Budget Betty Beats $1000 Joe — How to Outfit for Ski Touring

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | October 28, 2016      

For much much more money saving ski touring gear info, check our budget category.

Today, October 29, Let it Swap!

UPDATE — Today, October 29, Let it Swap!

New to you, backcountry ski swap.

New to you, backcountry ski swap. This is how the stack looks at Cripple Creek Backcountry, just a few blocks from Wildsnow World Headquarters. Perhaps you have a local swap of your own? Or, consider contacting CCB and inquiring as to any used gear they’re stocking.

Once each year, our local backcountry ski shop here in Colorado makes the budget gear search a lot easier. This weekend (Saturday, tomorrow, 9:00 am) Cripple Creek Backcountry holds their annual “backcountry gear only” ski swap.

We did a preview of the massive gear cache, and found a number of deals that will allow Joe or Betty to outfit themselves for alpine touring, within their budget of $1000. (Idea is these are examples of what might be available on the used market, anywhere you live — and of course this is a preview if you’re local to our area.)

Boots are perhaps the trickiest backcountry skiing item to acquire on a budget. To find a boot that gives you maximum comfort and control, we recommend working with an experienced boot fitter on a total shoe-liner-footbed package, but that scenario usually means paying full retail. Working with an experienced shop employee to pair used tech-compatible boots with a new, heat-moldable liner is the budget way to get a custom fit. Just make sure you begin with a low priced boot since new liners are not exactly a budget item. That said, liners can indeed be molded multiple times. If the liner in your used boots is intact (inspect for damage that renders them useless) and heat-moldable, try re-baking, that might be all you need.

As for other touring gear:

If you buy skis with bindings, be sure to test your boot-binding combined performance before skiing your gear. Do so by clamping a boot in a binding toe and doing the tests in this blog post. If possible, buy used skins at the swap as well — purchasing skins later, at full retail, can blow your budget. Ski poles can be just about anything, ditto for backpack (it just needs to hold your safety gear and lunch, along with a layer or two).

Finding a budget avalanche beacon can seem tricky but it’s not. Despite marketing hype, just about any beacon made within the last five years is adequate if you practice with it. Important: When you inspect a used beacon, open up the battery compartment and look for excessive corrosion. A tiny bit of mung on the battery contacts can easily be cleaned, but lots of detritus indicates the beacon owner cared not — and you might not care to hand over your cash. Oh, and one other beacon test (the obvious), check the send and receive range and function by pairing with a test beacon that’s known to function within spec.

Budget Cooms, bindings and skins, $500.

Cost cutting Cooms, bindings and skins, $500.

Black Diamond Starlet, skins, bindings, $450.

Budget Betty package: Black Diamond Starlet, skins, bindings, $450.

Can't go wrong with SCARPA Maestrales, $50.

A find: men’s SCARPA Maestrales, $50.

Women’s used boots: GearTrade.com, $200

Probe: BCA Stealth 240, $35.

Shovel: Voile XLM, $40.

Beacon: BCA Tracker, $240.

Avalanche course: if you don’t have the time or the money for a level one avi class, some local organizations offer public training. Mountain Rescue in our area hosts an avalanche seminar every year in Aspen and we often attend it as a refresher, $30. If you can’t swing an avy safety course, be sure to read up on the subject, ski with individuals more experienced than you, and practice beacon searches with a friend. Hide a beacon in the house or yard and go find it. Doing so is easy and quick, and a little practice makes a world of difference when you’re in the field.

Budget tally:

Used skis, bindings, skins from swap, $500
Used boots, $50
New Intuition liners to mold, $200
Probe, $35
Shovel, $40
Beacon, $240
Avi seminar, $30
Total, $1,095

Used skis, bindings, skins from swap, $450
Used boots (remold old liners), $200
Probe, $35
Shovel, $40
Beacon, $240
Avi seminar, $30
Total, $995

For much much more money saving ski touring gear info, check our budget category.

Lastly, the bloated elephant in the room: Should you buy a used avalanche airbag system? If visual inspection and owner testimony indicates a balloon pack is in good shape and functional, we don’t see why not. Only challenge is you should trigger and inflate any used balloon pack you consider buying, and doing so will often result in expensive or at least time consuming canister swaps-refills. Hence, unless a used avy airbag pack is priced fairly, you can end up spending so much time and money on it you might as well get a new one. (And yes, there are indeed two battery powered airbag brands now — they’ll eventually end up on the used market. We’re not sure how to evaluate these, our instincts tell us to put the battery in your freezer at home, wait 6 hours or so, re-install in the pack, then see if you can get three or more inflations out of it. If so, we’d say the battery is good to go.)


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


19 Responses to “Budget Betty Beats $1000 Joe — How to Outfit for Ski Touring”

  1. Maciej Pike-Biegunski October 28th, 2016 1:00 pm

    Pieps DSP Sport beacon/shovel/probe combo is $400 new. I’d say it’s worth a few extra clams for a modern 3 antenna beacon with signal suppression.

  2. Kevin Woolley October 28th, 2016 2:36 pm

    I’m a dedicated cheapskate, and have spent hours searching for bargain gear for myself and friends. I’m in Denver, so know local resources best.

