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Ropes For Ski-Mountaineering : Which One to Get?

Ropes For Ski-Mountaineering : Which One to Get?

Eric Carter is a professional ski mountaineer and coach for alpine athletes based in Squamish, BC. Follow him at

While I am pretty adamant about a light and fast philosophy, I also find a rope in my pack more and more often. As skiing gets more advanced, whether it's glaciers or technical alpine terrain, a rope becomes a more common tool. That old 60 meter dynamic rock climbing rope that you break out of the gear bin for traverses and glacier trips will certainly get the job done. However, it will weigh a ton. You're also taking a risk that if you only have one long, heavy rope in your party, and it falls in the crevasse, you're out of luck!

Modern ski mountaineering ropes are 6mm and pack down to the size of your folded skins. They're not just lighter, but also more cut resistant and more water resistant that traditional nylon ropes. There's several specialized models available from various manufacturers but they each have pros and cons. I've reviewed each of the options available in North America to help you sort out the differences.

The Petzl RAD Line is the lightest, so for the weight weenies, this is the top choice. It's also the most expensive, so you pay a bit more to save those last few grams. RAD Lines are rated for rappelling, and for glacier travel and rescue but they aren't to be used for belaying or climbing.

The Mammut Glacier Cord Dry is dry treated, making it a bit heavier but also probably slightly more abrasion resistant (though not actually much more water resistant). It's slightly less expensive though, so you get a bit of a trade there! It's rated for the same uses as the RAD Line and both can be used with rope clamps like the Tibloc or Micro-Traxion.

Edelrid Rap Line

The Edelrid Rap Line Protect Pro Dry is also dry treated and the heaviest of the three. The price is lower, with a 60m only ~$30 more than a 30m RAD. The big difference though is that when used in twin configuration (clipping two strands together through each piece of pro), the RLP has a dynamic "safety reserve" allowing for 2 UIAA falls. In other words, in a pinch, it can be used for belaying and climbing, plus rappelling and glacier travel.

In short, I'd go for the Petzl if weight is the most important thing. The Mammut is the slightly more budget option that's nearly as light. Grab the Edelrid if you're ok with something heavier that will give you the ability to lead short pitches of climbing (only a 30m pitch when using a 60m rope folded in twin configuration).

To see my in-depth review of each option, as well as an overview of the situations we use these ropes for ski mountaineering, and an intro to the specialized gear we use with them, check out the video below!


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Fall Line Japan - July 26, 2022


Thanks for the overview and video, great info! Bought the Edelrid cord after watching your video, mostly for BC snowboard rappel/rescue. A bit frustrated with the picture book manual provided by Edelrid. I wish they provided a bit more detail on the specific claims and how it should be rigged given that it’s pretty unique in the market.

Would you consider doing a more detailed review / how-to of these ropes in various scenarios? A few specific questions I’m not very comfortable with yet :

1) When using using the Edelrid rope for climbing (TR or emergency lead), how best to tie into it? Folded in half you basically have one side with the two ends, and the folded over side at the middle marker. You could tie into the free ends the same as you would for a half-rope, but then the other end is a loop that might be prone to snagging (maybe not so much of an issue since you’re mostly pulling in the slack in a TR setting, but still). Tying in to the folded end doesn’t seem ideal – a simple figure-8 on a bight doesn’t seem sufficient since you’re connecting to only a single strand of the rope, at the knot where you need the most strength. Using a bight to tie a rethreaded figure-8 would probably work but might be a bit messy with 4 strands in the knot and a random loop flopping about on the tail. I guess the first option is probably best?

2) Most of the people I’ve seen using these 6mm cords for rappel are in situations like a steep slope where a good portion of your weight is still on the slope itself and the rope is preventing you from sliding down. Would you trust these for a fully suspended free air rappel, or only use it as a tag line in that case?

3) Would be great to see the actual performance with various combinations of rappel/belay devices. I initially got a microjul to use with the Edelrid cord but am not too thrilled with the friction this provides. Will try with a Mago8 as well since their manual claims this would be better. 5mm prusiks seem to work fine on 2 strands of 6mm cord but if you have specific advice it would be helpful. Haven’t tested a microtraxion yet. Petzl claims they work well on rad line but cautions against use on other 6mm cords. I guess Edelrid’s own Spoc would be a better choice since they’re specifically tested for each other.

Sorry for the long comment, just some thoughts on the things that are left unanswered based on the material I’ve been able to find out there. I think other people might have similar questions so hope this gives some inspiration for a future video :)


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