/ Learning to Ski for Ski Mountaineering

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JFort on 05 Nov 2012
I've been snowboarding for the last 9 years on and off, I can link my turns down a red run on a good day. I love it but I'm looking to learn to ski as the hubby and I would really like to get into ski mountaineering. Living in Scotland we can see such great opportunities to explore the hills on skis and just can't wait until we have the training and experience to get out there.

So, my question is; as a snowboarder but a total novice skier where is the best position to start, in a total beginners group lesson, maybe an intermediate group lesson or a private lesson in the morning with time to practice in the afternoon? It's most likely to be at Aviemore or the Nevis Range so any advise on which ski schools to go with would be appreciated too.
Dave Kerr - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to JFort:

In terms of location do it wherever the cover / conditions are best so that you can focus on the skiing rather than avoiding the rocks.
Shearwater - on 05 Nov 2012
Not considered splitboarding?
JFort on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:

Of course! It's just that these two are easy for us to get to and the husband is going to be off winter climbing while I'm skiing so we have to go somewhere to do both.
JFort on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Shearwater:

Yup, we have and looked into it but are still unsure. Apart from it being sooo expensive to buy a split board, not that skis are much cheaper I'm sure, but I'm not sure if I could be bothered with all the faff. You just know that there will be one bit where it goes flat or down and then up enough for you to warrant splitting the board again to get going, while everyone on skis copes with it a lot better. We thought of making our own split boards too but this seems like quite a mission. Do you use one, if so how do you get on with it?
kevin stephens - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to JFort:
An hour on a dry slope with 1:2 instructor, then a day on snow followed by half day 1:2 intructor should sort you out with the transition to the rightous path
Bruce Hooker - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to JFort:

I can't answer your specific question but from my own experience and that of a friend being a really good skier in all conditions of snow, especially the wet heavy stuff you get at the end of the day is incredibly important. I tried ski-mountaineering with a fairly low level of skiing competence, imagining that the hard bit would be the climbing and coming down I could muddle by but it was a mistake, I should have got my downhill skiing up to scratch first (not always possible though). In the afternoon as I was floundering down I'd watch with envy as groups of teenagers to real oldies swooped past in wonderful cut curves in the deep snow!

My partner was already a better skier than me but he went on group outings with a guide from time to time and compared to the others, mostly continental skiers, he was still held back by his lack of proficiency down hill - going up being a mountaineer of many years he kept up with the best.

If these remarks are blatantly obvious, my apologies :-)
daWalt on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to JFort:
> I've been snowboarding for the last 9 years on and off, I can link my turns down a red run on a good day.
That sounds like more off than on to be honest.

It’s borderline weather Skiing is technically more difficult than snowboarding, it’s totally different, less intuitive and more involved to learn. But if you’ve got clue of sliding, carving and edges then you’re already way ahead of any total novice.
A 1 to 1 lesson and they’ll soon see what you can do, how fast you pick it up and jump straight to what you want to be learning. Get a morning session and see how it goes.

If you can get a mate to show you the basics of skiing, that would get you started; certainly cheaper and you’ll soon know where you stand/fall.
but......... you only get so far on your own.
Esp in Scotland, the vast majority of skiers can ski, very few can ski well, more so with snowboarders. The difference is subtle but massive. Regardless, I would recommend lots of practice followed by advanced skiing lessons, it’s almost impossible to teach yourself to ski well.
Shearwater - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to JFort:
> You just know that there will be one bit where it goes flat or down and then up enough for you to warrant splitting the board again to get going, while everyone on skis copes with it a lot better.

Interestingly, you hear similar comments regarding free-heel bindings, and the avoidance of all the faff of locking down and release the heels on AT bindings ;-)

I do not splitboard, but I have toured with a few people who do, and they seemed quite happy about the whole affair. The price is a big killer for the nicer kit, and I guess that might be enough to discourage anyone... but then, a nice set of skis, dynafits and decent compatible boots isn't cheap either. Next time you rob a bank or win the lottery, take a look at Karakoram bindings which seem to be more or less 'state of the art' in splitboard land.
bigdelboy - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to JFort: I have a splitboard and I get on fine with it. Not much more faff than ski's in my opinion once you get the hang of the switch over. I'm quicker than my mate with ski's but he is a faffer! For those little awkward bits you refer to I just ski down them with the board split (you'd be surprised how easy this is) its great fun especially since I cant ski!!
The only drawback I've found is the boots side of things. Crampons clip directly onto ski touring boots but not so for snowboard boots. I've boarded in my mountain boots but its not as much fun and takes a bit of getting used to. Though I'm a rubbish boarder as well! Check out the splitboard forum online and there are usually some bargains to be had on second hand boards.
In reply to JFort: Also remember that there are lots of dull round grassy lumps of hills in Scotland that in the right conditions can provide lovely, safe, very easy ski mountaineering, meaning you can get out and do some even whilst you are still working on the actual skiing. When I was learning to ski still I had a great day out touring on my own on the hills above Luss (the area between Loch Lomond and Loch Long), lots of gentle smooth slopes, no cliff and rocks, and no one around to laugh when you fluff your turn and end up on your bum again. But you're still ski touring - getting to know your kit, skinning to the top of something - it's great fun.