    Craigslist is an excellent resource for used gear. Search “Dynafit” or other specific brands for best results. Many shops also sell demo and rental gear at season’s end (Confluence Kayak in Denver has a large demo selection and is well priced if you are on the front range, plus they are knowledgeable and fun to work with). Utah skimo’s gear swap is also excellent for light weight or race gear in particular:


  3. GeorgeT October 28th, 2016 5:29 pm

    If you are looking for light packages I just inspected nearly new Salomon Explore 95 with G3s (169 cm) and BD Carbon Converts (180 cm) with Dynafit Superlights both with skins for $900 – $1,000. That’s like getting the bindings for free.

  4. Al October 28th, 2016 10:32 pm

    Unrelated. I got some chugach skis in the 181. They’re 108mm wide. The st comes in 90, 105, 120 mm wide brakes. Any suggestions as to what size to go with? Thanks, Al.

  5. Lou Dawson 2 October 29th, 2016 9:31 am

    Al, you can usually get a few mm more out of brakes so perhaps go with the 105 brake. If they are slightly too small you can grind plastic off inside of brake feet, and slightly bend them. Lou

  6. Bruce Moffatt October 29th, 2016 10:21 am

    Fun article and appropriate for this time of year. In the spring I was able to put together a Cho Oyu, Speed Radical, and PX One package with skins all new at just a touch over $1000. 00. Still bit of coin but no worries about boot fit when the sale price included a good return policy. Spent the winter before demoing various combinations of backcountry skis and boots to see what fit my style and foot. Spending a few days touring in a demo boot quickly sorted out what works and what doesn’t. Off season sales from a reputable retailer can reduce the worry of poor fit and a lack of warranty on a product.

  7. Calvin October 29th, 2016 1:47 pm

    Anyone in the PNW region, should check out the “personal yard-sale” forum on Turns-all-year.com its always updated with good deals.

  8. See October 29th, 2016 8:41 pm

    Things to look out for in used gear. Skis: blown edges and swiss cheese mounts. Boots: sloppy cuff pivots and worn out soles. Bindings: ?

  9. harpo October 30th, 2016 10:37 am

    can anyone comment on how a Dynafit One skis, especially its forward flex, compared to a Dynafit Mercury sans tongue? My Mercury skis great without the tongue and I am wondering if I should get a cheap One to back it up as the Mercury is wearing out.

  10. harpo October 30th, 2016 10:40 am

    If you take the removable tongue out of the equation the two boots seem very similar.

  11. Dave B October 30th, 2016 12:03 pm

    Hi Lou,
    As always thanks for all the great info on your site. My daughter was fortunate enough to find some Scarpas with what I believe is a stock Intuition liner yesterday at the Cripple Creek swap. I have read your post “bootomania” from 2006 (love the title) about heat molding, but also came across a pdf on the Intuition website about molding with a sock full of hot rice. Do you have any thoughts on this? Thanks!

  12. Lou Dawson 2 October 30th, 2016 8:22 pm

    Dave B, rice can work but sometimes doesn’t have enough heat for a full mold. Another option is to have a shop mold them. We look forward to seeing you two on skis next time!

  13. Dave B October 31st, 2016 12:10 am


  14. XXX_er October 31st, 2016 2:49 pm

    You wana have cash ready at all times and right after ski season is the best time to pitch a serious low ball on used ski gear !

  15. See October 31st, 2016 8:16 pm

    A quick oven bake can work pretty well, but it’s sufficiently complicated that it makes sense to get it done by a pro.

  16. Tom November 1st, 2016 9:09 am

    It might cost you $50-75 but molding new or used Intuition liners at a reputable bootfitting shop could make a huge difference in the outcome. First, before they even take your money, they should look at the feet and the boots and give you a honest opinion whether or not it will even work. Most people end up buying/skiing boots that are 1-2 sizes too big and a new Intuition liner will feel snug at first but it won’t take long for that fit to turn into a sloppy mess if the shell size is too big. Second, bootfitters will have the right tools to get the job done. They do this for a living, especially shops that sell Scarpa, Dalbello, K2, or other boots that come with stock Intuition liners. Third, if they shop screws up, they owe you a new liner. If you screw up, you’re out $200.

  17. Armie November 2nd, 2016 5:46 am

    Totally agree with Tom.
    However, if you do decide to DIY I now subscribe to the “turkey bag” bag method.
    Turkey roasting bag inside the liner(inside the boot) fill with boiling water leave to stand 8-10 minutes(I now change the water after 5mins-which may be advisible anyway if youre at altitude).
    Take water and bag out squeeze suitably padded foot into boot, buckle up and wait. I use superfeet green and leave them in while heating, just one less thing to juggle. Obviously dont do that if you use a thermo molded footbed!

  18. Lou Dawson 2 November 2nd, 2016 6:17 am

    Thanks Armie, I’ve never used the turkey bag method but I’ve used boiling water quite a bit to heat parts of liners for spot molding. In my experience, temp of boiling water at higher altitudes might not be hot enough for a full molding “event.”



  19. Andy Dengerous November 2nd, 2016 1:50 pm

    If you’re on the front range (or some other places in CO), and want to learn a bit about avalanche safety for FREE then I’d recommend looking at Friends of Berthoud Pass. They offer classroom and on-snow sessions free to you that will give you an idea about avalanche safety and help you get the most out of your level one.

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