I'm looking into branching out into Ski touring. I live within sight of a couple of small-ish French resorts and work from home so getting out isn't a problem - but I've so far only got into piste (of which I'm a competent intermediate) and XC skiing.
I've been out touring with a guide a couple of times - fine on the skinning uphill (I'm an ultra runner so have a decent engine) but technique on the powder descents needs a lot of practice.
We've had some great early snow - and the French ski resorts are closed until at least January because of Covid so I was thinking about finally getting some kit and practicing on the empty, ungroomed pistes. Obviously I know even that isn't without risks - will be getting some guided days out too.
So if I was to start investing in kit, with a view to getting out more and more where would you start? Get my own boots and rent the rest? Buy a cheap starter kit from Decathlon? Second hand? Get kitted out by a specialist?
I basically want to spend my money where it will make the most difference, and save where I can potentially upgrade later, or where it's less of an issue.
Get your own boots, make sure they're comfortable. Go secondhand for everything else, except for a transceiver get the best you can get.
In reply to Yorkshireman:
I'm based in Chamonix and have some second hand skis (178cm/97mm underfoot) and boots (EU 43) sitting around. Drop me a PM if interested/want further details.
If its available locally start by hiring - even 2nd hand a setup is a biggish layout so worth trying a variety of boots, skis, bindings to see what you prefer - simplistically there's a tradeoff between lightweight for uphill, and beefier/heavier for the down, then different boot fits (easy to buy the wrong size) and bindings - e.g. some people like a variety of (higher) heel raisers, or find some makes of pin bindings more/less fiddly to clip in etc.
A good ski shop in a touring area should have a selection of second hand skis and bindings at a good price.
Must be second hand gear for sale near you (if not Grenoble), maybe via a local ski club. Or maybe ex hire ? - my wife bought a set up (skis, boots, bindings & skins) last winter from a local hire shop for something like €150
what OwenM said - but I'll expand a wee bit.
boot are a critical thing, get what fits best whatever the cost. I'v known people to get on totally fine with second hand boots, but... you'll know your own feet.
if you're looking 2nd hand, I'd consider the value of the bindings; these can always be re-mounted onto new skis later.
you'll probably get more bang for your buck: 2nd hand, ex demo, end of season discount, then decath - their stuff's not bad at all, but a discounted ex demo setup would likely be better value.
don't go nuts looking for the ideal ski - buy skis, go skiing!
figure the rest out later.
> don't go nuts looking for the ideal ski - buy skis, go skiing!
> figure the rest out later.
Yep, particularly when you're not the worlds greatest downhill skier the difference good skis and really good skis is probably going to be lost on you (and me!).
When I decided a few years ago that I was going to make the move from touring and skimo on telemark gear to AT, I managed to get a decent set up of AT gear second hand from around Sheffield! So in the Alps there must be lots of second hand gear around I would have thought.
Lots of shops seem to have sales on last season's kit which I guess didn't sell well with the pandemic.
Look on the Chamonix FB sale pages, usually a lot going on these second hand. Not sure if your location suits this approach but sure there maybe a equivalent near you.
Im sure whatever you buy will be fine & possibly changed as you progress over this coming year.
But, this year with the lifts being closed for the time being & being early in the season, there may be a shortage of deals & equipment available at the cheap price range.
Whatever it costs for a good pair of boots with walk mode that will fit you. Let a reputable (ask around) boot fitter choose the boots for you, skimp on everything else but not this. There should be masses of choice at this time of year. Budget for a new transceiver, probe and shovel too.
I skinned up a local piste yesterday for a single run down (nice powder), even though mid week there were several folk doing the same. Guess weekends may even be crowded.
I went skiing and ice climbing in boots secondhand from a mate (two sizes too big, but too slim as he had the boots fitted for him) and survived for a few years (including a four weeks trip to Greenland) but the state of my feet was terrible on occasions, blisters, oedema even. Then I went to Chamonix and in Snell sports (where they also sell secondhand) I found a pair of Ladies boots in my size for believe it or not 95 pounds which fitted really well. What a difference! Never looked back. My hubby got brand new ones from the Aviemore ski shop, but they were even then more then 400 quid. Might be worth it though if you value your feet and can afford it.
I am based just the other side of the mountains form you, been out touring last few days and its been good.
With out wanting to repeat what other have said to much, boots are a big one and make a huge difference if they fit, both in comfort and ability.
