Saturday, 6 December 2008

Thoughts to ski touring

It's always about this time that my thoughts turn to the Alps, and the thought of making a trip sometime in the New Year. Getting to Geneva from London is easy on the train via Paris. Thoughts this week were prompted by a friend emailing with a picture of this season's first snow.

I have been lucky to have skiied as much as I have over the years. I enjoy skiing even more though since I discovered ski touring. I have now done a week each of the last two years. Ski touring involves going up as well as down and provides the opportunity to appreciate what skiing is all about, at least for me: being in the mountains amongst the most stunning of scenery, exercising in pure air and harnessing the elements, leaving the noise of machinery and people behind (in fact, often down below). Strapping 'skins' (now a man-made fibred material) to the underside of the ski, which mean they 'stick' to the snow and therefore the skier can slide up a steady incline. Touring skis are much the same as downhill skis however have a slightly different binding for the boot, which allows the boot's heel to come up from the ski when walking up a slope. One can switch to downhill skiing by peeling off the skin and fixing the binding.

Ski touring normally takes place in the higher mountains, away from the pistes. The touring community is growing but almost secret in feel as you can go hours without seeing anyone before coming together with other tourers at a mountain refuge serving food or offering a warming open fire and bed. Routes vary from well trodden to chosing ones own. Last year I was with a fantastic private guide in Grand St Bernard, the first year was with ISM, with whom I am looking to go again, very possibly to do the famed Haute Route between Zermatt and Chamonix.

If you like skiing off piste and the idea of spending more time on skiies, and less on lifts, have a think about the benefits of touring.


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