Advice for Ski Touring Beginners
Getting into ski touring opens up a whole new side to any mountain or resort and can be a hugely fulfilling experience. But before you set co-ordinates on your nearest snow-capped peak, we thought we would ask our Aviemore-based ski touring expert Dani for his top tips for beginners...
Keep it light
Ski touring in the backcountry requires a fair amount of equipment, so it's important to try and keep the weight of each item to a minimum where possible. Keeping it lightweight makes life a lot easier! Check out our full ski touring kit list to make sure you have all the essentials!
Ski touring is a sport of extreme temperatures. You can become very hot on the ascent and very cold when you reach the summit or are skiing down, so you must get your clothing right. The most effective way to do this is to layer properly, allowing you to maintain a comfortable body temperature all the time. It's often a good idea to set out with just a base layer and shell to begin with, as you quickly warm up and sweat through exertion.
- Proper ski socks that are wicking and provide good protection around the heels and toes.
- Merino liner gloves are very useful when you are skinning up.
- A thin beanie is handy too.
Be physically prepared
Ski touring can put demands and stress on your body, so it's important to improve or maintain a good level of fitness before hiking out. In the summer and autumn months; hiking, running, mountain biking, cycling, climbing, swimming and stretching regularly will all be beneficial come winter.
- Keep it simple by choosing a gentle route to start with. This helps to introduce you to the equipment (to put skins on and take them off, adjust the ski touring boots, manage the bindings' positions), and skin technique up.
- Go out with a guide or someone experienced in ski touring. A lot can be learnt by observing, asking and listening.
- Your downhill skiing ability should be intermediate on piste: absolutely comfortable on blue and red runs, pretty solid on black runs and nearby off-piste.
- Be safe! Read up on mountain safety and follow basic rules such as checking the weather and avalanche hazard levels before heading out; and always tell someone where are you going.
Dial in your skinning technique
To save your energy and make it easier and more enjoyable, there are a few basic skin up technique tips you should try:
- Slide, rather than lift, your skis.
- Master the kick turn. You must practice and improve this technique as much as possible. It's the best way to turn on steeps!
- Hold your ski poles higher to get balance but even more to propel yourself. Use your arms to support your legs.
- Manage your bindings' different heel piece positions: flatter – middle – higher, depending upon the slope incline. Most of the time, you will skin up on the middle position of the heel piece. This mid-step provides much better grip for traverse lines. Keep the following in mind; low track angles will make you more energy efficient and allow to you to go up on the middle position of the heel piece.
If you have any more suggestions for ski touring newbies, let us know in the comments below!