Do the stockpiled powder and wild terrain of the backcountry beckon you? But does the prospect of learning how to telemark stop you in your tracks? If so, steal a trick from the Europeans and get acquainted with randonnée, or Alpine touring, gear.
Both Alpine and Nordic in function, an Alpine touring (AT) setup consists of sturdy boots, bindings that free your heel for climbing and lock it in place for skiing, and high-performing yet lightweight skis. It's kind of like getting the beef burrito with the veggie tamales. The beauty of the system is that it allows you to hike to those coveted back-country shots, then ski down using the technique with which you're already comfortable.
Long popular in Europe, where off-piste skiing is a way of life, AT equipment has recently started to catch on in North America. The surge in popularity is due partly to advances in the gear, which delivers solid downhill performance while being light enough for uphill hiking. And unlike most telemark bindings, AT bindings are releasable (using standard DIN settings)-an important safety feature in the ski-patrol-less backcountry.
If you're a proficient downhiller looking for some new adventure, visit a good mountaineering store to explore the variety of AT gear. We'll help get you started by highlighting a few of the latest offerings.
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(Fritschi bindings, Scarpa boots, and Ascension skins)
(Dynafit bindings, boots, and skis)