26 Mar Bored of the same old pistes? Time to embrace ski touring…
There comes a time when you've been skiing a few years and you're confident in your abilities, that you realise one day on a chairlift… you're actually a little bored. That initial buzz from mastering your ski technique while tearing down a piste is just…less of a thrill.
There can be nothing else for it. It's time to shake it up a little. Try something new. Find another challenge. Enter ‘ski touring'.
So what is ski touring you may ask?
Definition 1: the art of going slowly uphill without lift assistance while glowing profusely in a bid to find snowy mountain pastures new.
Source: Some unknown brightspark
Definition 2: a form of skiing where both uphill and downhill travel are possible without needing to remove skis. Typically touring is done off-piste and outside of ski resorts.
The truth is a combination of the two. Ski touring is effectively touring the mountains on skis. Whether
you choose to use available lifts too is up to you and many do. The touring element involves attaching
skins to the bottom of your skis, which gives the skis traction when walking up hill, a process aided by specialist bindings and boots. When you get to your
chosen destination, you simply take off the skins and enjoy the downhill.
Why might you want to do that?
Well let's take Val d'Isere. Val d'Isere offers almost
300km of runs graded from beginner to expert – more than enough to keep most occupied. But it is also home to some incredible off piste. Just a few minutes from the lifts and you can find yourself in awe inspiring terrain, away from the masses – testing and exciting in equal measure. The touring element takes you from ski enthusiast to ski explorer, injecting a whole new level of adventure you might not have considered. Off piste skiing too, is more demanding technically and when the snow is good, the feeling of powder skiing is out of this world. Throw in some endorphins from a good work out and the all round feel good factor is hard to beat.
What about the risk of avalanche?
The fear of avalanche is, no doubt, what prevents so many from trying out ski touring and we would never seek to underplay this risk. But it is important to remember that you pay a guide for a reason. He or she has the local knowledge, experience and know-how to consider the terrain, snow condition, weather, gradient of the slope and so on to choose the best itinerary for the available conditions. Typically – south facing slopes in the morning. North facing in the afternoon. And mostly in spring time – March / April when the snow pack is considerably more stable. The supporting gear is also much better these days and hiring an ABS bag derisks the activity significantly.
And in the bar…
You can't help but feel rather smug with yourself at the end of a big day. And even a teensy weensy bit cool for having joined the league of a select group, prepared to step out of their comfort zone and try something new.
Information on Gear and Guides
You will need:
- A rucksack which has enough room to store kit, extra layers and which you can attach skis to
- A transceiver
- ABS bag (optional but recommended)
- Water and a few snacks
- Off piste skis with touring bindings
- Skins ideally with ‘couteaux'
- Lots of layers (you'll want to strip off going uphill and layer up going down)
- Sunglasses (going uphill with goggles on is very hot!)
- Cap / sun hat (again – helmets are often too hot going uphill but good for downhill)
You can hire most, if not all, of the above equipment for a day or few days in resort.
Equipment and guides
Use Oxygene in Val d'Isere for ski touring equipment and a guide. They don't have many ski touring boots, however. You might not need these for a short tour.
Ultimate Snowsports is also in Val d'Isere and offers both half day and full day touring trips such as the Tarantaise tour – a full day trip which involves travelling from Tignes to Val d'Isere, over to La Plagne and Les Arcs in a day.
Now you have all you need, what are you waiting for?