All about randonnée

What is randonnee skiing and what is the difference between it and other kinds of skis such as telemark?

Randonnee is a French word for skiing in alpine terrain. It means backcountry skiing in areas without ski lifts and pistes, usually with untouched snow. Another common term is ski touring.

Equipment for randonnee excursions

When I ski off pist I prefer a pair of randonnee skis and boots. The skis are quite similar to regular skis, but a bit wider so you can surf the snow more easily. The more powder snow, the wider the skis.
A regular pair of skis might do if you just want to try off pist skiing once or twice, but you will soon understand why skis are different.

The ski binding is however a bit different. Your toe is fixed to the ski and the binding but the rest of the boot is loose so you can walk. You can also add a boot extension under your heel to walk more upright when going uphill. When you are ready to go downhill you simply fasten the entire ski boot. Trying to walk uphill with a regular binding is really not possible and you would have to carry your skis.

The randonnee ski boot is also a bit different as it is flexible around the ankle and a bit softer to help you walk more comfortably. The bottom is usually covered in rubber to prevent you from sliding and the rear of the boot is prepared for crampons.

Under your skis you put special skins to help you walk up the hill. Originally they were made of fur but nowadays they are synthetic. Without these it will be virtually impossible to walk up the hill. They are about as wide as a ski and come in many formats. If you buy skis for ski touring, specials skins might come with the skis.

Your regular ski poles will do just fine unless you really want to have some special equipment.

Skiing with snowboarders

If you are skiers and snowboarders that want to go on a common excursion, it really isn’t a big problem. The snowboarder will have to wear snowshoes and carry the snowboard on the back. Do consider it is quite heavy and that the ones on snowshoes generally need to struggle more than the ones on skis.

It can be more difficult for snowboarders to go downhill if the snow is hard or flaky so select your tracks carefully.

Other equipement needed for ski touring

There are some other things you need to pack before you head off. Avalanche equipment is a must and everyone in the party should be equipped. The equipment is very expensive so if you don’t ski off-pist very often you might consider borrowing or renting. Make sure your batteries are new before you head off.

Also pack extra clothes and a hat and gloves in case you lose them or get wet. Wollen socks really help for cold feet and a helmet could save your life. Food and drink are seldom forgotten.
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