a guide to  randonée skiing 

Published by

Tine Simonsen / Marianne C. Huseby  - marianne@karitraa.com

Are you dreaming of «earning your turns»; using your human power to access fresh slopes, rather than waiting in line for prepped and crowded ones? The interest in randonée skiing has never been bigger. Despite it´s popularity however, randonnée skiing remains a risky sport. Which means that you have to prepare yourself before embarking on an adventure. 

Tine Simonsen @simonsentine, is a Norwegian student and part time freelance sports and outdoors journalist – but most of all just a girl who loves to play outdoors. This winter she has joined the randonnée and backcountry skiers club, learning a whole lot of this new world of winter fun - that she will be sharing with us.

It is something magical about reaching a high mountain peak after a long, steep climb to the top. Fresh air, wind in my hair and sun in my face makes me feel present in the moment. A feeling I would never get inside a sweaty gym. Working my way towards the top, surrounded by beautiful scenery on the way there, and knowing a breathtaking view is waiting at the top  - is absolutely pure happiness to me.

I always loved skiing but haven’t until last year had the courage to combine the two.

Personally, this feeling used to be associated to the warmer months of the year, hiking and scrambling to the top. I always loved skiing but haven’t until last year had the courage to combine the two. «Earning your turns» has become a hot phrase in social media and among skiers and adventure enthusiasts. Turns out - with the right knowledge and gear – I´ve been missing out on something pretty awesome! And maybe you have too?

What is Randonée skiing?

Randonnée is French for hiking, or moving in the mountains. Randonée- or backcountry skiing, refers to when you hike up a mountain on your skis, before you find a line you want to ski down. To head for the «backcountry» means that you go outside the controlled ski areas and resorts, seeking the true wilderness.

This kind of skiing used to be reserved the more experienced, adrenaline seeking and advanced skiers.

Nowadays, it is possible to pretty easily access backcountry skiing through more experienced friends, books, courses and guides.

How to get started

The ski equipment required for randonée skiing is expensive. So, if you aren’t sure whether this activity is for you, I would recommend lending ski equipment the first time you try it.

In addition to the gear, you need a certain level of skiing skills.

Having some experience from a resort is necessary to be able to feel confident and safe randonée skiing.  

Many resorts nowadays offer skiing courses for ski touring and backcountry skiing, and also for avalanche security. Avalanches do occur, even in controlled terrain, so you need to know how to handle them before you pursue the backcountry.

What you need 

A typical starter pack includes:

  • Skis with either redonée or telemark bindings
  • Ski boots that are made for the uphill walk as well as downhill skiing
  • Helmet, poles and skins
  • Avalanche gear - including the minimum of a shovel, probe and a transceiver
  • Goggles and shades
  • A backpack

WHat to wear

High up in the mountains, the weather changes quickly and you need to be prepared for anything. It is super important to wear, but also to bring the right kind of quality clothing and enough of it with you - even for the shorter days outside.

Start with comfortable underwear and a base layer that allow you to sweat.

At the same time this layer should be keeping you dry and not too warm, and therefore preferably consist of a mix between wool and technical fabric.

Wool singlet or t-shirt is a great first layer, and also capri pants are perfect under wind and waterproof pants. On top of that I would wear a long sleeve layer, either wool or fleece - depending on how warm it is that day. Thin gloves, a cap, or headband is also important to keep the wind and sunburn away.


As you work your way up towards the mountaintop there will often be more wind and lower temperatures. This makes it very important to have extra clothing in your backpack, so that you can put on extra or new dry layers, as it gets chillier.

A typical list of clothing to bring in your backpack would be an extra shift or two of wool base layers, a fleece jacket and a wind- and waterproof jacket. An extra pair of warmer gloves, a hat and neck warmer are also essential to stay warm and comfortable during your break at the top - and also for the best part, the way back down.

It is important to change the sweaty layers before sitting down to take a break, or before starting the downhill skiing. If you keep wearing the wet clothes you very easily get cold, and it will be hard to get the heat back in your body. 

Not wearing too much clothes from the start is very important, as the uphill will have you break a swat and the heat going pretty fast.

And of course - do not forget the chocolate, something warm to drink and some extra food to give you enough energy!