Equipment List Backcountry Skiing
A word on equipment selection
When heading beyond boundaries you need to have enough scope in your kit to safely achieve your goals & deal with what if's. Whilst it's unwise to carry too little as your objectives could be compromised so to is it to carry too much! If you are continually not using something you should consider omitting it from your kit unless it's part of your emergency eqipment. It's much like chains for cars, the day you leave them at home & need them is a bad day! The items below are all essential requirements for SMBC tours.
A day pack suited to Alpine Touring will be provided for all participants. These comfortable packs are well suited to backcountry travel being an ideal volume for day trips & capable of securely carrying skis;see
"ALPINE TOURING PACKS" on this page. It is essential that an Alpine Touring pack has the correct design to securely carry skis, at times seasonal variations may require walking on approach or during the tour.
Ski Boots for Ski Touring
All SMBC Alpine Touring rental skis have frame bindings which are suited to normal downhill ski boots, you do not require a touring specific boot. If you are hiring or buying a boot the ideal Alpine Touring Ski Boot should have a generous walk mode, a softer flex, not as tight fitting as your resort boots, a grippy sole & if required tech fittings for tech bindings.
Gear to bring for a Day Ski Tour
On arrival at Guthega Mountain Centre we will do a “Shakedown” & rationalise your equipment so that you aren’t carrying any unnecessary weight or unsuitable equipment including your backpack. SMBC have the final word on this.
Back Pack with ski carry capability SUPPLIED; less than 30Lt is not suitable for backcountry travel
Shell jacket & pants waterproof
Fleece mid layer
Down or synthetic packable jkt if available
Thermals top & bottom no cotton
Beanie & neck gaiter
Sunglasses & Goggles: low light goggles
Lunch & snacks: Simple easy to eat pre-made items i.e. bread rolls, snacks, trail mix, energy bars
Skis with Alpine Touring bindings. For ski dimension recommendations see “ALPINE TOURING SKIS" in SMBC Classroom. The ideal width for Australian conditions is 80-95mm. for hire at SMBC
Ski Poles: adjustable for hire at SMBC
Climbing skins with correct fit for ski; try them on your skis prior to ski day to ensure they are the correct fit & ready to go. If renting ensure they match the ski & cover as much of ski base as possible excluding metal edges! For more information on Skins see “Choosing Climbing Skins” below. For hire at SMBC
Be sure to bring any necessary medications!
Snowy Mountains Backcountry have some of the above items in their retail section, see STORE page.
Gear for hire at SMBC HQ see "STORE' page
Back Pack suited to Alpine Ski Touring
Bothy Bag emergency shelter
Insulating Jacket Jacket
Ski strap; to lash skis together
Avalanche Equipment; for some trips
f you are wanting to hire Skis+Skins+Poles please mark on booking form or let us know!
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD PRINTABLE LIST
Apine Touring Skis, climbing skins, adjustable poles
The success of any trip in the outdoors can be attributed partly to your clothing choices. You need functionality in your clothing system to cope with the dynamic nature of mountain weather & the ability to adjust according to your energy output. With multiple layers of clothing you can add & subtract layers to help achieve a more constant body temperature so your not wasting energy trying to unnecessarily regulate your temperature. There are three main layers with the addition of a fourth.
These layers can be mixed & matched to suit your current level of activity & personal needs
Base layer: a layer worn close to the skin to move moisture away from your body & through other layers
Mid Layer: or insulating layer provides insulation by trapping air and keeping you warm. Worn over the base layer & under the shell layer
Shell Layer: This layer protects you from wind & moisture & enables the other layers to do their job. It should be waterproof & windproof!
Emergency layer: A down jacket can be used when moving around less during cold conditions, when overnight camping or in case of emergency
Synthetic materials & some natural fibres like wool are able to transfer moisture passing it successively into the next layer & through to the outside environment. They also keep their structural integrity & do not collapse maintaining pockets of air giving them insulating properties. The wet Labrador looks miserable whilst the puffy bird on the wire looks warm! At all costs cotton must be avoided as it holds moisture & collapses breaking down the cycle. An awesome goretex shell with a nice fleece mid layer that is worn over a cotton base layer negates the clever purchase of the other two layers.
Regarding down insulation it has excellent insulating properties & is very light but must be kept dry or else it will collapse rendering it ineffective. Look after it & keep it dry, store it in a stuff sack. Some down garments like the Mont Neon has a more weatherproof outer fabric with a water treatment resistant high quality white down to better cope with moisture.
Base layer only; working hard in good conditions
Base layer & mid layer in mild conditions
Base layer & shell; working hard in more challenging conditions
Base, mid & shell layer moving at a moderate pace in colder conditions
Base, mid, shell & down jacket when more sedentary or during emergencies
When climbing skins start to lose their grip extra energy is expended through the shoulders to prevent slipping backward & your balance point is tested every step.
