Alpine touring setup for a 105 lbs, 5'0" beginner skier
November 28, 2013 2:30 PM   Subscribe

With just about every activity that I ended up enjoying, I started out by buying cheap-ish gear and then having to purchase everything all over again when I was ready to upgrade. Help me not do that when it comes to a randonee/alpine touring ski setup to be used in the Pacific Northwest backcountry. Complications: I'm a 5'0" woman with mondo size 22 feet, don't weigh a whole lot, and I'm going back to skiing after a decade of snowboarding (lessons start next month and I tend to be a very fast learner). I've my backpack, all clothing and avy gear, but I need skis, bindings, boots, poles, and skins. I'm on a budget and unfortunately nothing is available used in my size, but I'm willing to invest. Help?
posted by halogen to Shopping (9 answers total)
Where in the PacNW are you? It might be worthwhile for you to skim the MEC or REI classifieds, and cross over to BC to buy your used gear. Lots of ladies here in Canada are petite -- 5 ft & 100 lbs is not uncommon at all.
posted by wutangclan at 5:17 PM on November 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Keep looking around for a used setup for the skis & skins (and couteaux if you need them, I don't really know what the PNW is like for touring)

There's maybe no easy way to work out what you want from a touring ski without doing some touring first, especially if you haven't skied for a while. And there's usually a pretty healthy market in used touring gear, at least there is here. I know several ski tourers your height, I'd be surprised if there wasn't anything around. Don't get a pair that's so old that they don't have decent rocker though.

Also you can keep your tatty old first pair to use early/late season when you upgrade, to save your new ones from the rocks.

I started out using the normal AT bindings, which are easier to use, but now have Dynafits. They're lighter and better, but maybe not so good to deal with when you're starting out. NB they are also not compatible with all boots.

Do you have a local shop that rents touring setups? this is a good way to try a few as they will often knock the rental price off skis when you buy them. Or can your instructor/guide help you out?

Boots are where I'd put the money above all else. Get them light! Dynafit are doing a really good light woman's boot at the moment that a lot of my friends have, I'll try and get the name. This really is all about the fit though, so worth going local so they can adjust them for you - you'll almost certainly need adjustments. Now is quite a good time to buy as you can get last year's models in the sale, and boots don't really seem to move that much in terms of design.

NB you may find you need new pants for touring. Depends what you have at the moment of course, but it's easy to overheat when touring - and almost impossible to kick turn in baggy snowboard pants! I use light, thin goretex shell pants for touring, and have a pair with full zips on the side for long, hot or multi day tours. Both mine are Arcteryx.
In general, you need light clothing in layers.

Poles - you don't need collapsible ones really, for touring. A good place to economise a bit :) You do need powder baskets, not smaller piste ones

The Ski Diva is an excellent place to look for advice, especially on brands that are good for your size. You might well find someone selling a shorter used touring setup there as well, ask around on the forum, maybe put up a "Wanted" post.

Also FWIW, I love ski touring but missed snowboarding terribly. So now I have a splitboard, and tour about 50/50 on the split and on skis.
posted by tardigrade at 5:53 PM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

My main bit of advice is that even if you decide to start with plate bindings (e.g. fritschi) for convenience or cost, you should still really get boots with dynafit inserts. After a year or two, I'll bet you'll end up wanting to switch to dynafit anyway and if your boots already have the fittings it's way easier.

if you used to be a serious skier you might be used to super heavy stiff downhill boots. There are a lot of "gnarly" backcountry boots on the market these days that will provide something similar. Or, by adopting a slightly more relaxed style you can ski very comfortably even on very aggressive terrain in surprisingly soft and light boots. They will be more comfortable and climb better! is the best place to go for gear reviews, advice and general info especially about bindings.

Agreed that you certainly don't need fancy poles. I prefer scavenged, but I'm not very classy (and i tend to break them).

Hope you have a great season! Ski touring is truly, truly wonderful.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 6:22 PM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might want to give Sigges a call, in Vancouver. They are at this address. Or visit MEC. Both will help you get set up if you live in Vancouver.

If you live stateside, then REI is your goto place.
posted by seawallrunner at 9:44 PM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm in Seattle. I last skied as a teenager in high school, and only got to do it for a week at a resort every year, so I'm in no way experienced. I'm looking for recommendations as far as brands and models go (assume I know nothing at all about AT skiing) and what specifications might be appropriate for a newbie. And sadly, no, I cannot find anything used in my size, locally or nationwide. I've been looking at classifieds for months.
posted by halogen at 11:35 PM on November 28, 2013 and both are great for outdoor stuff. Generally good mountaineering companies are blackdiamond, mammut, arcteryx, norrona. All expensive. I ski in ems pants and a 50 dollar northface, so need to go all out crazy gear. (I have a pair of norrona pants and they are the bestest, but they are for later in the season when I've lost weight).

