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Ski Touring – What Gear is Best For You?

Ski touring can mean different things to different people – depending on the desires of those participating. According to Google dictionary, the defining features include ‘skiing across open country, walking uphill on skis as well as skiing downhill’. With this in mind; there are multiple options of how you can spend your day ski touring – depending on your own priorities. Many people use ski touring as a means of fitness. Some are captivated by the ability ski touring gives you to escape the crowded slopes and travel into the wilderness. Meanwhile, others use ski touring as an effective method of transport on the snow, ultimately to get to a destination. This destination could be anything from a mountain hut, to a line you have been dreaming about skiing for years, or even the finish line of a race. Therefore, to answer your questions of what gear is best; first you will need to prioritise your own ski touring desires.

There are two extremes within the ski touring world. At one end of the spectrum you have the lightest skis and minimal pin bindings, combined with extremely lightweight, soft boots. And at the other end there is the freeride setup, which uses heavier and fatter powder skis, with a more performance binding and stiffer boots. The lightweight setup is perfect for those hungry to push their limits on the ascent; by beating time records, increasing their distances, or simply for anyone wanting to make walking uphill on snow as effortless as possible. This is a good option for endurance ski tours, such as multi-day or hut-to-hut trips where you need to save your energy. Plus, for ski tour racing the lighter the gear the better. On the contrary, the heavier setup is designed for those really prioritising the decent and wanting to charge down a line with the best equipment for exactly that. This freeride setup tends to be used for shorter ski tours due to its weight, but what it does best is allow you to ‘earn your turns’ in most snow conditions, especially fresh powder. Also this setup is perfect for side country access skiing, where you may need a short walk to get to a line or even just to skin out from the bottom.

When choosing what gear to buy, there will always be compromises to make, but with technology constantly improving, those compromises seem to keep getting smaller and smaller.

However great each of these setups are for their purpose, choosing between them will subsequently mean compromising the ascent or decent. For example, super lightweight skis with pin bindings are not going to give you as much control or float in powder as a fatter, stiffer setup. On the other hand, climbing up with heavy gear will naturally slow you down and use up more energy. This limits the distance you can travel in a certain amount of time, and time is a critical factor when travelling in the mountains. Therefore, if you are looking to enjoy all aspects of ski touring, you may want something a bit more ‘middle ground’.

When choosing what gear to buy, there will always be compromises to make, but with technology constantly improving, those compromises seem to keep getting smaller and smaller. In fact Atomic (and Salomon) have released a brand-new binding, which is the ‘first compromise-free binding’. Whereas before you had to make a big decision of pin or freeride touring bindings, now the Atomic Shift binding perfectly combines the two systems. The many benefits include being lighter under foot for each step you climb, being securely locked in for charging the decent and importantly being able to release if you crash. Plus having brakes make transitions slightly less worrying when taking your skis off; unlike many pin setups which do not have such luxuries. These bindings are compatible with all Multi Norm Certified soles on the market today: Gripwalk ISO 9523, WTR ISO 9523 and Touring Norm ISO 9523 ski boots when in ski mode, as well as most ‘pin binding’ touring boots. The only sole not compatible with the Shift binding is the Non Touring Norm sole. Fundamentally, this makes tehn the ultimate all-round ski touring binding currently on the market.

The Atomic Backland skis are a great example of a versatile, lightweight ski, which can handle a range of conditions and terrain.

Touring skis are also closing the gap between what’s good going up and what’s good skiing down. The Atomic Backland skis are a great example of a versatile, lightweight ski, which can handle a range of conditions and terrain. Their ultra-light wood core and carbon backbone make climbing a doddle, while their HRZN tech tips, cap sidewall and all-mountain rocker increase float and give great edge control for ripping through the powder, crud or on piste. Furthermore, Atomic have an extensive range of their Backland skis, which include women specific models, and range from 65 to 107 under foot to cater for everyone’s needs. For the ultimate balance of up-and-down the women’s Backland 85 and the men’s Backland 95 are perfect. Combine these skis with the Atomic Shift binding and you will be well on your way to the perfect all-mountain touring setup.

To top it off, ski touring boots keep getting lighter, stronger and stiffer for you to really make the most of your time on the snow. If you are looking for a boot that can really do it all, look no further than the trusty Atomics, to complete your own ultimate touring setup. For both men and women the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD is the perfect balance between a freeride boot and a touring boot. With the pin system and lightweight shell ready for cruisey ascents, and a stiff flex for shredding at speed, you can enjoy one pair of boots for all your mountain adventures.

To top it off, ski touring boots keep getting lighter, stronger and stiffer for you to really make the most of your time on the snow.

And its not just me that thinks that; here’s what On The Snow have to say about the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD ski boots!

So, hopefully you will have a broader understanding of the different meanings of ski touring, and have a better idea of what will ‘tickle-your-fancy’ in the mountains. If you are at each end of the spectrum and want to push yourself in either the ascent or the decent, then size and weight are both critical factors when buying gear. If you see yourself as an all-mountain ski tourer, you will seek the perfect balance with the least compromises. The aforementioned Atomic setup (Backland skis, Shift bindings and Hawx Ultra XTD boots) will provide you with comfort, control and enjoyment in all aspects of ski touring.

Also this set-up is perfect for those new to ski touring, because it’s very user friendly and great value for money. So, if you are looking for one pair of boots and one pair of skis with bindings that you can truly take anywhere and have a good time, this is for you!

