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 setup for multi day ski touring holidays.

2. A mid weight all round setup for touring and resort use.

3. A wide ski freeride setup for off piste and lift assisted day tours.

Advice Video

To help you out, we've 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.

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 ~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): Salomon MTN Explore 88, Movement Apex, Dynastar Mythic
  • Boots (front to back): Scarpa Maestrale, Salomon MTN Explore, Scarpa F1 EVO
  • Binding: Vritschi Vipec 12

Above - womens lightweight touring setup
  • Skis (front to back): Movement Vista, Atomic Backland WMN 78
  • Boots (front to back): Scarpa Gea, Scott Celeste II
  • Binding: Fritschi Vipec

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): Movement Apex, Nordica NRG 90, Scott Crusair
  • Boots (front to back): Scott Superguide Carbon, Scarpa Maestrale RS, Scarpa Freedom SL
  • Binding: Fritschi Freeride Pro

Above - womens all rounder setup
  • Ski: Blizzard Black Pearl
  • Boot: Scott Celeste II
  • Binding: Fritschi Freeride Pro

3.  Freeride and Day Touring setup
This is the kind of lightweight freeride setup that's ideal for blasting around resorts, making the odd boot track in search of fresh lines, but is also still light enough to push uphill for a couple of hours on a lift assited day tour.

On the ski front, there are now a number of excellent 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 just appearing on the market too now - which if they prove reliable, will mean significant weight savings all round - so exciting times...

Recommended setup:

Above - mens lightweight freeride setups
  • Skis (front to back): Dynastar Cham 2.0 97, Black Crows Atris, Rossignol Soul 7
  • Boots (front to back): Scarpa Freedom RS, Lange XT 120, Scarpa Freedom SL
  • Binding: Guardian/Tracker BC

Above - womens lightweight freeride setups
  • Skis (front to back): Dynastar Cham Woman 97, Rossignol Savoury 7
  • Boot (front to back): Scarpa Freedom SL Wms, Black Diamond Shiva MX
  • Binding: Guardian/Tracker BC