/ NEW ARTICLE: Ski Mountaineering by Doug Evans

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Michael Ryan - on 27 Jan 2006
Doug Evans gives us a primer on Ski Mountaineering and answers questions such as, Nordic or Alpine? How good a skier do I need to be? What gear do I need? It includes links to further information and where to purchase backcountry ski gear.


http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=172
Doug on 27 Jan 2006
In reply to Mick - UKClimbing.com:
Wondered when Mick was going to put the article on line. Just to note that the shopping section was added by him (maybe why its a bit N American) - I would have listed Mountain Spirit (Aviemore) & Telemark-Pyrenees (Ax les Thermes)
paraffin on 27 Jan 2006
In reply to Mick - UKClimbing.com:

Great article, giving inspiration to get out there. Well done.

However, the picture of the author "Telemarking" got me wondering.
Inside hand down, outside hand up, leading leg stiff and straight, trailing foot tipped up on tippy toes, body leaning into a motor bike turn, chest facing across or up the slope.
Is this how to telemark?

Davie
Michael Ryan - on 27 Jan 2006
In reply to Doug:
> (In reply to Mick - UKClimbing.com)
> I would have listed Mountain Spirit (Aviemore)

Added.

Thanks Doug.

Mick
Michael Ryan - on 27 Jan 2006
In reply to Doug:
> (In reply to Mick - UKClimbing.com)
> was added by him (maybe why its a bit N American)

There seems to be very few stockists in the UK. I put these in so people can see the full range of gear available.

Mick
Mikek on 27 Jan 2006
In reply to Mick - UKClimbing.com:
> (In reply to Doug)
> There seems to be very few stockists in the UK. I put these in so people can see the full range of gear available.

Mick

You might like to add these guys in Ilkley, W.Yorks - no connection, just a happy customer: http://www.backcountryuk.com/

Regards, Mike
Michael Ryan - on 27 Jan 2006
In reply to Mikek:
> (In reply to Mick - UKClimbing.com)
> [...]
>
> Mick
>
> You might like to add these guys in Ilkley, W.Yorks - no connection, just a happy customer: http://www.backcountryuk.com/
>
> Regards, Mike

Updated Mike. Thanks for the tip. I recognise David. I used to teach for a short time at Ilkley Grammar.

Anyway, in other news, we may have an article to follow up Doug's primer, the Haute Route....most certainly one trip I'd like to do. I'll keep you posted.

Mick

Michael Ryan - on 28 Jan 2006
In reply to Mick - UKClimbing.com:

.....and don't miss the "Starting Ski Mountaineering" thread.

http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=163492&v=1#2332074
In reply to parafinn: Don't be mean. If you've got some great pics of you demonstrating perfect technique, why not post them in your gallery so we can all admire?

His leading leg isn't straight at all, and perhaps he is turning into a traverse, not about to turn again hence the body position.
Doug on 28 Jan 2006
In reply to TobyA: Thanks Toby, it wasn't a possed photo (didn't know Audric had taken it till much later) & it was a couple of quick turns followed by a traverse - maybe the photo is the end of the last turn ? I used it as I have very few pictures of folk skiing downhill, although many of skinning uphill or just sitting/standing around.

Is this any better 'style' wise http://perso.wanadoo.fr/doug.evans/skiing.jpg ?

Looking forward to the photos of Davy :-)

And the website for Telemark Pyrenees is www.telemark-pyrenees.com - I know the owners are friends but they do have a good range, speak English & are often cheaper than UK shops.

To anyone wanting to buy gear, remember the choice is much larger in countries such as France or Austria - especialy important for boots
shaigh - on 28 Jan 2006
Great article. One point Doug doesn't make is the level of fitness required. In my expereince most skiers underestimate the level of fitness required just on a normal holiday, especially when heading off-piste, so if embarking on a ski touring trip for the first time I'd really put some effort into fitness training before heading off.

The links are very useful, I'm just looking to buy some gear so thanks to everyone for those. For boot buying I have heard very good reports about Footworks in Chamonix and Argentiere - they have a good range of AT (and tele and DH) boots and seem to e very good at getting a comfortable fit.

