What is an alpine touring ski

Teamalpin blog

The subject of ski touring and ski mountaineering, i.e. climbing on your own and descending in more or less untouched nature, is still booming. Whether on, next to or off the ski slopes - this sport is becoming more and more a dynamic process and can therefore now be divided into different categories or levels of performance and ability.

Accordingly, the ski industry has adjusted to this evolution and offers skis, bindings and boot models for every taste and orientation. At this point I would like to emphasize that, due to my almost 30 years of professional experience as a specialist consultant and branch manager at Sport Ossi Praxenthaler in Traunreut, this article only reflects my personal opinion and should not be interpreted as "immovable".

When assessing touring skis, I would like to distinguish between 3 categories:

  1. Classic touring skis with a width of up to 82mm under the binding for longer, ascent-oriented ski tours.
  2. Modern touring skis with a width between 82 and 92mm for classic day tours, which are also very suitable on slopes or as an introduction to freeriding.
  3. More than 92mm width under the binding for downhill-oriented experts and freeriders.

The subject of weight naturally continues to play a major role across all categories for all skis and customers. Nobody wants to drag up the mountain more than is absolutely necessary. However, extremely lightweight constructions (less than 2000g per pair) usually only have one noteworthy advantage: little weight!

Customers who opt for such a "climbing model" should, however, be aware that these models have more or less major disadvantages in terms of downhill performance such as "smoothness, edge stability and slope suitability". I try to incorporate my thesis “mass is great on the descent” into every consultation. The extent to which the individual customer considers the topic of "descent" or "ascent" to be important for himself can of course only be answered by himself.

This very important consideration or the following questions to yourself should, in my opinion, also be the starting point for every ski purchase:

  • Would I like to use a thoroughbred touring ski and only use it for ski touring, or do I plan to include the subject of "piste skiing" with my new purchase?
    • Will I regularly manage ski tours with more than 1000 meters of altitude or do I prefer more moderate terrain?
    • Where will I usually move? Do I plan classic ski tours in the immediate vicinity up to a maximum of 2000m. above sea level, where dreamy “powder conditions” are relatively rare, or am I willing to spend a certain amount of time by car to look for my “dream slope”?
    • How heavy am i? It makes a big difference in the downhill suitability of a ski whether it is moved by a person weighing 50 kg or 90 kg. Also consider the "weight gain" from bindings, shoes, clothing and, above all, backpack with equipment!

 

 

 

Basically:

The shorter and lighter (along with narrower) the ski, the more ascent-oriented you should classify yourself, especially when it comes to the technical difficulties (hairpin bends) of the tours.

Here, of course, restrictions must be expected in the downhill quality.

Length selection:

Several criteria must be observed here:

  • The height of the skier
  • The body weight of the skier (including equipment)
  • The driving ability
  • The main purpose (ascent or descent oriented)
  • The respective ski model

 

When choosing the length of a touring ski, I would like to pass on the following recommendation, taking into account all of the above aspects or individual wishes and circumstances:

Recommended length lower limit: Ski length up to chin height of the driver. Relatively short touring skis are easier to move, especially in technically difficult terrain (e.g. switchbacks), but offer less lift in powder snow and less edge grip and stability on hard, icy surfaces.

Length recommendation compromise: Ski length up to the rider's nose level. There is a very good and balanced balance of all advantages and disadvantages when choosing a length. Skis of this length can be technically well and easily controlled on the ascent, but offer significantly more support and support on the descent, especially when it comes to smoothness and buoyancy.

Recommended length upper limit: Ski length to body size. Of course, the longer ski selection primarily focuses on more performance on the descent. This ski length is mostly used by advanced skiers on enjoyable "downhill-oriented" ski tours. However, the technique and condition for more difficult and longer ascents should be given here.

 

 

In the following I would like to make one or the other personal recommendation for the 3 above-mentioned basic categories:

 

Category up to 82mm, lightweight:

The Dynafit Speed ​​76 is considered a classic in the Dynafit Speed ​​Touring range. With a 76 sidecut and only 970g (158cm) it is a real lightweight.
It meets the demands of sporty, fast and ambitious tourers who are looking for a light and agile ski for technically demanding terrain.