For skis there is a few options, to be honest they all can work, I would go for something 95 underfoot up to 102cm that's a really nice range for different snow conditions and sounds like your fit enough to drag them up,
Have a look for local facebook groups and see what going on their, also if you have friends coming over from the UK check out British back country for sale facebook group they often have skis set ups, and they are a bit cheaper than France, and normally news sets, (if you have been in France a while you may notice that they don't drop much off for second hand). and if some one is coming out via car and can bring them you will probably get a better deal.
If it was out of season I would recommend glisshop they do some really good deal out of season but not so much this time of year, you could rent this year and buy during end of season sales. you could also swap different skis during the season to see what you, like if renting.
Also the decathlon is not a bad idea, I haven't skied there skis but I hear they are ok, i saw the other day they won some award (but that doesn't mean a lot, as most are just magazine give away awards), but there is no getting away from the price, you get a rebranded dynafit binding, ski's and skins for 650 euros, the binding normally are nearly 400 euros, ski them for a year and if you want to upgrade by new skis in the sale and keep the binding (ski's will always have sales, Bindings not so much) and by then you will have a bit more experience to know what you want.
Happy to help if you want any more advice, or when (if) we can travel further if you fancy meeting for slide maybe some where half wayish near the Lautaret let me know.
For 2nd hand in France worth keeping eye on http://www.skitour.fr/annonces/
.....and German/Austrian eba#
In the UK I find most stuff seems to go on Facebook now.
There's a page called British backcountry for sale / wanted. Regularly full setups for sale.
Depending on what size you are I actually have a few pairs of boots for sale ATM pretty cheaply. Two pairs of Dynafit Vulcans (27.5, 28) and a pair of Salomon MTN explores for a bit more. Pm me if want, otherwise a wanted post on the FB group will get lots of replies.
If you are in striking distance of Chamonix, check out Apres Ski on Impasse des Rhododendrons (between Super U and Chalet 4810 off the main street). It's a 2nd hand shop - and has lots of 2nd hand mountaineering and skiing gear.
Thanks for the replies everyone - some good advice and once again UKC shows the hive mind knows its stuff.
The big takeaway is investment in well-fitting boots. The couple of times I've been touring with a guide I was crippled with blisters so definitely worth it. There's a couple of specialist shops in town (Lans-en-Vercors/Villard-de-Lans) where I'd rather give my money than Decathlon so I'm going to go and see what the boot situation is - even if I just rent the rest of the kit for the year and build up bit by bit.
The problem with second hand - firstly in France the French don't know the meaning of the word depreciation so there's often little value as people ask silly prices for stuff. Secondly I don't know enough of what I'm talking about, so without a range of options and extra info you get online it's hard to make an informed decision.
I'll check out the local clubs - a few people from my running club do it but since this second lockdown started all clubs gatherings have been cancelled.
I do most of my skiing in Val d'Isere, and the shop there which specialises in touring kit has a rack of second-hand skis and bindings outside which are often massive bargains. If you do go to a local shop for your boots, at least ask if they have any second-hand skis which would be suitable for you. If a ski is a two year old model, you should expect a huge discount even if it's in really good condition.
Lots of good advice given.
Definitely get good fitting boots, factor in adding a pair of mouldable footbeds sooner or later- it will make a good boot great.
Measure your foot accurately both in length and width to get an idea of size needed, particularly width. Wide get can be problematic - makes should publish their last width. Width will differ between different models in a make.
I have wide feet (112mm) flat, works well with a 103 mm wide last (Scott Carbon Guide)
Also regarding 2nd hand hire, I've seen many adequate, cheap mountain skis that would work well with a touring binding drilled on. You'll need an experienced person to guide you in the buying.
Invest in ski lessons for the downhill when possible.
If you are still a relative beginner at off piste skiing (ie. likely to take lots of relatively low speed falls), I would be a bit wary of getting a pin touring binding without lateral toe release. Some of the newer design pin bindings and hybrid bindings (e.g. Salomon Shift) do have release characteristics more similar to Alpine downhill bindings, but are fairly expensive. Otherwise look to get a frame binding to be on the safe side.
Skis - go for at least 84 mm width underfoot, to make life easier for you off piste, and not super lightweight dedicated touring skis. I have Black Crows Camox Freebirds, which are 97 mm underfoot and they ski brilliantly both on piste and off. Good second hand skis (or heavily discounted in sales) are fairly easy to pick up, at least in the UK.
Also make sure you get avalanche safety kit and learn how to use it. Just because something is normally a piste, if they are not grooming them at the moment, it's effectively off-piste. Any steeper than 30 degrees (ie. steep red run), then you are in potential avalanche terrain.
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