Raised in the Bavarian Alps, Caja Schöpf's journey with skiing began at the tender age of 3. Over the years, she has not only etched her name in the world of freestyle skiing but has also nurtured an unwavering passion for the great outdoors and a deep love for the mountains. Although retired from freestyle competitions, Caja's passion for descending steep slopes and ascending mountain trails remains as strong as ever.
What is Ski Touring?
Ski touring is a thrilling outdoor activity that combines the beauty of nature with the exhilaration of skiing. This sport involves hiking up mountains or hills with skis strapped to your feet, offering a unique way to enjoy the winter landscape while getting an excellent workout. Then once you’ve reached your summit, you can enjoy the exhilarating reward of skiing down smooth and fast (depending on the conditions) instead of an exhausting downhill walk.
Why I Love Ski Touring
Ski touring is the perfect blend of endurance, strength and adventure in 100% natural surroundings. It’s the ultimate natural workout. The most exhilarating part, for me, is the descent - skiing down off-piste slopes covered in fresh powder! It allows you to engage with the great outdoors, breathe in fresh mountain air, and experience the serenity of unspoiled landscapes. It's a unique combination of physical fitness and mental tranquility.
Whether I'm exploring solo or with friends, the feeling of reaching a challenging summit, sipping hot tea and relishing the panoramic view with the anticipation of skiing back to the valley, is simply unparalleled.
Who Can Try Ski Touring?
The beauty of ski touring is that almost anyone who can ski downhill can give it a try. Beginners can start on groomed slopes within ski resorts to learn ski touring techniques and get ready for going off-piste, but make sure you only use the designated ski touring routes to avoid conflicts with downhill skiers.
When you decide you’re ready to venture off-piste, it's crucial to carry the right safety gear and know how to use it. This should include a probe, a shovel, an avalanche transceiver, a first aid kit and a headlamp. Safety should always come first.
Best Places for Ski Touring
The choice of ski touring destinations largely depends on the weather conditions and personal preferences. Some of the most stunning locations for ski touring include:
South Tyrol, Italy: With its vast Alpine terrain, South Tyrol offers numerous ski touring opportunities for all levels.
Austria: A ski touring paradise with diverse landscapes and stunning peaks.
Norway: Norway is especially renowned for its breathtaking sea-to-summit ski touring experiences, offering unparalleled views and untouched snow.
Best Time to Go Ski Touring
While you can go ski touring during various parts of the winter season, many enthusiasts, including myself, prefer spring ski touring. During this period, the sun regains its strength, and the snow conditions can be excellent. However, it's important to start early in the day to avoid rising temperatures during the day.
Ski Touring Equipment
For a safe and enjoyable ski touring adventure, you'll need the following ski touring equipment:
Ski touring Skis: Choose skis with ski touring bindings. I prefer skis with around 93mm in the middle.
Ski touring Boots: Ensure they have a walking mode to make the ascent easier.
Ski touring Poles: Poles with adjustable lengths to adapt for both uphill and downhill sections.
Skins: I prefer the Hybrid skins of Contour because they are super easy to handle.
For clothing, I prefer to layer for flexibility:
Hardshell Jacket and Pants: Protects you from wind and moisture.
Isolation Jacket: Keeps you warm, especially on colder days.
Merino Ski Underwear: Ideal for moisture management and warmth.
Merino Compression Ski Socks: Keep your feet comfortable and dry.
Fleece or Vest: I always bring a second long sleeve top to change into once I’m reaching the summit and feeling the sweat!
Don't forget other essential items like safety gear, sunscreen, sunglasses, a first aid kit, headlamp and a ski backpack. I recommend the Osprey Sopris 30(Opens in a new window), which is lightweight but with enough space for all your gear. It allows you to carry your gear comfortably and even secure your skis on the outside during climbing sections.
You could also consider carrying a special avalanche backpack with an airbag – check out Osprey’s Soelden/Sopris Pro(Opens in a new window) series, which includes the next-gen Alpride E2 Airbag System.
The most important thing is to know how to use your equipment. There are plenty of mountain schools who offer great courses concerning snow, including avalanche awareness. Alternatively, I’d recommend booking an experienced mountain guide to take you on your first ski tour. They will ensure you are safe, and at the same time they will teach you how to keep yourself safe, equipping you with the skills and confidence ready for your next skitouring adventure.