Steve
Doug on 28 Jan 2006
In reply to shaigh: Always found that my normal 'hill fitness' was sufficient for a an average days skiing so can't really comment, are you saying skiers are unfit ? :-)

I've not been to Chamonix for a couple of years but I'm sure I've read either that Footworks has shut, or maybe it was that the bootfitter moved elsewhere. That said, there's more choice in Chamonix for ski boots than in the entire UK
In reply to Doug:

> Is this any better 'style' wise http://perso.wanadoo.fr/doug.evans/skiing.jpg ?

The skiing looks fine but I'm afraid that the hat/jacket combo is simply shocking! ;-)
Chris Fryer - on 28 Jan 2006
In reply to Mick - UKClimbing.com: Woth mentioning; for the optimists among us, this is still available http://www.smc.org.uk/books/books_ski_mount.htm
grumpytramp - on 28 Jan 2006
In reply to Mick - UKClimbing.com:

You may also like to add the very nice chaps at Braemar Mountain Sports http://www.braemarmountainsports.com/ who stock a nice range of gear and can be very generous with their advice and coffee!
shaigh - on 29 Jan 2006
In reply to Doug:
> (In reply to shaigh) Always found that my normal 'hill fitness' was sufficient for a an average days skiing so can't really comment, are you saying skiers are unfit ? :-)

Often they are, but I think even fairly fit people underestimate the effort required, especially if the going is tough (e.g. breakable crust or long flat sections).

>
> I've not been to Chamonix for a couple of years but I'm sure I've read either that Footworks has shut, or maybe it was that the bootfitter moved elsewhere. That said, there's more choice in Chamonix for ski boots than in the entire UK

Hope I'm not getting confused, there was a specialist boot fitters in Argentiere 3 weeks ago, part of the "ChamEx" shop and I'm sure it was footworks (kind of a shop within a shop). The same fitters also had a shop in Cham. A friend went in to buy some boots and they advised him to get a pair of Scarpa Denalis, but they didn't have his size in stock, so they called the Cham shop and someone drove up there and then with a pair of boots for him. That sounds like pretty good service. See <http://www.chamex.com/c_pub/en/contact.php>.

GrahamD - on 30 Jan 2006
In reply to shaigh:
> Great article. One point Doug doesn't make is the level of fitness required.

The other two things he could (should ?) have stressed more was 1) the difficulty of identifying and negotiating crevasses from above and the obvious danger that entails and 2) Identifying and avoiding unstable snow pack (most skiers caught in an avalanche start it themselves).

This really is a dangerous game for "all the gear no idea" merchants - either those from a skiing backgroung or a limited alpine background.
Doug on 30 Jan 2006
In reply to GrahamD:
An earlier draft had a few other sections,including a 'where to stay' (about huts mostly) & 'snow/avalanche awareness' section. I cut them out as the piece was getting long compared to other articles on the site but maybe removing the second was an error as I agree that being able to evaluate snow conditions & choose a route to suit (or even not go out in some cases) is a key skill.

I think the subject is to long to deal with in such an article but if Mick (who seems to be the editor for that section of the site) agrees, I'll add a short piece with some relevent links/book titles.

GrahamD - on 30 Jan 2006
In reply to Doug:

Firstly, overall, I enjoyed the article and I wouldn't really have expected you to cover 'how to negotiate glaciers' or 'how to evaluate snow slopes' - just that the dangers exist in a very real way ! The reason I see it as a problem particularly for ski mountaineering is that ski mountaineering is a 'cool' thing to do at the moment and loads of relatively inexperienced people will be attracted to it. That means very competant piste skiers who could get into trouble very quickly on untracked glaciers, and people with only summer alpine experience.

Its actually one of the few climbing related disciplines where I would (and have) use a guide.
In reply to GrahamD: That makes the assumption that ski mountaineering normally takes place on glaciated terrain - which for people who think of the Alps as "the" place for ski mountaineering might be true, but for others like myself, its not. I've done a reasonable amount of ski mountaineering, but never have needed to go on to a glacier. So there are plenty of places where a half decent piste skier who is also a competent Scottish winter walker or climber (ie knows avalanche assessment) could go in relative safety. The only difference is learning and practicing with beacons as so few UK winter hill goers use them.
Doug on 30 Jan 2006
In reply to TobyA: Even in the Alps there's a lot of ski touring on non-glaciated terrain, especially early season, and the glaciers in the Pyrenees have practically all melted now with only a few tiny remants.

But Mick has agreed to add a section on snow safety but I'm not sure when he'll post it - later today maybe ?
GrahamD - on 30 Jan 2006
In reply to TobyA:

Fair comment, but I suspect (and I agree it is suspect)think most people think the Alps when thinking Ski Mountaineering (rather than ski touring, for instance)and probably think the Haute Route. So, going back to the article, it is possible to point out the hazards of glaciers (especially spotting crevasses fast enough from above) AND that good non glaciated alternatives exist.

The comments about snow judgement hold irrespective, of course.
In reply to GrahamD:

> Fair comment, but I suspect (and I agree it is suspect)think most people think the Alps when thinking Ski Mountaineering (rather than ski touring, for instance)and probably think the Haute Route.

Agreed. I'm a bit of a peripherarian - in that I've skied in various places, but never anywhere in the Alps.
Doug on 30 Jan 2006
In reply to GrahamD: Maybe Chamonix -Zermatt is the best known single tour (and remember its not the only Haute Route even if its the best known & the first) but there is much more to the Alps & also much more to skiing than the Alps. If folk in Britain think 'Haute Route' first, its a shame.

As for spotting crevasses, I've never really found this a problem & the really bad areas are shown on the map (at least in France, Austria & Switzerland), but admit that maybe I've just been lucky in that I've only ever been involved in two falls into a crevasse, one on foot (Arolla) & one on ski (Wapta Ice fields) niether serious (just in as far as the knee)in 25 plus years.
In reply to Doug: "If folk in Britain think 'Haute Route' first, its a shame"....watch this space...oops!
Michael Ryan - on 30 Jan 2006
In reply to Doug:

> But Mick has agreed to add a section on snow safety but I'm not sure when he'll post it - later today maybe ?

Up Doug.

And we do have a follow up article for this week and an excellent one it is too........oooops!

Doug on 31 Jan 2006
In reply to nickinscottishmountains:
> (In reply to Doug) "If folk in Britain think 'Haute Route' first, its a shame"....watch this space...oops!

But I know you're aware of alternatives, when are you heading to the Oberland ? (looking like I'll get at least a day's skiing in the Pyrenees this weekend ;-)

1 look forward to seeing your article
Witkacy on 31 Jan 2006 - 213-238-107-231.adsl.inetia.pl
In reply to Doug:

Interesting article. Just to comment on two points.

1. You say ski mountaineering and ski touring are synonymous. This may be so in the high Alps, but much of the world's ski touring clearly involves no mountaineering.

2. “No one in continental Europe would consider going walking in the high mountains in winter”.
Again by high you must mean high Alps. In the Tatras the ski touring trails tend to have similar numbers of walkers and skiers. Ski mountaineering is practised in more mountainous terrain like this http://www.extreme-sport.pl/index.html?a=galeria&id=4&img=002 and you're supposed to have passed a week course in mountaineering skills before doing it. You have to walk a lot too http://www.extreme-sport.pl/index.html?a=galeria&id=4&img=001
Doug on 31 Jan 2006
In reply to Witkacy: maybe at the two extremes ski touring includes long journeys over near flat terrain and ski mountaineering near extreme skiing with technically difficult ascents, often climbing rather on than on skis, but in the middle they overlap & one person's tour is someone elses ski mountaineering and in usage (at least in the Alps/Pyrenees) they are more or less synonymous. Its not just in English, the terminology is confused in French as well (ski de randonée, ski alpinism, ski de montagne, rando-nordique etc).

As for not walking, I've never visited the Tatra (planned to go to the Slovak Tatra one year but my local contact said there was little snow that year so we went to the Silvretta instead) but in 15 odd years skiing in the Alps, Pyrenees & Norway I've seen one guy on foot (no skis, no snowshoes) once more than 10-20 minutes from the car parks/ski lifts and he was more than a little strange. Sounds like the Tatra are more like Scotland, maybe its due to the scale ?
Witkacy on 31 Jan 2006 - 213-238-107-231.adsl.inetia.pl
In reply to Doug:

> Its not just in English, the terminology is confused in French as well

Yes, clearly general confusion. I imagine in the US ski touring is more likely to mean x-country touring?

