Skiing is a fun but dangerous activity. You can hurt yourself, suffer from weather-related injuries like frostbite, or lose contact with whoever you're skiing with. In the backcountry, those risks are compounded by complicated terrain and avalanche dangers.
Walkie-talkies help you manage those dangers. With walkie-talkies (also know as "two-way radios"), you can send potentially life-saving information across long distances in areas that lack reliable cell coverage. They also help you organize ski resort groups and communicate with partners when in the backcountry.
In this guide, I review the 6 best walkie-talkies for skiing and explain how to choose the right set of two-way radios for the resort or backcountry.
My Review Process
I’ve spent decades resort skiing and backcountry skiing and have been a ski instructor for 7 years. I’m here to share all the knowledge I’ve accrued from recreational skiing, ski instructing, and backcountry skiing with you.
Walkie-talkies should be considered a mandatory piece of gear for backcountry skiing adventures and can also be very valuable at ski resorts. Radios enable you to communicate reliably and clearly with partners. In my opinion, they are the premier on-mountain communication system.
The Backcountry Access BC Link 2.0 is my pick for the best overall skiing walkie-talkie. This nifty device can do it all. The range is great, even in areas with a lot of terrain interference, making it suitable for resort and backcountry skiing. The battery life is another highlight. The BC Link 2.0 lasts nearly a full day with short, consistent transmissions.
One of the coolest features of the BC Link 2.0 is the design of the walkie-talkie, which comes in two pieces. The main body of the walkie-talkie is connected to an external microphone. You can stow the body in your pack and clip the microphone to a jacket or pack strap for easy communication.
Compared to other walkie-talkies, the BC Link 2.0 is fairly expensive. The combined weight of the main body and the microphone is also heavier than other models. However, the unique design, great range, battery life and crisp audio make the Backcountry Access BC Link 2.0 the best overall skiing walkie-talkie.
If you’re looking for a walkie-talkie that's perfect for resort skiing, the Motorola T800 is my choice. This is a new model from Motorola that works well when you pair it with the Motorola Talkabout app. There are emergency alerts and NOAA weather channel updates, and with the app, you can download maps, share locations and send messages.
The Motorola T800 has a decent battery life (14 hours), but recharging the batteries takes nearly an entire day. I recommend bringing spare batteries (three AA) with you. The claimed range of up to 35 miles also takes a big hit when you’re in places with many obstructions, so it isn’t ideal for the backcountry.
Overall, I think the Motorola T800 is a great option for staying in touch while skiing. It’s modern, sleek and easy to operate. The weatherproof design can handle the elements, and the ability to share your location using the paired app is nice for keeping tabs on a group.
In the world of budget two-way radios, the Retevis RT27 is in a league of its own. This solid device is affordable, can perform in harsh environments down to -71℉/-57℃, and is water-resistant.
The talkie also comes with 22 FRS channels and an LED light you can use when the daylight starts to fade (although you should always have a headlamp with you as well).
As is the case for many rechargeable batteries, the battery in this radio degrades over time. The realistic range is also only up to a few miles in snowy mountain environments.
Still, thanks to its price, temperature rating, and responsive voice-activated mode that starts broadcasting when the walkie hears your voice, the RT27 is the best budget skiing walkie-talkie of 2023.
If you’re looking for a tough walkie-talkie from a reputable company, the Dewalt DXFRS800 is for you. This is by far the most durable radio on this list.
The price is a bit shocking, and the Dewalt has an inconvenient belt clip, but the positives far outstrip the negatives.
The DXFRS800 can handle heavy snow and is shock-resistant for falls up to six feet. I really like the button layout, which is easy to use even with heavy-duty ski gloves on. To top it all off, the 16-hour battery life is great and there’s plenty of range whether resort skiing or backcountry skiing.
Rockie Talkies are relative newcomers to the walkie-talkie industry. These reliable devices are the best option for days spent deep in the backcountry if you don’t want to pay the premium for a BCA BC Link 2.0. They attach easily and securely with the included carabiner, have great battery life, and operate down to -20℉.