Finally, when ski touring in the backcountry, choosing your gear is only the beginning of all the important decisions to be made. Take no unnecessary risks and be snow avalanche aware; but most importantly have fun and enjoy the freedom!

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Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130 Ski Boot And Atomic Backland 95 Ski Review

There’s a ‘shift’ to ski touring (free touring), and it’s growing in popularity! So if you’re skiing frontside on the resort pistes or finding that un-tracked snow on the backside of the mountain,  the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD is the perfect all round boot. It’s comfortable, lightweight and gives you the performance you want. The same can be said of the Atomic Backland skis, lightweight and performance!

Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130

Before I left for Colorado; I was impressed with the customisation of the boot. The Hawx Ultra has a narrow last, and my foot is defiantly not narrow. However, thanks to the expert fitting of the Memory Fit 3D Platinum Light Liner, these  are the comfiest boots I had ever worn; and light! They only weigh  1420g (size 26.5  boot). The lace up liners are a great addition because you can put the linear on before putting the boot on; which is a great help in the cold car parks of the Colorado Rockies.

New to the touring scene I was interested to see how I would get on with the pin bindings compared to a traditional alpine bindings.  Safe to say any doubts I had were quickly put to bed. The pre-cut skins were also an easy fit (and removal), thanks to a new tip fitting.

atomic backland skis
The carbon backbone of the ski gives it the stiffness and performance you want making those powder turns!

My guide (brother) had been up in the mountains for a month skiing and touring every day; so I was expecting to be absolutely beasted when we pulled off the highway at Shrine Pass, Vail (3380M). The extreme light weight of the Hawx Ultra XTD and the Backland 95 skis (1370g  size 177cm ski) meant, that although I was behind, my pride was still intact – which is always key when trying to keep up with your brother. After two hours of going up my legs were feeling surprisingly better than I first expected; mostly due to the boots and skis rather than my superior fitness levels. The hike mode on the Hawx Ultra allows the boot to articulate further than my legs possibly can.

Atomic Backland 95 Skis

After an avalanche check it was time to charge down the untracked snow on the Atomic Backland 95 skis that took me uphill so well. They were just as good on the downhill. The carbon backbone of the ski gives it the stiffness and performance you want making those powder turns!

The best part about this set up is that it gives you uncharted access. Find yourself a touring buddy and go wherever the snow takes you. For me personally there isn’t much better than being out in the mountains with just yourself and your touring buddy; away from all the noise and lift ques in resort. 

The next day, with somewhat tired legs, we took the lifts to ski frontside. This is where I had my doubts about pin bindings. Skiing in America for the first time, it was my first experience of someone pulling my skis out of the gondola for me. I was met by an American guy who was extremely excited about how light my skis and bindings were. First run down and all those doubts about the bindings and skis were gone; putting in harder carving turns each time. The pin binding work just as well on piste; and it was noticeable how many people were skiing on pin bindings!

The next wave of skiing is defiantly coming in quick, so keep an eye out for our freetouring gear!


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Atomic Redster X7 Skis Review

I was lucky enough to have been offered a set of the Atomic Redster X7 skis with XT12 bindings, for a recent ski trip, so jumped at the chance to take them away.

Atomic have arguably produced some of the best race/piste skis on the market over the years. Although I’m nowhere near the same level; knowing that current World and Olympic Slalom Champion Mikaela Shiffrin and current Men’s World Champion Marcel Hirscher opt for the Redsters, I was very excited to try them out.

Various reviewers have catagorised the Atomic Redster X7 as an all mountain to top end piste ski. Atomic describe the Redster range as the perfect blend of Giant Slalom carving turns and Slalom short radius turns. So as a keen skier myself I was interested to see where I would ‘place’ them!

My initial thoughts of the skis were very positive; on the first ‘red run’ of the morning. Atomic’s power woodcore, full sidewall and 100% traditional camber, had the skis edging beautifully. When I flexed the skis into the turn they responded, with their full sidewall and woodcore, snapping me back and into the next turn. I took advantage of this, whilst the slopes were empty, and enjoyed several runs with the skis push harder and harder. I understood what Atomic are claiming with the “blend” as the skis seemed to generate more speed the harder I pushed them.

atomic rester x7 piste skis
When my ‘millionaires’ slope time starting to come to an end I decided to go in search of a busier chopped up piste.

When my ‘millionaires’ slope time starting to come to an end I decided to go in search of a busier chopped up piste, one that you might find at the end of the day, to see how they would handle the lumps and bumps. I wasn’t sure what to expect here, but due to the slope being busy, I tried a few parallel turns. The skis were very aggressive over the bumps and seemed to snap back at me the more pressure I put through them. I didn’t see this as a negative towards the skis because they are sold as a top end ski, that are designed to be aggressive. It did get me thinking, though, that fatigued legs at the end of a long day may struggle to absorb these bumps on the last runs down to the bar.

Overall, I would sum these skis up as an awesome bit of kit. To any potential buyers I would strongly recommend really thinking about where you ski most on the mountain. If your looking for an all mountain ski that is forgiving and can go all over, even into the powder, then these are not the skis for you. However, if you prefer to ski hard on fresh packed corduroy pistes with a ski that is going to push your edge angles, and generate speed, then these skis are fantastic. I found myself having to back off several times, not due to the ski quivering or loosing grip, but for a reason that any skier doesn’t really like to admit to!

Check out our selection of Atomic, and other skis: piste, all-mountain, touring and more.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather