If you’ve been skiing in the Alps there’s no doubt you’ll have seen people ski touring. Those crazy-looking people going uphill on their skis. But ski touring is, in fact, a great way to explore the mountains and challenge yourself, all while burning calories and getting a healthy dose of fresh air.
You can learn to tour at any point in the winter, from early to late season, providing there’s enough snow. And there are so many benefits to earning your turns it would be a shame not to give it a try. For starters, it’s really good for you. Like going for a hike or a run, but on skis. And while walking downhill may be a little hard on the knees, skiing certainly isn’t. You’re also doing your bit for the environment if you forego the lifts (and the crowds!) for a few days and experience a more natural way of travelling uphill. Not to mention all the stunning views and beautiful scenery you’ll see along the way.
Despite popular belief, touring doesn’t have to be to be mega difficult. The average tour is about kicking back and taking it easy with a mellow ascent, lots of photo stops, a drink and a bite to eat at the top and then a fun ski back down. You can even do a tour up to a mountain refuge and have a fondue before skiing back to base. Short, mellow routes are the best ones to get you started, but after that, the possibilities are endless. Multi-day tours like the Haute Route, where you stay overnight in remote refuges, and races like the PDG are some of the more extreme examples!
It’s Not as Hard as it Looks!
If you’ve never been ski touring before, it’s easy to learn. Before you start you’ll need to have a decent level of physical fitness and be able to ski confidently off-piste. You’ll also need some special equipment; touring skis are fitted with special bindings that detach at the heel so you can lift them in order to easily walk uphill. You’ll also need skins, which are essentially strips of carpet that stick to the bases of your skis and stop you from sliding backwards as you walk. Often when you go touring, you’re heading outside the marked ski area so avalanche equipment and knowledge of how to use it is essential. It also helps to have adjustable touring poles.
Luckily, all this equipment can be easily rented from a decent ski shop, including avalanche gear. Now just to find someone to show you how to use it! Taking a lesson is a great idea and will start you off on the right foot. At ES we have plenty of instructors who are qualified to teach you the basics. Your instructor will show you how to use all the equipment, teach you the most efficient touring techniques and most importantly, keep you safe. They will carefully plan a route based on the snow conditions, the weather and your ability level, and will never take you anywhere you can’t handle. There are so many places to tour in the Four Valleys; there’s something for everyone.
Your first tour may be difficult (after all, you are walking uphill with a bit of extra weight on your feet!), and while a lot of people are put off by the fitness aspect, don’t let it scare you away. The fun is in the challenge, and you’ll always be rewarded by the ski back down. There really is nothing like the feeling of all that hard work paying off as you reach the top of a deserted mountain, knowing that a fun ski back down awaits!
If you’d like to learn the basics of ski touring, get in touch with ES to organise a lesson. And of course, all your equipment can be rented from Mountain Air in Verbier, Glacier Sport in Zermatt and Premier Alpine Centre in Nendaz. Happy touring!