Thinking of investing in freeride gear? I will go over the basic gear that is advised to have when going freeriding in a controlled environment (resort boundaries) and in the backcountry. Warm Gloves, helmet and good ski googles (good and bad weather lens) are self explaining.
First of all there are a lot of skies that are capable of riding in powder and on slopes. I would say that evrything from and above 90 mm under the foot is made for powder skiing. I am not going to go in to detail on which skies to buy. I suggest you go to your local ski shop and test a few skies out before buying them. I went for the Atomic Automatic 117 (117 mm under the feet).
You have light weight carbon ski poles, you have adjustable length ski poles or aluminium fixed rigid heavier ski poles. I use the same poles for touring and freeriding as for regular Alpine skiing. They are aluminium 2 adjustable peace telescope, ski tour poles from Black Diamond (Expedition 2 2015).
The same goes for bindings. You have light weight touring bindings which are more fragile and can take less cornering and power charging (my own experience) than a heavier alpine style touring binding that is rigide and durable. You also have regular alpine bindings with no touring capability (which I would not suggest of buying because of the restrictions to acces certain runs and the back country. Unless you have a snowcat or helicopter to your disposal). I went for the Salomon Guardian 16 Alpine touring bindings.
Again there are a lot of different brands and specifics, but I guess you can divide them in to 3 big groups.
- Alpine boots:
- Usually one Velcro strap and 4 metal buckles to fit the boot to your feet really tight.
- Very stiff and and hardly no upper cuff flexibility of the upper cuff. (Cuff angle)
- Heavy in weight.
- Hybrid boots (all mountain boots/Alpine touring boot)
- Usually 1 Velcro strap and 3 metal buckles.
- A leaver on the heal of the boot with 2 positions: ski/walk (touring)
- Provides the strength and stiffness of a alpine boot, but has enough flex In the upper cuff to walk comfortabaly in touring position.
- Lighter then a normal alpine boot
- Touring Boot
- Usally 1 light strap and 2 light weight buckles.
- Carbon fibre shell.
- A lot of flex for touring.
- A dream to go up, but a los in performance coming down.
I went for the hybrid boots. The Salomon quest max 130 (flex130).
Because your are riding in the snow, it's advised to wear waterproof, warm, breathable and windproof other clothing. There is one big membrane that has them all, and its Gore-Tex.
You can play with different under layers, and make it as comfortable as you want for different types of conditions. For touring, I went for a light Gore-Tex Millet salopette and jacket that has a lot of vent zippers to open up when going up and to close when coming down. For Resort freeriding, I went for a thicker insulated Peak Performance salopette and just use the Millet Gore-Tex as the jacket.
These days a lot of avalanche safety companies sell complete kits for freeriding. It's very much advised to have such a complete kit with you, when you go freeriding. Your friends freeride ski friends should have this kit to!
It's not enough to buy the kit if you dont know how to use it. So that is why I follow an avalanche safety course before my ski program kicks off. I advise you to follow one to! These are some things you can you expect from a avalanche safety course:
- Recognise different snowpacks.
- Making a avalanche risk assessments.
- Understand your role in the group in case of a avalanche.
- How to act when a avalanche takes off.
- How to search avalanche victims with your beeper.
- How to use your probe and shovel.
One of the things that can really up your chances of surviving an avalanche is an ABS backpack. Today there are more and more ABS backpacks coming to the market and that is good for the innovation of the system and also for the price. Its still expensive, but its a small price to pay if it can save your life. I advise you to buy one when you are going to freeride more frequently outside the resort boundaries (Backcountry). I bought myself the Ortovox tour 32+7L ABS backpack. It's the biggest one Ortovox has, and if you plan on going to do multi day touring, this is a good chois.