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M An Introduction to Nordic and Backcountry Ski Gear: Part 2 - Advanced Nordic Ski Mountaineering on UL Tele Gear

by Forrest McCarthy

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Article Summary:

It is natural for skiers, as their skills improve, to seek more challenging terrain. And with access to mountainous landscapes, it is inevitable for a skier to enter the realm of ski mountaineering.

Ski mountaineering may be distinguished from ski touring by a willingness to travel over any part of a mountain. This can include significant rock, ice, or glaciers. The use of technical equipment - including crampons, ice axes, and ropes is often required. The objective is typically a peak or a high-altitude traverse.

In addition to technical mountaineering skill, ski mountaineering requires an expert level of avalanche awareness. The same slopes (30°-50°) that provide the best terrain for ski mountaineering are prime for avalanches. While avalanche awareness and risk reduction is beyond the scope of this article, it is highly recommended that a skier engaging in ski mountaineering seek avalanche training and possess the proper safety equipment. is a great clearinghouse of all things avalanche related, including where to enroll in a training course.

Nor is this article is about Alpine Touring (AT) Equipment or to debate AT versus Telemark. Both Nordic and Telemark equipment have their advantages. To the benefit of both styles of skiing, the growing popularity of Ski Mountaineering Races has driven impressive advances in AT equipment, especially lightweight skis. There exists a plethora of information on the Internet regarding AT equipment and technique - the U.S. Ski Mountaineering Association’s website is a great place to start.

This article is written for Nordic and Telemark skiers interested in ski mountaineering with a free heel. The term Telemark, named after the Telemark region of Norway, refers to a type of turn, a style of skiing, and a type of equipment. Telemark skiing is a subset of Nordic skiing and for the purpose of this article, the two terms are used synonymously.


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