What is the difference between ski touring and ski mountaineering?
The main difference between ski touring and ski mountaineering is the technical difficulty of the tour but they are both essentially travelling through the mountains in winter and spring using specially adapted ski touring skis (more info on equipment can be found at the bottom of the page).
Sometimes ice axe and crampons are needed depending on the difficulty of the mountain. The more mountaineering skills; ice axe and crampons, glacier traverses etc, needed on a particular tour, the more likely it is to fall into the ski mountaineering, rather than ski touring category.
Who can do it?
You need to be able to ski to intermediate level but you don't need to be an expert skier to enjoy ski touring or ski mountaineering. You should be able to get down any red in a ski resort and it is an advantage if you have experience skiing in lots of different types of snow including some off piste.
The other important factor is fitness. As you spend more time skinning up than actually skiing down, and can climb 600m to 1300m per day on an average ski tour, it is important to have a good level of cardio fitness!
For ski mountaineering, some alpinism and mountaineering skills are also necessary.
Both ski touring and ski mountaineering are dangerous sports as you are off piste in the mountains and there is a very real risk of avalanche and other mountain hazards.
People die every year in the mountains and not always due to negligence. The mountains have claimed the lives of numerous experienced mountaineers through no fault of their own.
Whilst going with a guide does not make you exempt from mountain hazards, the benefit of years of experience, advanced safety training, expert technical ability and local experience is a serious plus!
Ski touring skis are generally lighter than downhill skis with ski touring bindings (allowing you to have a free or fixed heel) and detachable skins which stick to the bottom of the ski for skinning up hill. You also have 'couteaux' or ski crampons which attach to your skis for icy conditions. As you are off piste it is vital that you take a spade and probe and avalanche transceiver with you whenever you go ski touring.