Skiers and snowboarders are becoming increasingly seduced by the idea of ski touring and splitboarding.
Hiking up a mountain with no lift access at the break of dawn, wandering into the wilderness, lusting over untracked snow and basking in the empty silence.
If that sounds like your kind of thing, then it's time to have a go at it. But where to start?
We’ve summarised a few essentials to get you ready for taking on the backcountry - from equipment to knowledge and a few extra tips to consider before you head out in search of adventure and solace in the mountains.
What Kit Do You Need?
You may have noticed a strange breed of skier, the one with peculiar bindings and ice axe laden backpack?
You’ll need to become familiar with all that equipment yourself in order to stray from the pistes. Here’s a checklist to get you started:
Look for something relatively lightweight, between 80 to 100mm under foot. We recommend the Dynafit Manaslu Women Ski.
You can buy a Voile kit and make one yourself from an old board if you’re a DIY kinda gal. Alternatively, the Jones Women's Solution is at the other end of the spectrum. Their splitboards are the best on the market.
There’s a huge variety of alpine touring boots available, depending on whether you want to focus more on the downhill or the uphill. Take a look at weight and walk modes.
As the technology moves forward, the tech bindings, like those originally from Dynafit, and many other brands like Tyrolia or Diamir, are creating bindings that are just as good downhill as they are uphill.
It just depends how much you want to spend.
Check out adjustable ones that you can shrink to fit on a backpack .
Make sure you get skins cut to cover the whole base of the skis/board but leave the edges uncovered for better grip.
Find a pack around 30 litres with sturdy straps to attach skis/board if hiking. We like this Women's Pro II from Dakine.
Look for digital, don’t just reach for the cheapest one on the market. Your life is worth spending some money on.
Find one with a metal spade and a retractable handle.
Avoid short and flimsy looking probes.
You Will Also Need...
- First aid and repair kit
- Ski crampons
- Head torch
Time To Sign Up To Avalanche Training
Once you’ve gathered all the gear, it is essential that you take some form of backcountry training before you head out.
This should cover snow and avalanche awareness, navigation skills, search and rescue protocol, first aid and an understanding of the weather.
You’re also going to need fitness, endurance and of course the ability to ski/ride off piste.
Check out this article for an outline of some beginner avalanche awareness courses.
It’s important to remember that acquiring this knowledge is a lifelong endeavour. There will always be an element of risk.
Arm yourself with as much information as possible and ensure the decisions you make are based on the knowledge you gather from the snowpack, the forecast and the avalanche bulletin - and not on other people’s tracks.
What About More General Courses?
Mountain Tracks run a variety of beginner courses for mountaineering, avalanche safety and ski touring in Europe and beyond. They will happily create custom trips for groups of splitboarders too.
An all-female course may provide you with the relaxed atmosphere you need to ask questions and gain confidence in your ability alongside like-minded women.
The Skiers Lodge are now offering a K2 Women’s Movement Week exploring the legendary terrain around La Grave.
BB’s Intro to Ski Mountaineering in Breckenridge, CO or SheJump’s Alpine Finishing School based out of Selkirk Lodge near Revelstoke, BC are exciting opportunities run by experienced female guides that will teach you all the relevant skills alongside women just like you.