Choosing a Backcountry Ski Setup

We spent a lot of time advising people about which different models and combinations of skis, boots and bindings to buy for various types of backcountry skiing. Obviously, each skier is different, so this is open to quite a lot of variation - as much depends on your ski ability, skiing style, weight etc and also what other kinds of ski holidays you plan to use the kit for.
 

However, it usually comes down to 3 common backcountry ski setups - each optimised for a different ratio of time spent going up, to time spent going down! These are as follows:

1. A dedicated lightweight touring setup - for multi day ski touring holidays.

2. A mid weight all round 'one-ski-for-all' setup - for touring and resort use.

3. A lightweight freeride setup - for lift assisted  backcountry skiing and day tours.

 
Advice Video

To help you out, we produced the following advice video - Phil explains the different categories of backcountry ski boots, what they are best used for and suggests some good ski/boot/binding combinations that work well together.  NB Some of the specific models are now out of date, as the video was made a couple of seasons ago - but our advice is still the same!


 
Clearly, there are many variations to consider in each category and numerous other good skis etc on the market - so to help refine your choices, we give plenty of detailed product information on our site, or just give us a ring on 01943 816011, or come over to the shop for a chat.
 
1.  Lightweight Touring Setup
This is the kind of setup that's ideal for a week long hut to hut tour such as skiing the Haute Route, but for maximum versatility we recommend you buy skis that are still ok for occasional resort use too. For a dedicated lightweight ski touring setup, weight is clearly a big consideration - as you spend far more time each day skinning up than skiing down. Having said that, for most people the main reason for going up is to enjoy skiing back down again - so our key advice is: don't go too light on the skis.
 
We say this because nowadays you can buy excellent wider bodied touring skis that weigh ~2.5-3kg and ski brilliantly in all the conditions you are likely to encounter on a longer tour - whereas if you go much lighter than this, you'll find a considerable drop off in ski performance, which you will need to make up for with better technique (ie you may see various guides and locals skiing on narrow or very light skis, but for the majority of British ski tourers it makes far more sense to ski on something a bit more substantial!)

The other side of the coin is that we recommend you don't buy too wide a ski; as although there are some very light-but-wide skis out there, these usually don't ski very well in anything but powder and are a nightmare in tricky/tight terrain, on firm spring snow, or in icy skin tracks etc - ie they're not a versatile choice for multiday touring in the European Alps.

Recommended setup:
 
Above - mens lightweight touring setups
  • Skis (front to back): Rossignol Seek 7, Dynafit Speed 90, Scott Superguide 95
  • Boots (front to back): Scarpa F1 EVO, Scarpa Maestrale 2.0, Scott Cosmos III
  • Bindings 9fron to back): Dynafit Superlight 2.0, Fritschi Vipec EVO



Above - womens lightweight touring setup
  • Skis (front to back): Scott Superguide 88 W's, Dynafit Tour 88 Woman, Salomon MTN Explore 88
  • Boots (front to back): Scarpa F1 EVO, Dynafit TLT& W's, Scarpa Gea 2.0
  • Bindings (front to back): Dynafit Superlight, Fritschi Vipec EVO

2.  All Round Resort and Touring Setup
This is the kind of one-ski-does-it-all setup that's suitable for a resort or off piste holiday, as well as a weeks touring. The key difference here is that you'll need a more substantial freeride binding - ie one that's strong enough to take  1000s of metres of downhill skiing each day in a resort.

If you want to keep things at the lighter end of the spectrum (ie better for that annual hut to hut tour) then simply mount some freeride bindings onto one of our 'beefier' lightweight touring skis and pick a ski mountaineering boot that fits you well and you're done.

If you are a heavier skier, or want a bit more float and punch for charging around resort - then go for a lightweight 'all mountain' ski similar to the ones shown below and pair that up with either a beefier ski mountaineering boot, or a dedicated freeride boot. Just remember that the freeride boots aren't as good for skinning long distances in though, so you'd be well advised to tape your feet up at the start of any longer tour in order to prevent blisters if you go down that route.

Recommended setup:
 
Above - mens all rounder setups
  • Skis (front to back): Dynafit Speed 90, Black Diamond Route 95, Black Crows Camox Freebird, Dynastar Legend x 96
  • Boots (front to back): Scarpa Maestrale 2.0, Scott Cosmos III, Scott Superguide Carbon, Scarpa Maestrale RS 2.0
  • Bindings (front to back): Fritschi Tecton, Fritschi Freeride Pro



Above - womens all rounder setup
  • Skis (front to back): Blizzard Black Pearl 88, Black Crows Orb Freebird, Blizzard Black Pearl 98
  • Boots (front to back): Scarpa Gea 2.0, Scarpa Gea RS 2.0, Scott Celeste III, La Sportiva Shadow
  • Binding: Frischi Tcton, Fritschi Freeride Pro

3.  Freeride and Day Touring setup
This is the kind of setup that  is ideal for blasting around resorts and making boot tracks/shorter tours in search of fresh lines, or for longer days skiing deep snow and backcountry freeride activities.  NB If in reality you mostly ski off piste around resorts, with only the odd skin into the backcountry, then you will be better choosing a heavier ‘resort’ freeride ski than the lightweight ski options listed below – as full weight freeride skis are more durable and perform a bit better in typical resort conditions.

However, if you do regularly head out into the backcountry in search of powder and bigger lines, then there are now a great range of wider bodied freeride skis available that have been lightened up for precisely this type of skiing. Likewise, freeride boots are getting lighter each year and tech pin insert freeride bindings are now well established – which means significant weight savings all round.

Recommended setup:
 
Above - mens lightweight freeride setups
  • Skis (front to back): Scott Superguide 105, Black Crows Navis Freebird, Blizzard Zero G 108, Black Crows Corvus Freebird
  • Boots (front to back): Scarpa Maestrale RS 2.0, Scrapa Freedom SL, Tecnica Zero G Guide
  • Bindings (front to back): Fritschi Tecton, Marker Kingpin, Fritschi Freeride Pro



Above - womens lightweight freeride setups
  • Skis (front to back): Blizzard Black Pearl 98, Dynastar Legend W 96, Rossignol Sky HD, Black Crows Atris Birdie
  • Boot (front to back): Scarpa Freedom SL WMN, Tecnica Cochise 105 WMS, Tecnica Zero G Guide Pro W, Lange XT 110 L.V. Freetour W
  • Bindings (front to back): Fritschi Tecton, Fritschi Freeride Pro