 

 

 

 

Category up to 82mm, normal weight:

Wayback 80 model 2018/19
Developed from the ground up, the Wayback 80 brings the legendary downhill performance of K2 and extremely low weight to a common denominator. Thanks to the Titanal Spyne and Ultra Lite core, it is easy and quick to ascend and, at the same time, reliable on the descent. Exactly what ski tourers and skiers want. The Wayback 80 is compatible with the new, pre-cut Wayback 80 skins - for a lightning-fast change from ascent to descent setup. The weight of only 967g with a length of 163 and sensational downhill characteristics are an announcement:
This ski is my personal favorite (Ossi Praxenthaler)

The new 18 wayback models were inspired by K2 Guides: (Original text K2)

For more than 20 years, K2 has worked with guides and athletes to create the best backcountry skis on the market. This season is no exception. A team of guides was commissioned to extensively test the touring ski series and thus create the conditions for its revision. North America, South America, the Alps and Norway - these skis have been everywhere. This year's completely redesigned Wayback models set new standards in the market for backcountry skis, because we have significantly reduced their weight without losing the downhill performance that one is used to with K2 touring skis. The new Wayback models are the perfect tools for everyone who wants to conquer the backcountry and draw perfect lines in the snow, "all day, every day".

 

 


Category up to 92mm, lightweight
:

 

 

Regardless of the snow conditions or the terrain: The Transalp 90 Carbon offers maximum stability and guarantees optimal performance even on difficult descents. Carbon Tex makes this touring ski light and robust at the same time, vibrations are reduced to a minimum. Excellent downhill characteristics thanks to Paulownia wood core, Air Tec execution and tour rocker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category up to 92mm, normal weight:

 

 

The absolute bestseller here is the K2 Wayback 88. This ski has now achieved cult status. The winner in many tests and forums! In terms of weight during the ascent, the Wayback 88 is literally "very bearable" and offers the best performance on every descent. My personal tip !!

The new 18 wayback models were inspired by K2 Guides: (Original text K2)

For more than 20 years, K2 has worked with guides and athletes to create the best backcountry skis on the market. This season is no exception. A team of guides was commissioned to extensively test the touring ski series and thus create the conditions for its revision. North America, South America, the Alps and Norway - these skis have been everywhere. This year's completely redesigned Wayback models set new standards in the market for backcountry skis, because we have significantly reduced their weight without losing the downhill performance that one is used to with K2 touring skis. The new Wayback models are the perfect tools for everyone who wants to conquer the backcountry and draw perfect lines in the snow, "all day, every day".

 

 

 

 

Category over 92mm, lightweight:

 

 

The VTA 98 from Völkl is an ascent-oriented touring ski with excellent downhill properties

The new ascent-oriented VTA 98 replaces the Nanuq and offers the best properties from both worlds, classic or modern. Sufficiently wide, with a moderate taper nose and tip rocker, the ski offers fantastic lift in softer snow and downhill performance in all conditions. At the same time, the low weight and the camber in the middle section allow effortless ascents in any terrain.

 

 

 

 

Category over 92mm, normal weight:

 

Here I would like to refer to the Scott Superguide 95.
The SCOTT Superguide 95 has the same construction as the 105 and brings maximum performance to ski tours. The Superguide 95 is advanced thanks to its
Carbon / Kevlar wood core construction light for climbs and uses SCOTT's famous elliptical sidewall construction for downhill power.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, I would like to explain the most important “technical terms” from ski construction.
The technical terms used as a matter of course in the descriptions sound exciting, but as it turned out, many people don't really know what to do with them. Therefore, the most important technical terms are briefly explained here:

Radius / sidecut:
The widest parts of a ski at the front of the shovel, in the middle (waist) and at the end of the ski (tail) result in the sidecut. The curve radius results from the related relationship to the length of the ski. The radius, on the other hand, is only a guideline, as it naturally depends on the driver's angle of inclination.

Flex:
Flex is the flexural strength of a ski. Depending on the processing materials such as wood, carbon, fiberglass, metal inserts, etc.the flex becomes harder (positive in hard, slope-like conditions) or softer (ideal in soft conditions, powder snow). Above all, the weight and driving skills of the driver naturally play a major role here.

Sandwich construction: A very high-quality and, above all, durable inner construction of the ski is described here. A sandwich construction certifies that the ski has a very high quality multi-layer structure with the heart of a ski, namely the wood core. For reasons of lower weight, light wood such as ash or paulownia is mostly used here.