Ski crampons are mostly used in conjunction with climbing skins & attach to your Alpine touring bindings biting into the surface under the weight of your boot dramatically improving your purchase on the mountain when your skins start to fail. Your stride is slightly reduced & you may need to lift your ski a little higher when icy stamping them in to get a bite. Excellent for wind scoured surfaces & icy uphill traverses lightweight ski crampons give you an added safety margin turning tenuous steps into a secure grip.
Alpine Touring (AT) Binding Choices
AT bindings allow the heel to release for ascending & lock down for descending providing access to the backcountry. What were once very basic designs not suited for resort use with little or no safety features have evolved into fully featured backcountry bindings most with a DIN certified safety release. Light weight Ski Mountaineering race bindings to bindings for backcountry back flipping hucksters (no inverts on DCAlpGuiding trips) there are many choices out there. With the structural integrity to handle the rigors of a hard day in bounds & the capability to head backcountry for more fresh tracks you have a one ski quiver giving you may choices.
MARKER FTOUR frame binding
Frame bindings including bar bindings like Fritschi Diamir system: the toe & heel are connected to a frame or bar which when released pivots from the toe & lifts with your boot (see image above). Generally a heavier choice but can be used with any boot. They have a toe piece with a variable height to cater for different boots with good safety release, just like a normal alpine binding! (the image above shows a Fritschi frame/bar binding). Any boot can be worn in these bindings. Ideal for sidecountry adventures with some light enough for longer tours.
Tech bindings: This is a minimalist design where the boot is connected to the binding via a pin style system. A lighter weight binding with some of them feather weight that have made big in roads in recent years with there safety release. When the rear binding is unlocked it clears the boot heel & with the toe locked in only the boot is lifted reducing the lifting weight every step! Only suitable for boots with Tech fittings, in today’s market many boots have this feature. A better choice for longer journeys.
Hybrid bindings: The best of both worlds with a Tech toe & Alpine style heel. Light with the integrity of an alpine style binding eg. Fritschi TECTON12 & Marker KING PIN. These bindings have excellent safety release features, are light weight, ski powerfully with power transfer out of the alpine style heel & are great performers on long backcountry trips or in the resort. They do require a boot with Tech fittings
FRITSCHI Tecton12 Hybrid binding, an excellent lightweight choice
Alpine Touring Skis
Backcountry skiing is a wonderful thing to do & provides access to beautiful places giving you another way to experience the beauty of the alpine world. The effort required is easily outweighed by the experience achieved & with some informed equipment choices your journey will be more about focusing on that experience.
Due to the nature of backcountry skiing it is recommended that you choose a lighter ski over a heavier choice. The width of your backcountry ski depends a lot upon the intended use with the ideal size for Australian conditions from 80 - 95mm. Where as a ski width of 105mm with a radius suited to enjoying some tirns on the piste would be a good choice for Japan. If you have a dedicated Alpine Touring only set of skis they should be lightweight with a suitable flex capable of achieving backcountry missions. You want to be right on your skis in the backcountry & not have them skiing you, it's about a backcountry experience not a backseat experience. If you have a cross over set up that is for resort & backcountry you may have a ski not as light but still with enough compromise to embark on Alpine tours into the backcountry & handle the rigours of charging the resort. If you plan on mostly doing resort laps then your ski choice will be more suited to just that with the functionality in your binding choice being the main consideration.
Most backcountry converts start off by putting an Alpine Touring frame binding on their resort ski, see if the bug bites & go from there. The best way to go is to rent an Alpine Touring set up & see how you like it? If it appeals & you are buying a set up, think ahead! Beware of purchasing a weighty rig more resort oriented, there are plenty of lightweight choices today on the ski market that ski seemlessly from the backcountry to the resort.
Consider what type of snow you intend on mostly skiing & choose from there. A ski mountaineer achieving longer distances & encountering a variety of surface conditions is more likely to be be on a different ski than a skier heading out on a powder touring trip.
Alpine Touring Packs
The two main styles of pack are top loading with lid access & panel loading with top zippered access. Panel loaders give quick access but my choice is a top loader they are a bomber weatherproof design & paired up with a storm throat it’s like having a vestibule on your pack providing protection from wind & snow when reconfiguring in exposed areas. For backcountry travel anything less than 30Lt is too limiting & doesn't hold enough equipment. My “Go To” pack is the Mont Sentinel, at 42Lt it has enough room for serious technical day trips to the far reaches of The Main Range.
The uncompromising feature of a ski touring pack is its ski carry ability, either traditional A-framing, diagonal or vertical carry. Other than descending or skiing uphill you will at times make ground on foot whether it’s boot packing, cramponing, travelling below the snowline on approaches, crossing intermittent cover in spring, river crossings or negotiating dodgy bridges. Carrying skis on your shoulder other than for short distances is unwise, if you don’t have your skis on you will need your hands free to maintain balance & busy them with ski poles or piolets. Canvas or nylon textile, both offer excellent lightweight durability & a good degree of waterproofness. Heavier fabric is used on high wear areas & anything that must stay dry should be sealed in a dry bag or pouch. They all haul loads but what sets packs apart is their configuration & features, how you get in & out of your pack & what suits your style will determine what you want. A full house of features with lots of options or the uncluttered design & easy use of an old school single main compartment? If ski mountaineering is your thing & you are headed to the steeps you’ll be happy to know that ski touring packs accommodate ice axes & most have a separate wet area for avy tools & skins.
