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How do I choose the right touring skis?

There are so many types and performance levels when it comes to ski touring – be it on groomed slopes, in the backcountry or in the sidecountry. There are of course also just as many skis available, which can make your search for touring skis a true challenge. We’ll describe a few important factors here so you can find the perfect ski to fit your needs.

General tips for your purchasing decision

For selecting the right touring ski, a decisive factor is of course what type of ski tourer you generally are, i.e., what is your primary purpose you want to fulfill on skis. Of course, also playing a key role are of course snow conditions. 

 

There are touring skis that are developed specifically for certain snow conditions. They are the best choice when you know precisely what you will expect on a tour. For hard-packed snow, for example, recommended is for example a narrower and stiffer ski. Depending on your personal preferences, you can select a ski with a smaller radius for short-radius turns and easy maneuverability on steep terrain. With a larger radius, on the other hand, you make sweeping long turns and have more control at higher speeds. Take note that for steep and icy sections on the climb, recommended is a straight ski with a wider radius and more camber. That ensures that you always have enough edge grip. Wider and heavier skis with tip and tail rockers are better suited for slushy snow and are more stable at higher speeds.

 

All-mountain skis are on the other hand a good compromise when the snow conditions will be changing over the course of a day. They can handle a multitude of conditions well – from hardpack and icy in the morning to soft and slushy in the afternoon.

Fact check: Touring skis vs. alpine skis

As ski touring novice, you perhaps are asking why someone would use a different ski for ski touring than for traditional alpine skiing. The obvious difference definitely has to do with the weight of the ski. Touring skis are as a rule significantly lighter than alpine skis. To enable the lighter weight of touring skis, manufacturers use special materials such as a multi-layer wood core or carbon fiber construction. On the other hand, alpine skis are as a rule heavier since they are designed for use on groomed runs and in ski resorts where the ascent is done with a ski lift. With more weight, you get more stability at higher speeds and better control on the descent. That is even more noticeable in poor snow conditions. 

All-rounders = TOUR

When you want equal enjoyment on your ski tours on the climb and the descent, then reach for a lighter ski that still gives you the needed stability and smooth ride for various snow conditions. 

 

Important features for skis in the "TOUR" category at a glance:

 

Novices:
• Length: eye level
• Waist width: 84-88 mm
• Weight: 1,200 grams
• Materials: Poplar wood core and carbon fiber speed stringers

 

Experience ski tourers:
• Length: somewhat longer skis, but not more than 10 cm more than your height
• Waist width: 95 mm
• Weight: 1,400-1,800 grams
• Materials: Poplar wood core and carbon fiber speed stringers

Freeriders = FREE

Is the downhill for you in first order what matters on a ski tour?  Is your second home untouched powder? Does challenging terrain like steep slopes and narrow couloirs make your heart beat faster? If you want no compromise in deep pow, then you should select a wider freetouring ski. Bigger upturns at tip and tail rockers provide a softer transition in turns and ensure that you always stay upright on the snow.

 

Important features for skis in the "FREE" category at a glance:
• Length: somewhat longer skis, but not more than 10 cm more than your height
• Waist width: > 100 mm
• Weight: 1,500-2,000 grams
• Materials: Poplar wood core and carbon fiber speed stringers

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Ski mountaineers = SPEED

Are you a committed ski mountaineer? Do you want to challenge your own personal best on alpine terrain? To find the perfect ski for that, you have to decide what is more important to you: Downhill or the climb.  As a climbing-oriented athlete you should select a light, nimble, and relative narrow ski. Wenn die Abfahrt mehr im Fokus steht, solltest Du einen etwas breiteren Ski nutzen, um mehr Stabilität und Kontrolle zu haben. Since on the climb every gram count, choose a relatively short ski that reaches up to about your chin.

 

Important features for skis in the "SPEED" category at a glance:

 

Climbing-oriented:
• Length: Chin height
• Waist width: 80-88 mm
• Weight: 900-1,100 grams
• Materials: Ultralight Paulownia wood core and UD carbon fiber technology

 

Downhill-oriented:
• 
Length: Chin height
• Waist width: 95 mm
• Weight: 1,200-1,300 grams
• Materials: Ultralight Paulownia wood core and UD carbon fiber technology

Ski racers = RACE

Is the next big skimo race for the coming winter already firmly planned on our calendar? Then get your perfect companion for it now! In races, of crucial importance are maximum endurance and speed. To that end, you have to have as little weight as possible underfoot, thus racing skis are fundamentally relatively short. Light, short skis are especially well-suited for long, technical, challenging climbs and are more maneuverable on the descent. Race-oriented touring skis also have a narrower waist since this basically lowers weight, plus increases speed on hardpack.

 

Important features for skis in the "RACE" category at a glance:
• Length: 1.60 m for men, 1.50 meters for women (minimum length per Italian race rules)
• Waist width:  about 64 mm (or even narrower)
• Weight: Less than 800 grams
• Materials: Ultralight Paulownia wood core and UD carbon fiber technology

As soon as you have found your perfect ski, you should then of course combine it with the right binding and touring boot that also ideally support your needs. For that selection, you can find assistance in this article “How do I find the right ski touring boot?” and in this one, “How do I find the right ski tourbinding?

 

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