The Skinny on Skinning
The buzz around Bethel these days seems to be about who climbed and skied what. Right away you should know that to “tour”, “skin” or “AT Ski” all mean the same thing.
When skiers go alpine touring, they use a free-heel binding and adhesive skins on the bottom of skis to ascend the slope. Once at the top, a simple adjustment of the bindings and removal of the skins allows the skier to lock their boots in place and ski back down- this freedom allows us to reach some awesome places.
I was introduced to AT Skiing, or Skinning, by a friend, Zeb, in 2010. Zeb skins around with a kite, and / or a paraglider depending on the weather and his summits include White Horse slab in North Conway, Cannon Mountain and Mt Washington. Whether you are skinning to access a paragliding launch point or simply climbing a hill to get fresh tracks, the freedom that this system gives you is incredible- yet far from free.
A brand new Alpine Touring system will run you somewhere are $1200, I have had good luck on prices by shopping locally and also by ordering used gear from Wilderness Gear Exchange out of Denver: http://www.wildernessx.com/
Some gear heads will recommend a resort setup and an AT setup, primarily because of the bindings, but I have been comfortable using my Fritchis on groomers as well as in the backcountry.
Fortunately for those of us who choose to “earn our turns”, this town offers plenty of steep logging roads, hillsides and even a resort that permits uphill traffic. (We recommend you check in with resorts about their uphill policy before heading up).
Here is a slideshow we put together from a a day at Saddleback