The Rocky Talkie is great for advanced skiers, but it won’t give you weather updates or connect with emergency channels like the BC Link 2.0.
If you choose this radio for communication, make sure to bring a personal locator beacon into the backcountry with you as well.
The Midland GXT1000VP4 is my pick for the best long-range skiing walkie-talkie. It has an excellent range, on par with the BCA BC Link 2.0, and a hands-free component.
This Midland model also includes a nifty group calling mode that lets you talk with one person without broadcasting to the whole group. This is ideal to check in with individuals and get updates out on the slopes.
The battery life is shorter than average at only nine hours, and this walkie-talkie is not waterproof. Still, with SOS features, access to weather updates from NOAA, and a long range, this is a solid option for short days in the backcountry or group skiing trips at large resorts.
Skiing Walkie Talkie Buying Guide
Skiing walkie-talkies have a lot of features, functions, and specifications you need to be aware of before you buy a set.
FRS/GMRS And Private Channels
Radios communicate along a few different bands. The most common is FRS or Family Radio Service. These channels are free to use and allow for fairly simple, albeit low-power, communication.
Radios operating on GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) channels can throw out signals a lot farther than those on FRS channels. However, GMRS requires a license in the US, which you need to purchase to legally use. Licenses are not required in Europe and Canada.
Many models of walkie-talkies also come with privacy codes and private channels. It is possible to have your conversations overhead if someone is using the same channels as you. Check walkie-talkie specs to see if the model you're interested in has privacy codes and settings.
Skiing isn’t a contact sport…until it is. Make sure the walkie-talkie you’re planning on buying can handle some wear and tear.
Falls, collisions, inclement weather and regular abuse can separate reliable radios from those that fall short. It’s a good idea to check impact ratings, weather resistance, and any extra features that can help add life to your walkie-talkie.
Ease Of Use
Ease of use is important because you don't want to be fiddling with buttons when quick communication is essential.
In cold temperatures, it helps to be able to use a walkie-talkie without taking your gloves off. Easy-to-press buttons or a VOX feature (voice-operated exchange) are great. VOX means the walkie-talkie will broadcast automatically when it hears your voice.
Battery power is also critical. Most walkie-talkies have a rechargeable battery, this is a plus as it saves money and resources. However, you often get a shorter battery-life than you would with regular alkaline batteries.
I always recommend bringing multiple rechargeable batteries or a backup set of alkaline batteries. I also prefer walkie-talkies with multiple charging options that have a battery-saver mode.
Size And Weight
The size and weight of a skiing walkie-talkie are also important. You want something small enough to clip onto a backpack strap or hip belt without getting in the way of your other gear.
Similarly, you want your walkie-talkie to be lightweight so it doesn't inhibit movement or balance.
How far your radio signal reaches is very important. Most models have a line-of-sight range between 10 and 40 miles. This is the range with zero obstacles between you and your partner and no interference from clouds or rain.
Realistically, you should expect a range between 1 and 6 miles in complicated mountainous terrain.
Weather And Emergency Alert Function
Emergency situations happen. Some walkie-talkies can help you prepare for dangerous weather by tapping into broadcasted weather alerts. Additionally, some radios have emergency alert systems so you can broadcast an emergency signal over channels that search and rescue monitors.
Walkie-talkies that don't have these features aren’t bad, but you’ll want to have backup communications for emergency situations if the radio you buy doesn't come with this functionality.
Budget walkie-talkies can be found for around $20, but these cheap radios aren’t always reliable in mountainous terrain.
The average cost for a dependable and feature-rich walkie-talkie is roughly $70-180. The most expensive walkie-talkie models can cost double or triple that.
If you want the best skiing walkie-talkie available, I recommend the BCA BC Link 2.0. If durability is a huge concern, opt for the Dewalt DXFRS800. Walkie-talkies can get expensive, which is where the budget and low temperature-rated Retevis RT27 comes in.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.