Updated: Nov 3, 2019
In order to get that fresh, deep and untouched snow you need to be able to get to the top of the mountains that have no lifts and earn your turns. This requires the use of snowshoes or skins to make it easier travelling through the deep snow. This blog will help you decide which is best for you, with a bit of an explanation of how to use the equipment.
Snowshoes are the cheapest option and easy to use. They can be bought from most mountain equipment shop and are usually not too expensive. This is really only an option for the snowboarders and they won’t fit onto ski boots. Imagine a tennis racquet head tied to your feet. With your weight spread across a larger surface, snowshoes will stop you from sinking in the deep deep pow. You simply clip them onto your snowboard boots while you are heading up and strap them to (or put them inside) your bag for the journey down. While ascending the mountain, both skiers and snowboarders will require ski poles to stabilize themselves while moving. For snowboarders, it is always helpful to have telescopic poles so that they can be placed in your bag for the fun downhill bit! The only downside to using snowshoes is that they are much slower and more difficult over steep terrain than your other option.
Skins are more popular amongst the more die-hard backcountry riders. They require touring bindings for skis. But might be wondering how they would attach to a snowboard. This is where the splitboard comes in. Initially looking like your regular snowboard shape, at closer inspection, it looks like two skis glued together. Unattach the two halves, twist your bindings to there is one on each half, et voila, no need for snowshoes. So you'll need splitboard bindings if you're a snowboarder, as regular bindings won't unclip and twist. Touring bindings allow the user to lift the heels at the click of a button (whilst their toes are still strapped in). They will make for a smoother uphill journey than snowshoes.
The skins themselves are a two-sided material that are applied to the base of the skis or splitboard. One side of the skin is covered in a tacky glue which sticks to the bottom of the ski (or splitboard half) and is secured with clips that attach at the tip and tail. The opposing side have a short, brush-like fibre, which is designed to slide on the snow when being slid forwards, and grip the snow when pressure is applied back and down. Imagine stroking a dog: one direction feels nice and soft - this is what happens to the fibres when you go uphill (provided you have the skins on the right way round). When you stroke the dog in the opposite direction, the hairs are pushed in an unnatural direction, causing more friction - this is what stops sliding backwards!
Once you have reached the summit, you remove self from the skis/splitboard bindings, and remove the skins and clips. The skins should be stored by folding them into themselves so that they stick together. Then both sets stored in the bag which would have come with them at time of purchase. The more efficiently this is done at time of removal the easier it will be when using them for your next ascend. The last thing to remember is to make sure that either your splitboard and splitboard bindings reassembled correctly or that your touring binding have been clipped back down before you find those fresh lines.
Most people prefer skins over snowshoes, if they know that they will be continuing to do tours regularly. If you just want to give it a go and see if you enjoy it, then we would suggest either renting a touring set up, or getting yourself some snowshoes that can be used in other walks of life.