If you haven’t heard by now, people are actually finding enjoyment by hiking up Okemo Mountain with their skis strapped to their feet, heel-released bindings engaged, poles staked for stability, and backpacks in tow. Alpine Touring is the combination between hiking and skiing and is typically enjoyed in the backcountry or at ski resorts during off-hours. While traveling uphill requires lots of physical exertion, the payoff is usually worth it when you are greeted with untouched ski trails and first tracks. At our office, both Joe Karl and Dan Childs are often found doing early-morning hikes and Sunday evening adventures with members from the uphill community.
Before you get too excited, it’s important to acquire the necessary gear to stay safe and have an enjoyable adventure. The gear needed for each expedition may range, but if you’re planning to uphill ski at Okemo Mountain, here’s a general list of items you’ll want to get your hands on:
1. Headlamp: This might be the most important one because you’ll be skiing during the closed hours of the resort, which means early mornings and evenings in the dark. Safety is of utmost importance when on the hill, so wear a headlamp to warn snowmobilers, snowcats, and other mountain operations team members. Plus, you’ll need it on your way down as Okemo does not have night skiing lights!
2. Skins: No, not that kind of skin! These are the rug-like sticky-back material that you adhere to the bottom of your ski. They simply allow the ski to slide in a forward motion smoothly, but not backward. Skins are what has coined the shorthand of this sport known as “skinning”. You won’t be getting anywhere if you don’t have these. Talk to your favorite ski shop for recommendations, but know that you’ll likely need to cut them to customize them to fit your ski.
3. Bindings: Downhill bindings are only designed to keep you locked into your ski, while AT bindings are designed to release you for the hike up and lock you in when you head downhill. These bindings might feel a little strange to you at first, as the toe piece doesn’t look very sturdy, but they will keep your toe in place while your heel is free to roam, thus allowing you to take “steps” up the mountain.
4. Boots: You’ll need a specific AT boot that provides flexibility for the way up, and structure for the way down. Boots come in different weights and flex ratings - consult your local shop to find out what works best for you. It’s important you’re comfortable as you’ll be putting in a lot of miles in those babies!
5. Skis & Poles: The obvious ones… but there is more than meets the eye here. You’ll want a lighter ski than your usual all-mountain or race cruiser. The lighter the ski, the better off you’ll be as you head up the hill. You can use your normal downhill poles, sure, but getting a telescoping option is great for when you need taller or shorter poles depending on the incline.
6. Various Items: Don’t forget your helmet! Hikers typically don’t use one on the way up but pack one for the way down. Bring an extra headlamp or batteries, too. Plus, you’ll want plenty of water, snacks to refuel, and perhaps a change in layers in case you sweat through them all (and you probably will… we did say it’s a great workout!) Try out some reflective clothing, too!
The biggest safety tip we can give is to stop and acknowledge any groomers or snowmobiles both up and down the trails. Only travel up left side and then ski down the middle, too!
Alpine Touring takes you off the beaten ski trails to discover fresh snow, stunning sunrise views, or perfectly groomed corduroy. You can skip the lift or time it right so you can catch the first chair for a few more laps. Tag us at @raveisokemo on your next tour and please remember to follow Okemo’s Uphill Travel Policy.