> Sounds like the Tatra are more like Scotland, maybe its due to the scale ?

Somewhere in between. Also it's a case of affording the gear. One thing you often see is walkers overtaking the skiers by ascending the fall-line while the skiers zig-zag. The descent on foot is usually much faster than in summer because you can glissade or take big plunging steps.

ads.ukclimbing.com
Doug on 31 Jan 2006
In reply to Witkacy: <Off topic> do you know of any guidebooks for ski touring/mountaineering in the Tatra ? (either Slovak or Polish) - when trying to update the list of ski guidebooks on my website (http://perso.wanadoo.fr/doug.evans/booklist.htm ) I coudn't find any, but maybe because I don't know the right words in Polish/Slovak to search /<Off topic>
Michael Ryan - on 31 Jan 2006
In reply to Witkacy:
> (In reply to Doug)
>
> [...]
>
> Yes, clearly general confusion. I imagine in the US ski touring is more likely to mean x-country touring?


Sometimes.

http://www.sierramountaincenter.com/pages/tripcategorypages/sierra_ski_tours_home.php


Level III: These are difficult tours requiring advanced ski skills, winter camping and mountaineering experience, and some experience at high altitude.
Michael Ryan - on 31 Jan 2006
In reply to Mick - UKClimbing.com:

The Sierra High Route

This is “it", the ultimate Sierra Classic ski tour.

First skied in it’s entirety in 1975 by Sierra veteran Dave Beck, this subtle line linking high passes and long contours around huge snow filled bowls has become the goal of many a backcountry skier. Starting in the low desert of the Eastern Sierra and crossing some of the more rugged parts of the Sierra Nevada this is not a tour for the beginning skier. Often compared to the famous “Haute Route” of the European Alps or Colorado’s Tenth Mountain Trail, this is a true extended wilderness ski tour, with no huts, few other people and no nearby roads. For the experienced backcountry skier with good backcountry skills it will be a truly outstanding venture; the essence of ski mountaineering.

http://www.sierramountaincenter.com/pages/individualtripspages/wintertrips/skitourhighroute.php
Michael Ryan - on 31 Jan 2006
In reply to Mick - UKClimbing.com:

Nice photo album of the Sierra Crest tour here:

http://www.sierramountaincenter.com/gallery/gallery/main.php?g2_view=core.ShowItem&g2_itemId=215
Doug on 31 Jan 2006
In reply to Mick - UKClimbing.com: if you're still there, what happened to the section on snow safety ? was there last night but now seems not to be, or is my PC not refreshing when I ask it to ?
Michael Ryan - on 31 Jan 2006
In reply to Doug:
> (In reply to Mick - UKClimbing.com) if you're still there, what happened to the section on snow safety ? was there last night but now seems not to be, or is my PC not refreshing when I ask it to ?

Empty your cache. It should be there.

Witkacy on 31 Jan 2006 - 213-238-107-231.adsl.inetia.pl
In reply to Doug:

> do you know of any guidebooks for ski touring/mountaineering in the Tatra ?

There's this guide to “Ski Mountaineering in the Polish High Tatras”, in Polish with a summary in English. http://www.extreme-sport.pl/index.html?a=extremeski&id=167
It's more of a guide to hard ski descents though, the easiest probably being a 40-degree gulley that's used by ski tourers as the main link between two valleys.

For less steep ski touring I don't know a book. It's a small area and the trails are marked – just get a winter Tatra map (skiing and walking trails are marked and often coincide) and follow the TOPR reports on ski conditions and avalanche risk. http://www.topr.pl/index.php?str=2,7

In Polish they refer to “ski alpinizm” and divide this into various categories including ski-touring.
Doug on 31 Jan 2006
In reply to Mick - UKClimbing.com: umm, always thought refreshing (or reload as I see Firefox calls it) should be enought (it is on my Mac at home), but having cleared the cache the updated version is there just as you said (but why does 'reload' work for updating the forums but not the articles ?).
In reply to Doug: Hi Doug, Looking set for April. Can't wait! Nick

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