sights on more extreme terrain where a hands-on approach to climbing is needed or where your hands are taken up with an ice axe. The foldability of these poles will also make them an attractive option for splitboarders.

Backcountry aficionados G3 offers several different pole options, and the Via pole is the brand’s toughest touring specific pole to date. While the pole is not foldable, the burly stick offers a whopping 30cm of adjustment to suit most skiers over whatever terrain they encounter. While the pole is not constructed with the most exotic materials on the planet, the aluminium structure keeps the weight down, however, if you obsess over the gram count then carbon options are available.

Both the Leki Tour Stick Vario Carbon and the G3 Via Touring Pole are available online and instore at Snow+Rock.