I would focus most on boots. I like full tilts (cheap!) But it really depends on what fits your foot. I don't even ski in a touring boot, I have a set of "freestyle boots". Solomon does good boots, blackdiamons, scarpa etc.

Ski wise, consider where you will be skiing. I mostly tour in trees in the northeast, so what I consider an ideal touring ski isn't as wide as what you need when touring in dry utah pow. (and oh boy it sucks when everyone around you is floating on the way up, and your trudging in hip deep snow)

I am partial to Volkls and atomics, both have womens skis that are lighter then mens skis. I have a pair of Volkl auras that were amazing, but this year im flipping to rockered skis( horrible on groomies, but apparently amazing for short turns/deep snow)

Poles, buy cheap and online. You do not need special ones. Make sure their light weight though. I have a set of blackdiamond ones, and they're neat)

Binding wise, I skied on fristches for 5 years, but am thinking of switching to marker this year. I need the big burly bindings, and I've heard too many horror stories with the dynafits.I also use my touring set up as my pow ski (cause holy fuck I cannot afford to own more than 2 sets of skis (one for ice, one for adventure times)), so I go for a more robust setup. It does add weight.

Skins, get name brand. I got off brand ones and they didn't slide.... at all. G3 or blackdiamond. Mohair is good but pricey.

Touring is one of fave ways to enjoy the mountains... just please, as an intermediate skier, please be careful with what you agree to ski. Don't get peer pressured into doing something dumb. (Advice I could stand to follow myself more often).
posted by larthegreat at 6:46 PM on November 29, 2013

Sorry, coming back to this a bit late. Boots are absolutely the most important thing; they're the only thing that needs to fit you personally. That's why I suggested getting some with dynafit inserts – you want it to be as easy as possible to swap skis/bindings without swapping boots.

In choosing boots you do need to think a bit about how much climbing you intend to do. Since you're coming back into skiing, doing lessons and so on, you'll clearly do some days on lifts and some days in the backcountry. That balance is what determines the sort of gear you want.

For example, it's totally possible to tour in "normal" boots as larthegreat does but to be honest I would really, really not recommend it for than a handful of days in a season. Do make sure you at least try on a pair of real touring boots with hiking soles and a wide range of motion in walk mode (Scarpa Gea, which is the Women's version of the Maestrale, for example) to see the difference. It is extraordinary.

I mentioned this already, but you should read the "getting started" articles at and once you have a specific setup in mind, you can ask on a comment thread there for feedback.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 9:18 AM on December 4, 2013

Another late contribution.

I'm quite surprised you can't find anything used online. Here's 2 pairs of used AT boots in your size that I found immediately on craigslist (albeit in Vancouver):

I'm sure you could find much more with a bit of effort...or maybe Canadians really are smaller than Americans.

However...I really think that you do not want to skimp on boots. You should buy them new from a reputable bootfitter, because the bootfitter will typically include unlimited fitting service with boots bought from them. Whereas bootfitting charged by the hour can easily add up to more than the price difference between new and used boots. And, unless you have "ideal" feet (i.e. shaped exactly like the manufacturer's boot last), you will want a professional fitting done.

Everything else can be bought used.

(PS don't bother with Sigge's in Vancouver. They're the best in town for XC, but don't deal at all with AT).
posted by wutangclan at 3:39 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you are primarily going to be skiing backcountry, and only backcountry, then I agree, you don't want non-touring specific boots. But I do about 50/50 (about 10-15 days inbounds and then about 15 days out of bounds) and I appreciate the flexibility of the fulltilts and being able to switch from a super stiff liner (aka a raceboot equivalent) to a super flexi/bendy tounge that lets me do 5 day hut -to-hut tours easily. Same with the skis- if you're only ever going to tour on crazy deep pow days, then yes get the biggest fattest badboys you can, but hell, allmountain and freestyle skis make for a perfectly good touring setup too...

But don't let your touringboot only selection get you down, if nothing fits right (and omg please do go to a good bootfitter), keep your options open, I wear a men's boot because my foot runs long and narrow- much more similar to the average guy foot than the more typical wider women's foot.

sorry for all the spelling errors in my first post- it was done on my phone and I was too impatient to edit

Also I had the solomon quest boots linked above in craigslist ad#1 before my fulltilt and loved them so there's another 2 cents.

posted by larthegreat at 12:03 PM on December 9, 2013

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