Can You Really Put Crampons On Ski Boots? (Backcountry Skiing)

by Laura Penrose | Updated On: July 25th, 2022
crampons

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Some of the best backcountry skiing requires you to hike up to the summit of an incredible mountain. Climbing skins will only get you so far before you need to transition to crampons. But, can you put crampons on your ski boots?

In short, yes, most crampons can be put on ski boots but it is also important to check their compatibility with the specific crampons and ski boots that you are using.

Whether you are looking to summit a mountain and ski down, or you need a little bit of extra traction to get up that next ridge, putting crampons directly on your ski boots can be a great way to continue ascending without having to change boots completely.

When Should You Use Crampons On Your Boots?

hikers

When ascending a mountain, it is important to put crampons on before the slope becomes too steep. It is relatively common to see skiers use ski skins to help trek across snow or to begin ascending up mountains.

Once your ski skins begin to lose traction, and you need something more solid, the next option would be to use ski crampons. A simple crampon that goes directly onto your skis, can help you continue to ascend when more traction is required.

When the mountain becomes too steep, removing your skis and using crampons on your boots is going to be the next way that will help you continue to climb the mountain.

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Remember that ski boots are not designed for mountaineering or climbing. They are designed to keep your foot in line and stable whilst skiing. The mobility that you will have whilst climbing in a ski boot will be a lot more restrictive than in a hiking boot.

Depending on how much climbing you will end up doing, questioning if you should put crampons on your ski boots or bring a pair of hiking boots (plus crampons) with you, is important to consider before beginning your ascent.

Different Types Of Crampons

Ski crampons can be attached directly to your ski and allow you to continue ascending a mountain. However, sometimes you might find yourself in a situation where you need a little more traction and ski crampons aren’t going to cut it.

This is when you would look at putting crampons on your ski boot crampons to continue climbing. Bear in mind, that not all crampons can be put directly onto your ski boots.

The first thing to consider is, what type of crampon will work with your ski boots.

There are three main types of crampons:

  1. Step-in/automatic
  2. Strap-on
  3. Hybrid/semi-automatic

In terms of compatibility, for most ski boots that have a toe welt, semi-automatic or automatic crampons will be the only options available, however, some strap-on styles may also be an option.

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As such, you should always take your ski boots with you when looking to buy crampons to make sure they are compatible.

Once you have decided which type of crampons, the next thing to consider is what material.

There are two main materials crampons are made of: aluminum and steel. Aluminum is a lighter-weight material that is great for trekking on snow. However, as it is a softer material, it is easier to damage, especially if you are climbing over rocky terrain.

The other alternative is steel. This is a more durable option and can be a great way to go if you need something more solid. The downside is that steel is heavier than aluminum.

So, What Crampons Should You Use?

When you are looking at putting crampons on your skis, this is generally seen as a short-term solution to help you summit the mountain or reach the last small section during an ascent. As such, using crampons that are lightweight and easy to use should be what you are looking for.

As we have discussed the two main things that you should consider are:

  • Compatibility
  • Material (how heavy)

Since automatic/step-in or maybe hybrid/semi-automatic crampons will be the style of crampon that you will need to be compatible with your ski boots, the only other thing to consider is the material.

As discussed before, aluminum crampons are lightweight but not as durable as steel crampons. But, if you are looking for a lightweight temporary solution to snow, then aluminum is the way to go.

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It is important to choose the gear that is required for the task at hand and sometimes that means choosing steel over aluminum or even bringing another pair of hiking boots for your ascent.

Final thoughts

It is entirely possible to put crampons directly on your ski boots. However, you should first check the compatibility of the crampons you are looking to use and the ski boots.

snow crampons
Photo by Michael Pollak licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you are going to put crampons on your ski boots, this is likely a temporary solution to finish the ascent of a mountain. So, the mobility of your foot and ankle will be a lot more restrictive than in regular hiking or mountaineering boot.

Putting crampons on your ski boots can be a great way to minimize carrying an extra pair of boots when you are looking to summit a mountain. Just be sure to check your boots and crampons are compatible before embarking on your next backcountry adventure.

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