Ski touring is a popular, yet physically demanding, form of cross country skiing. It combines skiing, hiking, backpacking, and mountaineering all into one sport. This sport is not only fun and very physical, but it also allows those who participate to interact with winter scenery that isnt accessible by any other means. Some participate in ski touring just to seek out fresh powder after a snow storm, so as not to have to compete with other skiers for that fresh powder on the ski slopes.
Ski touring is popular in the United States, Canada, and Europe. In the United States the most popular ski touring locations are in the California Sierras, Utah, Wyoming, and New Hampshire. In Canada, Rogers Pass in British Columbia is a popular spot, as well as Wapta Traverse in Alberta. Europe offers the best ski touring in the world in the European Alps. Providing point-to-point ski touring, the skier does not have to worry about carrying large packs of gear. In Europe, the ski touring hot spots include Chamonix and La Grave in France and Zermatt and Davos/Klosters in Switzerland.
Unless there are points that the skier can use for heat, food, and shelter, most ski touring is done during the day, with the skier returning to their lodging at the end of the day. Otherwise, a great deal of gear must be carried to ensure that the skier has needed clothing, food, heat, and shelter. Touring skiers may also opt to set up what is known as a corn camp, where they literally make their way to a particular spot, set up a base camp, and then spend several days of skiing in the general area, returning to the corn camp for the night.
There are different types of ski touring, and the equipment that you choose is very important. Nordic ski touring has bindings the enable the heels to be free at all times. This enables the ski to handle both uphill climbs and descents as well. Traditional Nordic skis are very narrow, and the boots used are very soft. Back country Nordic skis are about 80mm wide. The boots are not as soft as Traditional Nordic boots, but not as hard as traditional ski boots.
Telemark skis are used for steep terrain. They are heavier and wider than other skis, and the boots are flexible, allowing for natural walking. Alpine touring equipment is also ideal for steep terrain; however it is lighter than Telemark gear. The type of equipment that you choose will be determined by the type of terrain the equipment will be used on.
While there are always dangers when dealing with the elements, ski touring is a great deal more dangerous than skiing on patrolled slopes. Obviously, the risk of becoming injured, with no help anywhere nearby is something one must consider. Avalanche is another potential problem. Because the area is not maintained or patrolled, the snow is not as stable as that which one finds on the maintained ski slopes.