For those who wish to venture out of bounds and explore untracked snow, backcountry skis are like gold. Quality backcountry skis are made with a foam or wood core and are often used with skins which are strapped onto the bottom of skis to enable uphill traction. Gaining access into those hard-to-reach places is no easy work, which is what makes it so worthwhile and all the more beautiful. There are three main categories of backcountry skis.
Alpine Touring (Randonee)
Alpine Touring skis, more commonly called AT skis, are defined by their binding which allows a skier to ascend with a free heel and ski down with their heels locked in like a regular alpine set up. The skis themselves are similar to regular alpine skis but regularly have twin tips. This is the most common backcountry ski set up since it allows a versatile upward motion and a secure descent. AT bindings have a tension release setting similar to regular alpine bindings.
Telemark skiing, called tele skiing or free-heel skiing, is for those who prefer to have the widest range of motion. Telemark bindings are used with telemark boots that are hard-shelled ski boots with a flexible bellows over the arch of the foot and a bill on the front of the boot to fit into the binding. In a telemark binding, the skier is not only free to lift his or her heel during the ascent but also carves their turns with uplifted heels on the decent. Most telemark bindings do not have a tension release setting like alpine or alpine touring bindings. Cartridges on the bindings create tension as the skier lifts their heel so that they can maintain control.
Backcountry Classic Skis
There is plenty to explore in the backcountry on cross country skis. These skies have a partial or full metal edge whereas regular cross country skis do not have a metal edge at all. Backcountry cross country skis are also more shaped, wider and more stable than regular cross country skis because they need to be able to glide over un-groomed areas. Most backcountry classic skis are made with a wax-less fish scale patterned bottom for traction on moderate inclines, but skins may still be needed when the incline becomes too steep.
Article Written By Naomi Judd
Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.