Packing for a Ski Touring Trip. What equipment and apparel do I need?

The thrill and peace of mind of making turns on fresh, pristine snow, away from the crowds on the slopes, is what drives many people to try off-piste ski touring. To best plan your challenging multi-day trips that involve a lot of climbing and skiing, try to take only the bare essentials with you. Making sure your equipment is as light as possible will lead you to the top with still plenty of energy in store for the descent. In addition to ski touring-specific skis and bindings, snowshoes, the most important equipment in remote areas is avalanche safety gear.

Let’s discover it together.

What do I need? Ski Touring Equipment

  • Generally, for ski touring/ski mountaineering you need skis that are the same height as you are or slightly taller and that are as light as possible. The general rule of thumb is that the longer the skis, the better their float and stability. Typically, touring skis feature a notch at the tip and tail, or a hole at the tip, to which climbing skins are to be attached.
  • Ski touring boots are also lightweight, offer good flexibility or a walking mode that frees the ankle and allows for easier movement. They also feature a non-slip profiled sole on the toe and heel to provide better grip on snowy rocky terrain.
  • Ski touring bindings release from the heel for ascending and re-engage for descending. Ski touring bindings are much lighter than normal mountaineering bindings; they are usually equipped with a heel lift, which relieves pressure on the hamstrings when climbing steep slopes.
  • Ski touring poles are useful because they are adjustable according to the slope (longer for downhill, shorter for uphill, or longer for leverage when climbing) and can be returned to their normal length when you ski downhill.
  • Climbing skins are used for uphill climbing. Originally made from seal skin, these strips made of fabric or plastic polymers create friction when pushed in the opposite direction. In other words, they allow the skis to glide when moving forward, preventing them from sliding backward.
  • Avalanche safety equipment (probe, shovel, transceiver) is the most important ski gear! Before heading out on a ski mountaineering or ski touring trip, always make sure you have avalanche safety equipment with you and know how to use it. It makes no sense to have only one or two components of the set (probe, shovel, and transceiver); the kit must contain all three components for it to be effective, and learning how to use them is just as critical.
  • A ski helmet should be lightweight and well-ventilated so that it is comfortable to wear while climbing and descending. The danger on the ascent is falling rocks or ice, while on the descent it must be able to protect us in case of a fall. A ski touring helmet should not only be certified for alpine skiing, but also for ski touring.
  • First aid kit should be carried and stored in a waterproof bag and containing items such as painkillers, medicated patches, bandages, swabs, gauze, etc. For further recommendations and suggestions on what to bring, ask your ski guide for advice.
  • Crampons are extended metal cuffs that can be placed above the bindings to make more grip in the snow when skins alone are not enough. In normal snow conditions you will never need crampons, which would only end up weighing you down unnecessarily. However, they are really invaluable during an exposed traverse on hard snow.

| Keep reading the inspiring interview: From Ski Touring to Freeride - Ski Essentials, Gear, Best spots. Meet Giovanni from Adventoured |

What should I wear? Ski Touring Apparel

Ski touring doesn't actually require much equipment, but you need to use the right equipment. You will need a good base layer, a warm but breathable middle layer, and a light windproof jacket, not forgetting headband, cap, and gloves.

Ski touring clothing is very similar to winter mountaineering clothing. In other words, don't wear thick, insulating ski jackets as you would then be too hot while climbing. Touring clothing is all about layers, light weight, comfort and adaptability. Climbing up slopes you might feel hot, and that is much more difficult to adjust than keeping warm. And that's where layers come in.

  • Base layers: we recommend quick-drying base layers made of a wool-synthetic or fully synthetic blend fabric. Wearing leggings is the best way to keep your legs warm. For the top, choose a jacket with a zipper closure to release heat quickly.
  • Middle layers: a midlayer for ski touring should be warm enough to provide sufficient warmth, but not so warm that it causes overheating as soon as you start climbing a steeper slope.
  • Shells: bottom shells should not be too warm because your legs will work hard on climbs. For warm spring days, soft shell pants, which provide excellent ventilation, are the ideal option, but if it is very windy and cold or if snow is expected, hard shell pants are the best choice. As for top shells, softshell garments tend to be softer, comfortable to wear and breathable.
  • Insulation: this is an important layer that keeps you warm while you're strapped in during a blizzard or while taking a break after getting to the top. It should be compact but insulating, a jacket to have in your pack at all times.
  • Gloves: It is always a good idea to have regular insulated gloves with you for the descent and thin gloves for the ascent.
  • Headgear: A breathable but warm cap, possibly windproof, is a good option. A thin neck warmer is a versatile item, especially in warmer seasons. Headband can be very effective while climbing, to keep you warm but with ventilation, promote perspiration, and keep hair out of your face.
  • Goggles: you will need a ski goggle for the descent, while sunglasses will suffice for the ascent.

Don’t forget to bring along a hot drink like tea and something to eat!

How to get started with Ski Touring?

Sign up for a ski tour! Good ski touring centers rent the best state-of-the-art equipment. For your first few lessons, just rent the equipment you need; if you want to continue later, your guide can best advise you on what to buy. The Dolomites are home to many excellent ski centers, which offer the option of signing up for an off-piste skiing/ski touring course or recruiting a private guide to come with you off the slopes.

Once you have reached a level where you are more confident in your ski touring skills you could join a guided ski touring group!

| Keep reading: The best destinations for your Ski Touring holidays |

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