Alpine Touring

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  • Alpine Touring, Ski Mountaineering or Ski Randonee are terms used interchangeably. The basic concept is of bindings such as the Fritschi Freeride (and other brands) which allow one to ski downhill as per usual, then release a catch that allows the heel to go free for the uphill travel, and lock down again to ski down. forum members have a bit to say about comparing AT bindings
  • AT is popular in The Alps of Europe, and the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and anywhere else where there are reasonably steep mountains in the backcountry. Mountaineering skills are required for many AT trips in the big Alps. AT can be used on gentler slopes, but is slower than cross country gear on such terrain.
  • Normal downhill skis can be used, but AT skiers go for the lightest and shortest ski they can, knowing that they will, at some stage of the day, undoubtedly be carrying them on their pack.
  • Skins are required for uphill travel on snow. These have short nylon (or sometimes mohair) hairs on them, with a "nap" which allows forward travel, but grip the snow so as to not slide backwards. Good for going up steep hills. The skins have some sort of attachment on the front and back, and an adhesive side which sticks to the ski base. They are attached for the uphill climb, then removed for the ski downhill.
  • AT boots are similar to normal downhill ski boots, but generally softer. They have a catch which when flicked into "climb" mode, allows them to flex much more at the ankle, and when in "ski" mode locks them into ski position. They usually have vibram soles and fit automatic (clip-on) crampons well, so steep ice mountaineering can be done in them (and may be necessary on AT tours in glaciated alpine terrain).