Sidewall construction: With the side wall construction, special wooden or plastic glue is attached to the wooden core or on the side of the multi-layer construction and pressed together. This usually increases the edge grip significantly and protects the ski permanently from moisture and impacts.

Camber: Camber is the “bulge” or “pretension” of a ski between the front of the ski shovel and the rear of the ski. More preload helps sporty skiers to be able to exert more pressure on the ski and ensures better edge grip (more resistance), especially with today's carving models.

Rocker: This denotes a negative (U-shaped) bias in the shovel area (tip rocker), at the end of the ski (tail rocker) or over the entire length of the ski (full size rocker). The great advantage of rocker constructions, especially in the touring and freeride segment, is the associated increased buoyancy behavior in deep or wet snow conditions.

Update 09/15/19 / Praxenthaler
Snowphobic surface:
Describes the snow-repellent surface of certain skis. Do not underestimate the weight that accumulates on the ski as a result of the accumulation of snow during the ascent. By using special surface coatings, this clumping is reduced and often completely avoided.

Tapered Shape:
With the tapered shape construction, the widest point of the ski is not, as is usually the case, on the shovel, but is set back a little. In combination with a rocker profile, this construction is now very common because it makes wide skis more manoeuvrable and easier to ski.

Carbon:
As a stable, yet very light building material, carbon is ideal for touring skis and is being used more and more frequently. Carbon enables a very light, yet torsion-proof and stable ski core. Due to the difficult and complex production steps, this technology is mainly used for production in the upper price segment. However, a ski with a high carbon content also requires an advanced skier who can take advantage of this construction.

Update from 09/15/19 / Praxenthaler

1) Ski categories:

A distinction is made between the following categories:

Ascent-oriented touring skis
Width under the binding up to approx. 82mm. Especially for ascents and descents on the piste or piste-like hard snow. Also suitable for long and / or alpine tours with difficult ascent

All-round touring ski
Width under the binding between 84 to 95mm. Large area of ​​application and especially for classic ski tours. The wider the skis, the better the performance on descent and freeride, but handling on the ascent becomes more difficult.

Freeride skis
With more than 95mm width under the binding. For downhill-oriented experts and freeriders. Perfect especially in powder and in "traced" snow. On the ascent there are disadvantages due to the naturally higher weight of the skis, which requires more effort and better technique for hairpin bends, traverses and in steep terrain.

2) selection criteria
The following selection criteria will help you make the right decision

Weight:
Of course, the weight plays a major role in all models, because nobody voluntarily tows more than necessary up the mountain. However, they are extremely lightweight - less than 1800g per pair! - Disadvantages in downhill performance, i.e. smoothness, stability, driving ability, buoyancy in powder and suitability for the slopes.
More and more manufacturers are encountering the old motto "mass is great on the descent" with high-quality carbon constructions. These mostly very sporty models, however, require appropriate skiing skills in order to exhaust their often fantastic possibilities.

Length selection:
How long should my ski be?
Body size, weight, driving ability and the area of ​​use influence the basic length selection. The following recommendations are to be understood as guidelines and can be shifted up or down by one ski length depending on the respective parameters.


Lower limit:
Ski length to chin height. Short touring skis make hairpin bends and technically more difficult terrain easier, but give little lift in powder snow.

All-round:
Ski length to nose level. Ski models of this length can still be technically well and easily controlled on the ascent, but offer significantly more smoothness and buoyancy in powder on the descent.

Upper limit:
Ski length, height and above. For downhill-oriented experts and freeriders with special requirements. (Powder slopes, high speeds, long turns in steep terrain ...). Very individual, only conditionally suitable for advancement. Often the skis are carried on the rucksack to the starting point.

5) General questions:
-Offside and on the slopes (where do I move in the terrain ...)
Do I often climb up groomed slopes, be it as a touring
Beginners, fitness athletes or simply after work
-Claim and own ability
Do I regularly go ski tours over more than a thousand meters in altitude or do I prefer to go leisurely? Are performance and speed important to me or is it important to relax in nature? How safe do I really drive off-road? Do I want a forgiving ski or a high performer?
- freeriding
Do I simply see the descent as part of the complete experience of a classic ski tour? Or is the ascent just a necessary evil for me to find the best slopes? And is the descent the highlight for which every effort is worthwhile?

Ultimately, however, the boundaries are always fluid and therefore the decision is also a matter of weighing up.

 

Posted in NewsTagged Freeride Skis, Touring Freeriders, Touring Skis