Ski crampons are a spring skiing essential that should have a place in your spring touring pack along with some others, such as rub-on glide wax, skin wax, and that good ol’ SPF 50. They give you extra bite for firm, icy skin tracks, which are common during spring freeze-thaw conditions. This post will teach you about what ski crampons are and how to purchase and use them. Let’s dive in!
What is a ski crampon anyway?
Ski crampons are a tool which allows you to gain traction for icy skin tracks. In the springtime, with freeze thaw cycles, backcountry users often find themselves climbing mountains early in the day to catch the best corn snow, which occurs before the snowpack has turned to slush for the day. Climbing skins often fail to have traction in these conditions, which can lead to unfortunate consequences and increased use of first aid kits.
Ski crampons themselves look like a metal-U which generally attaches to the toe piece of a binding, and is plunged into the icy snow when your body weight is applied. When you lift your ski, they conveniently pivot so that you can still glide your skis across the snow.
These are not to be confused with boot crampons, which are used on your boots, without your skis. Ski crampons are used in unison with your backcountry skis.
How To Buy Ski Crampons
Ski crampons are dependent upon which binding you use. Dynafit ski crampons work with a variety of bindings, including most Dynafit, Black Diamond Helio, Plum, and Salomon MTN bindings. G3 ski crampons work with G3 bindings, though their adapter can be mounted on any ski if you prefer their ski crampons. Spark R&D makes a splitboard crampon for use with their bindings. Salomon Shift and Fritschi bindings also have their corresponding proprietary ski crampons.
Ski crampons should fit over the ski edges with only a small gap, to ensure solid grip even while side-hilling. They come in sizes, and you should select the smallest size which fits over your skis. If you are unsure, bring your skis into the shop and we will size them for you!
How to Use Ski Crampons
Ski crampons should be attached before you find yourself precariously perched on the side of a frozen slope! When conditions are firm and icy, find yourself a safe spot where you can stop for a moment. Dynafit style crampons often require you to remove your boots from the binding, or to lift your boot to a full 90 degree tilt. At this point, you slide the crampon into the receiver from the side. When it is centered and dropped in, the crampon is locked into place. Other styles, such as the G3 ski crampon, are just slid on in-line with the ski. Most skiers find this type requires a little bit less balance. Once locked in place, you can proceed to keep skinning uphill. Rather than going straight uphill, make sure to keep switchbacking your skintrack. Ski crampons offer fantastic resistance while side-hilling, and much less when oriented directly uphill. If ski crampons fail while going straight uphill, uncontrolled sliding falls will result!
If you get to a point in your skin where you no longer need your ski crampons, you can easily slide them off, and use a carabiner to attach them to the waist strap of your pack, waiting for your top transition to fully stow them away.