Type On steep backcountry terrain, you’ll need burly telemark or alpine touring (AT) skis. Both are sturdy and have full metal edges for better turning and control. Tele skis have lighter, more flexible bindings that always leave your heels free, making them the best choice for extended tours and long climbs. AT skis feature stiffer bindings and allow you to lock your boot heels down for aggressive turns. Backcountry touring skis are much lighter and more flexible. Designed for rolling terrain, they feature full metal edges and a waxless base with a fish-scale pattern for climbing. Rugged Nordic touring skis are narrower with less sidecut–beefy enough to handle long days of gliding, but with less downhill control.
Length The longer the ski, the faster you’ll go. Plus, longer skis provide better flotation in deep powder. Shorter skis are easier to maneuver through obstacles, like trees.
Width Skinny skis perform best on groomed trails. Fatter skis give better flotation for off-trail travel while wearing a pack.
Sidecut This feature refers to the difference in width between the tip of the ski and its waist (its middle). The deeper the sidecut, the more control you’ll have while turning.
Camber A ski with Nordic camber has lots of flex, making it best for floating and traveling in a straight line. Alpine camber has less flex, making it easier to turn. Go for more flex in powder.