You'll want the right gear if you ever get a chance to ski the Haute Route from France to Switzerland. Photo by Christopher Van Tilburg.

The one-ski quiver is difficult to pull off. So, I decided to go for two this year.

With complicated construction and shapes, from boutique skis to mass producers, picking out new skis can be perplexing. I work on Mount Hood, so skis must attack a huge variety of conditions—corn, windblown, steeps, ice, and pow—and varied four-season terrain. They must be light and compact for travel and mountain rescue missions, which sometimes last all night.

The key: versatility.

Of the multitude of skis out there, here’s my Ski Mountaineering gear kit for this season.


When a big winter storm hits, I reach for the pow slayer for backcountry tours and inbounds yo-yo laps during the height of the avalanche cycle. The Dynastar Cham HM 97 has a generous tip rocker, short radius, mid-fat underfoot, and light paulownia core.

For one-day spring volcano climbs, spring corn, and the glaciers of Europe, I’m going with the traditional-shape, 5.5-pound, 90mm-waist  Black Diamond Carbon Aspect.


For 15 years I’ve been a Dynafit devotee: inbounds and out. Light, strong, simple, and time-tested. This year’s I’m using Dynafit Radical ST 2.0 with brakes and ski crampons.


I really tried to love the low-volume, ultralight SkiMo race boots, but my feet got cold and the boots lacked the heft to drive a fat ski. The light, stiff Dynafit Vulcan TF with Intuition Pro Tour liners balance weight and performance.

Other Gear

This year I chose the Black Diamond Ascension skins: a bit heavier than mohair but better grip. I’m also using Black Diamond Razor Carbon poles. For ski mountaineering, I have skied both the Haute Route and Ortler Circuit with the ultralight SkiMo-specific Black Diamond Raven Ultra Ice Axe, Neve Crampons, and Couloir Harness.

Avalanche Gear

I’m using the Backcountry Access Float 36; after deploying it for air travel, I’ve refilled the canister—with some pr-planning—in Chamonix, Davos, and Portland. I’m also going with a Backcountry Access tour shovel, a CAMP carbon fiber avalanche probe and a Mammut Barryvox beacon.

Head Gear

I’ve got three helmets to test this year. The ultralight CAMP Speed, the warmer Smith Maze, and the burly Poc Receptor Backountry MIPS, which has a new multi-impact protection system.

That about does it for my kit. What are you going with this year?

Now, let’s hope for snow!

Christopher Van Tilburg, MD, CTH, FAWM, is Editor-in-Chief of Travel Medicine News and Author of Adrenaline Junkie's Bucket List and Mountain Rescue Doctor.