Ski touring might be the biggest trend in snow sports at the moment, and although there is nothing new about the concept (skin up, ski down) there is a lot of new gear out there. Over the years, the gear for touring has gotten more and more user-friendly. There’s a wide variety of equipment for advanced skiers and beginners. No one knows this better than Matt Monod, buyer and manager of the world-renowned sporting goods shop – Monod's Sports in Banff, Canada. Matt is the third generation of Monod to work at the shop, and has seen the evolution of gear in his life as well as seeing the gear that his grandfather – John Monod, a Swiss Mountain Guide – used when he founded Monod’s back in 1949.
"When my Grandpa John was guiding on Sunshine Village,, which was called Sunshine Lodge back in the day, there was only a T-Bar, so he actually ski toured a lot," Matt tells ASN. “The equipment they used back then was all based off telemark _ all free heel with leather boots and a leather strap that wrapped around their ankle for stability. They skied on these super long, straight skis," Matt tells us.
“The people he was guiding would complain about their own gear and compliment Grandpa John's gear, which was pretty slick," Matt continues.”So he started importing European equipment, which was really where the only good equipment came from in those days. That is how Monod’s started. It was just this tiny little shop up at the Sunshine Village.”
Matt and his team at Monod’s Sports work with people who are new to ski touring as well as experts, and help them find the right gear for their needs. We asked Matt what his current favorite ski touring pieces are for beginners, along with a few tips.
“You see versatilities in the skis now. There are skis that tour well and are capable at skiing the hill as well. The best examples are from your big box brands, like the Tracer series by Armanda, Rossignol Seven series, Salomon QST series – these series are lightweight and don't sacrifice skier ability. Otherwise, it’s your choice. Do you want to save energy on the up? Or cater to your skiing on the descent?” says Monod.
“Another ski brand that is making waves is Black Crows. They are a small brand out of Chamonix, which actually relates to us because before my Grandpa had his shop here, he had one in Chamonix. They have a great ski called the Camox Freebird, which is a 97 underfoot with a nice tip-rise, so it will surface in the snow. It also has a shorter tail so you can kick turn easier depending on how you mount it. The whole Freebird series is a nice lightweight touring family of skis, but they ski really well.”
Continuing with Monod’s versatility theme, there are many boots on the market like the Fischer Ranger Frees and Atomic Hawk XTDs that use GripWalk soles that are din and pin certified. There are also boots like the Scarpa Freedom that have interchangeable soles. But the most important thing to think about when getting boots is the fit.
“There is a such a wide range and technology now in boots, but it all depends on what fits your foot. So long as the boot uppers cuff and pivot and walk around, and the boot has tech inserts. I think that the Scott Cosmos are a great boot for ease of fit and entry-level touring. They are super wide and easy to get on and off. They are also super lightweight. They also aren't overpowered,” says Monod.
The best beacon for a beginner is the beacon you are most familiar with. If you’re still rocking a two antenna beacon, consider upgrading to a three antenna model.
“The Barryvox only has one digital mode and is just super user-friendly,” says Monod.
SHOVELS & PROBES
“A shovel with big shovel head is key. When you’re in a situation where your friend is buried you’ll want a bigger shovelhead. This has better utility than a smaller and lighter shovel. It is also nice to have a good grip that can accommodate gloves.”
In regards to probes, “Go with a longer probe than you think. Even if you are going to be in a shallower snowpack, you’re in trouble if the terrain causes for a deeper burial and you can't even reach the person,” Monod tells us.
Skins will take a while to get used to and will likely be annoying – so be prepared and set yourself up for success.
“Skins are actually important for someone who is new to touring – they’re probably not as flexible in their hamstrings, they aren't going to grip as well when they are going up stepeper stuff. So a nylon skin is going to be a lot grippier. If you treat your skin glue well, they will work well,” Monod tells us. “G3 makes great nylon skins.”
“For poles, I have been recommending fixed poles. Most people are day touring and they aren't doing big long traverses where they have to adjust their poles. With fixed poles, there are no moving parts, so there are fewer chances of them breaking. Fixed poles also ski a lot better, and you’re not getting the rattling of the adjusting mechanisms. Black Crows have a nice fixed pole called the Oxus. Leki has a nice pole called the Hurricane, where you can remove the strap.”