Choosing Climbing Skins
Type of Skin
Synthetic skins are a good choice for Australian conditions as they are very durable & cover a wide temperature range. Natural fibre skins perform well in cold/dry snow but can ball up (collect snow on the plush; side of skin that grips the snow) & impede forward movement in warmer temps, however they glide well & are light but not as durable as synthetic. A mixture of mohair (natural) & synthetic like the G3 MOMIX has both qualities! High traction skins have a greater number of bristles per unit of area, they have increased traction on steep & hard surfaces but less glide. Remember on an icy wind scoured surface or a glazed over skin track regardless of your skin type you will struggle to get grip. Get a skin with a tip & tail fastening system to ensure a secure fit. A good all round skin that I have used for over 10 years is the G3 Alpinist skin which has a tip & tail connection system & all round qualities, which has now been superseded with the Alpinist + series which is an even more refined & improved product! If you have twin tips go for a Twin Tip Connector Kit. See the G3 site for more info
The more of your ski base that’s covered the better the potential grip but less glide! For the greatest grip choose a skin the next size up from your ski tip & trim it down; wall to wall fit. For a fast glide go for a skin around the width of your ski, you may have to trim it down. This type of skin will have less glue contamination as there will be very little glue exposed when it’s folded i.e. more symmetrical. For an all rounder go the next size up from your tail measurement & trim it down. Remember with less skin coverage you will struggle more when sidehilling but then again when choosing consider that most of your grip comes from under your foot & less at the tip & tail! Choose what’s best for you.
While skin width effects glide & grip so to does length choice. As recommended go for a tip & tail attachment system for a secure fit like the G3 Alpinist range which has a short, medium & long option in a number of different widths. If you want greater glide go for a length choice that is at the max setting giving you a shorter length skin for your given ski length & the opposite for more grip. Choose what’s best for you.
Preventing balling up
Balling up is a pain & even synthetic skins will ball up at times. There is a number of different products to treat your skins with which help to prevent or limit the amount of balling up such as Black Diamond Free Glide. As a go to fied remedy try the G3 Skin Wax Kit.
Care & Maintenance
Skins can be reglued if necessary. The old fashioned way is using heat, solvents, lots of scraping and much vapour inhalation. The modern procedure is to tack your skins to a bench glue side up and using a heat gun, scraper & a lot of cardboard (to wipe the residue on) remove as much of the glue as possible. Contrary to popular belief this process isn't difficult at all. Anything other than glue left on the skin will jeopardise adhesion. Reglue with ‘Glue Renew Strips’ that are ironed on, see the G3 website for info detailing this process.
If adhesion has failed because they are old, dirty and have done lots of worthy ascents soak in kerosene, ignite and get the latest and greatest.
Tips & Tricks
Dry out completely before storage.
Do not store skins on your skis
Store at room temperature 22˚C in a dry place out of sunlight.
Fold skin on itself. G3 skins come with a skin saver which is placed on the lower half of the skin and the top half is folded back onto the skin saver sandwiching a layer of mesh between the skin. This will prolong the life of your skin and make them easier to handle and pull apart. Now roll or fold skin and store in storage bag provided in the appropriate place
Snake straight skins down ski to increase edge coverage or offset skin toward edge
Careful in the wind or you’ll look like the mummy
A worn skin will be effective on undulating terrain but will fail in steep country
Store close to your body if glue becomes cold and ineffective
Get tip and tail attached skins. Inevitably skins have glue failure and tip only attachment skins are notorious for peeling off from the back.
- G3 Tension straps are ideal for many things including securing a failing skin to your ski!
Not stopping & dealing with a small problem like a hot spot from new or different boots can become a real big issue that destroys not only yours but your group's day. An open blister wound can be very debilitating & see you out of ski boots for days.
Tape before touring
Tape as soon as you feel a hot spot
Treat a blister immediately
If dressing a blister wound in the field:
Only drain a blister if large & painful
Drain fluid with a flame sterilised needle & clean with clean water if available then dry
Leave roof of blister intact or flatten into place what is left
Clean with an antibacterial like tea tree oil. Repeated use of antiseptics like iodine will ulcerate the wound
Cover with a clean non adherent absorbent dressing
Secure into place with medical tape
If necessary pad around blister with foam bunding to take the pressure & tape into place
Compede patches are an excellent item for your blister kit. They can be applied over a burst blister & provide a moist cushioning pad.
Buff feet with pummice or treatment to remove excess dead skin
Keep toe nails trimmed
No cotton socks, they hold moisture
Wear form fitting clean dry wool, bamboo or synthetic socks.
Ski Touring boots ideally should be a comfort fit rather than the performance fit of a hard charging resort boot.
Get a pair of foot beds
Avoid sudden extreme temperature changes to prevent chill blanes
For cold feet adherent toe warmers stuck to the top of the forefoot work well