Whether you’re ski touring in glaciated terrain, attempting serious ski mountaineering objectives, or just want a little bit of extra safety just in case, a rope can be an invaluable tool in your arsenal.
There aren’t many ropes specifically geared towards ski mountaineering, but with rope technology constantly increasing, these lifelines are constantly becoming lighter and thinner – and therefor easier to justify carrying around.
If you’re looking for a rope to bring out on ski touring or ski mountaineering adventures, take a look at some of our favorites below.
Also check out: 6 Backcountry Ski Movies That Will Blow Your Mind
Rope Type: Static Cord
There are two reasons that you see so many ski mountaineering guides carrying a Petzl RAD Line – one, it’s hands down the lightest glacier travel cord available, and two, they probably get a pro deal (because this thing is very expensive).
The Good: Weighing in at a featherweight 22g/m, the RAD Line can save you several pounds over a more traditional rope. It’s also as packable as it gets, with a diameter of only 6mm. All this means that it’s unquestionably the best line on this list to have in your pack in case of an emergency or for other applications such as crevasse rescue where it’s likely to stay packed away all day.
The Bad: The Petzl RAD line is as close as it gets to the perfect ski mountaineering rope at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come without its drawbacks. First, it’s the price is hard to stomach, with a retail price of $239.95 for only 30m. Its small diameter is great for packability, but comes with other issues – namely that it tangles easily and can be hard to handle for those who aren’t used to such a small rope (and won’t work with most standard belay devices). The biggest con of the RAD Line, though, is that it cannot absorb the energy of a fall. So if you’re going to be doing any technical climbing, you’ll have to give the RAD Line a pass.
Verdict: This is a specialized tool for experienced ski mountaineers. It’s certainly not made for every skier or every application, but if it’s a good fit for you, it’ll save you a lot of precious weight and space compared to any other rope out there.
Rope Type: Twin rated
The Beal Rando is a great rope for the aspiring ski mountaineer who isn’t exactly sure what they’ll need going forward. Be sure to get the Golden Dry version, which is dry treated, a must for glacier travel!
The Good: The Beal Rando is quite versatile, with its twin rating meaning it can be climbed on when paired with another twin rope. It’s relatively light and packable without being so skinny as to stop working with standard belay devices or have a bad hand feel. Beal’s Golden Dry treatment is the best dry treatment in the business. And to top it off, all of this comes at a very reasonable price of only $75 for a 30m rope.
The Bad: The Rando, which is specifically made for skiers and ski mountaineers, only comes in 30m, so those who want to climb or rappel longer pitches may come short even if they double up. It’s also not as good at any single application as the more specialized ropes on this list.
Verdict: The Beal Rando rope is the right choice for a large portion of ski mountaineers, sitting right in the Goldilocks Zone for many attributes. It’s light enough for long days out, versatile enough to cover many different scenarios, and thick enough to be relatively easily handled.
Rope Type: Single, half, and twin rated
The Beal Opera is the heaviest rope in this ski mountaineering rope round-up, but don’t let that chase you away. If you want to climb technical ice on the way to a ski objective, and aren’t European (and therefore don’t like using two ropes) then the Opera is the easy answer.
The Good: The Opera is the thickest rope on this list, which means it is the easiest to handle, the least likely to tangle, and works the best with standard belay devices (still be sure to check compatibility before using one). It’s also the only single rated rope here, which means that it’ll be your go-to if you plan on climbing through technical terrain and don’t want to deal with the hassle of twins. Beal’s Golden Dry treatment treats both the core and sheath, so water absorbtion is minimal.
The Bad: The Opera is by far the heaviest rope on this list at 48g/m. That means it weighs in at more than double the Petzl RAD Line’s svelte 22g/m. It’s also quite thick, and comes in lengths of only 50m and up, which means it will take up plenty of room in your pack.
Verdict: The Opera is a great choice for those who don’t like ultra-skinny glacier travel ropes, or those who anticipate doing more technical climbing. Anyone who doesn’t plan to climb on lead should look at a more lightweight option.