Choosing a 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 kinds of ski trips 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.
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 for the majority of our customers 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 are generally oriented toward soft snow and powder and are not as good in tricky/tight terrain, on firm spring snow, or in icy skin tracks etc - ie they're not the most versatile choice for multiday touring in the European Alps and Northern Europe, where most of our customers ski.

Recommended setup:
 
Above - mens lightweight touring setups
  • Skis (front to back): Salomon MTN 88, Dynastar Mythic 87 Pro, Zag Ubac 95, Black Crows Camox Freebird
  • Bindings (front to back): Marker Alpinist, ATK Crest 10, Dynafit ST Rotation, Marker Kingpin M-Werks
  • Boots (left to right): Atomic Backland Carbon, Scarpa F1 EVO, Technica Zero G Tour Pro, Dalbello Lupo Air 130



Above - womens lightweight touring setup
  • Skis (front to back): Atomic Backland WMN 85, Salomon MTN 88 Ws, Zag Ubac 95 Lady
  • Bindings (front to back): Marker Alpinist, ATK Crest 10, Dynafit ST Rotation 10
  • Boots (left to right) Scarpa F1 Evo W’s, Tecnica Zero G Guide W, Scott Celeste 3

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 designed to be durable enough to take 1000s of metres of downhill skiing each day in a resort, as well as having the capability to tour on.

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

For heavier skiers, or those who 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 for this option.

Recommended setup:
 
Above - mens all rounder setups
  • Skis (front to back): Elan Ripstick 96, Scott Slight 93, Head Kore 99
  • Bindings (front to back): Marker Kingpin M-Werks, Salomon Shift, Fritschi Tecton
  • Boots (left to right): Scarpa Maestrale RS, Scott Cosmos III, Head Kore 1



Above - womens' all rounder setup
  • Skis (front to back): Scott Slight 93 W, Head Kore 93 W, Elan Ripstick 94 W
  • Binding (front to back): Marker Kingpin M-Werks, Fritschi Tecton, Dynafit ST Rotation 10
  • Boots (left to right): Scarpa Gea RS, Technica Zero G Guide W, Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 115 W

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 lightest weight 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 and better each year and tech pin insert freeride bindings are now well established – which means freeride setups are now far lighter than they used to be ;)

Recommended setup:
 
Above - mens lightweight freeride setups
  • Skis (front to back): Elan Ripstick 106, Atomic Backland 107, Black Crows Ferox Freebird, Black Crows Corvus Freebird
  • Bindings (front to back): Salomon Shift, Marker Kingpin M-Werks, Fritschi Tecton
  • Boots (left to right): Head Kore 1, Lange XT Free Promodel LV, Scarpa Maestrale XT



Above - womens lightweight freeride setups
  • Skis (front to back): Dynastar Cham 97, Salomon QST Lumen 99, Atomic Backland 102 W
  • Bindings (front to back): Marker Kinggpin M-Werks, Salomon Shift
  • Boots (front to back) Salomon QST Pro 110 TR W, Dalbello Lupo AX 105 W, Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 115 W