What Is Ski Touring Or ‘Skinning’? Characteristic To Look For

by Frank V. Persall

One of the greatest things about skiing is that there are so many ways in which you can do it. Despite how it may look to an amateur, skiing is a versatile sport that has something for everyone and one method is known as ski touring. But what is ski touring?

Ski touring is a type of skiing that is typically done outside of the ski resort on unmarked areas. This version of skiing is sometimes referred to as backcountry skiing owing to the rugged and unpatrolled nature of the sport. 

While a lot of skiers are keen to try out snow touring, there are some risks involved and so it is important to be prepared and make sure that you are clued up on what to expect. In this guide to ski touring, we will be explaining which skis you should be using, what difficulties to expect, and how to get started.

What Is Ski Touring Or ‘Skinning’? Characteristic To Look For
What Is Ski Touring Or ‘Skinning’? Characteristic To Look For

What Does Ski Touring Involve?

Ski touring, or ski trekking, takes place on barely touched snow; more often than not, you will be making your way through rugged terrain on fresh snow, and this is a huge draw for many people. If you love nature and want to explore everything that a mountain has to offer, ski hiking is likely something you will enjoy. 

When you take part in piste skiing, you will typically ascend the mountain using a ski lift but when ski touring, you make use of equipment known as climbing skins. This means that the sport can be more physically demanding than piste skiing so you will need to make sure that you are fit and ready to take on the challenge.

Where many types of skiing are to do with coming down the mountain, ski touring is more about making your way up. Once at the top, you will feel a massive sense of achievement and of course, will be rewarded with an excellent view. Only then will you make your way down in the traditional manner. 

Another great thing about ski touring is that you aren’t limited to a few hours or a morning on the slopes. Instead, you will spend at least a day checking out the mountain and in some cases, there is the option to head out on a multi-day experience. If you want something a little more challenging and intense, then ski mountaineering could be for you.

What Makes A Touring Ski

If you are going to brave the challenge of ski touring then you must be properly equipped. You cannot simply use the same skis you would when visiting your local ski resort and skiing down the piste, in the same way, you wouldn’t drive a supercar over farmland.

One of the most significant differences between touring skis and other types of the ski is that the waist is generally much narrower. This makes them more suitable for longer ski hikes. That being said, there is some suggestion that you could use any type of ski provided that you have the correct climbing skins and bindings. 

Set Of Green Touring Skis
Set Of Green Touring Skis
Regardless of anything, you will need to think about the type of terrain you will be skiing on. If you are going to be crossing through various conditions, it might be better to choose a ski that is designed for this. 

Many would agree that lightweight skis are ideal for ski mountaineering as they won’t weigh you down as much when making your way up the mountain. 

Is Ski Touring Difficult?

A Man At Mt. Furano Backcountry Ski Touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
A Man At Mt. Furano Backcountry Ski Touring (Hokkaido, Japan)
If you aren’t used to a lot of physical demand then you may find that ski touring is a little difficult. But this does not mean that you can’t take part. Much like anything, one of the best methods is to ease yourself into the sport and start with something less challenging, working your way up to multi-day hikes. 

You will also find that, if you aren’t equipped with the right gear, ski touring can be incredibly miserable. In the main, it is a very enjoyable activity, but if you are trying to lug heavy boots and ski up the side of a steep mountain, you’re going to start to struggle, even if you are fit and healthy. 

Regardless of your level of experience, one of the most important things for ski touring is never to attempt it alone. While there may be a lot of beautiful sights and wonderful things to discover, nature can pose a significant risk. This is especially important in the early days when you are still getting to grips with your technique and equipment. In this case, always take an experienced guide or friend with you.


Ski touring is a much more remote and primal type of skiing that involves getting back to nature and away from the commercial trails. Where you may be used to being transported to the top of the piste in a ski lift, touring requires much more physical exertion in getting to the top. 

Ski trekking is more about the experience of using your ski equipment to make an ascent and enjoying the sights and sounds on the way, as well as the stunning view from the top. Furthermore, when you make your way back down, you will benefit from skiing on untouched trails. 

One of the most important things to consider when attempting ski touring for the first time is that you will need the right equipment. Without this, it can be very difficult to meet the demands of this challenging version of the sport.

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About Frank V. Persall

Frank is originally from the UK, but he has a passion for skiing that knows no bounds. He has made it his life's mission to visit the best ski resorts across the USA and the World. Frank loves spending time with his wife and three children on ski slopes, as they all share his love for the activity.

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