From an external, perhaps chairlift-aided vantage point, ski touring can seem like a futile, Sisyphean exercise. But to understand why hours spent walking uphill — with skis, boots and bindings strapped to the feet and a heavy pack on the back — just to go down again, one only needs try it. Touring is meditative; it combines the emotionally restorative aspect of a hike in the woods with the physical fulfillment of a tough cardio workout. But unlike both of those activities, there’s a tangible reward at the summit: a long and empty descent far from the crowds at the ski resort.
Because ski touring combines the physical demand of the uphill with the more passive downhill, typically in a harsh mountain environment, the gear required for full enjoyment is technical and plentiful. Hardgoods like lightweight skis, touring bindings and avalanche safety equipment are mandatory. Tried-and-true accessories like natural energy snacks and lip balm are appreciated. Technical apparel that both looks good and performs during the up and the down fits somewhere in the middle. Without it, touring reverts back to misery; but with it, the experience of walking up (and skiing down) a mountain is entirely enjoyable.