Doug on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to TobyA: like Toby, I started skitouring more or less as soon as I started skiing. Helps if your companions are as bad, or only slightly better than you as then they won't get frustrated when you keep falling over as they'll be doing the same!

But get lessons, I didn't & many years later it still shows
OwenM - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to JFort: Get lessons doesn't matter where or who with - as long as their not just "some mate who's done a bit". Ride the lifts to get the miles in. When your comfortable on red runs on a good, bad, or indifferent day try some unpisted run. Ski Mountaineering is all off piste with a rucksack on, the better skier you are the easier time you'll have.
beardy mike - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to JFort: As some one said further up, there is a massive difference between skiing well in a resort and skiing well off piste. Off piste amplifies the flaws in your basic technique massively, so its imperative that you get a really good grounding if you want to progress fast. The easiest way to do this is a series of one to one sessions with a good instructor. It's not cheap but you will pick up so much more. Mates who ski, unless they are excellent skiers are not the people to do this as by and large they consider themselves good because they can ski all the runs in the resort. Most skiers have bad habits (including me... certainly not saying I'm good!) and they are very easy to miss unless you've been trained to pick up on them. I've taken years to get out of the bad habits my dad taught me as a kid!

Also ski mountaineering is about skiing all conditions. So the key is skiing off piste as much as you physically can. You will encounter a massive variation in different conditions, and the only way to learn to deal with them is by doing it repetitively. Once you have got a good grounding, head off as much as you can, remembering all the lessons you've learned and try to continuously self assess what you are doing wrong or right. If you crash, work out why. Have some off piste sessions too as there are very specific things you can do to improve in the various conditions.

Most importantly, enjoy it... its stupid amounts of fun. And if you can afford it, take a trip to europe as the weather is so much more agreeable and you will be guaranteed a productive time...
Neil Mackenzie - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Shearwater:

the new karakoram split-bindings have heel lock down to better cope with skating on flats/sking short down hills which will reduce the 'faff' of short changes. although, even with more basic binding systems split boards arre pretty decent for getting about and once you get used to the change overs and using them without skins for short sections of free-heel sking they are a pretty goos alternative to skis.

price of the top of the range kit is definitely prohibitive, but then if you get a good ski set up and count the cost of lessons and the lost time in the mountains getting good a skiing it may be a good option....

(i have been debating learning to ski well for a number of years but as the split technology is improving dramatically im gonna stick with boarding for now)
aligibb - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to JFort:
I come to this from a skiers point of view, i can snowboard to an intermediate level but haven't been split boarding. But I have been touring with snowboarders on split boards and snow shoes, done a medium amount of touring and taken others touring for the 1st time.

First thing to remember is that skiing off piste in crap snow is MUCH harder than snowboarding off piste in crap snow so you really do need to have a decent ski level to do anything more than crosscountry. That means happy on steep stuff in crap snow/ice/powder etc and its being able to deal with crap snow conditions that becomes important touring

I would say have a private lesson to start with as you'll be used to sliding, balancing (albeit in a differnt way) and moving. What can be strange to start with is pointing down the fall line alot more as you don't do this as much on a board, ditto with using a drag lift etc. I did once teach someone to ski who had been boarding a few times, said he was an intermediate skier and booked himself into the intermediate group. He got himself through the lift queue and then got on the button lift facing sideways as he would on a board, no joke! It was a wish we'd filmed that for you tube moment!
Have a practice after your lesson and get yourself up to an intermediate group standard so you can join in with one, ask the instructor if unsure of where the level is roughly. then join in and get as many ski miles under your belt as you can using the lessons to keep all the bad habits at bay that are much easier to fall into the trap of than on a board.
It might be worth asking for an instructor that teaches both skiing and boarding for that 1st lesson as they will be able to link and explain things in a way that will hopefully make more sense to you.
Enjoy and let us know how you get on!
iani on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to aligibb:

The next time you are skiing on piste , practice off piste by skiing parallel to the piste , but just off it(helps if theres virgin snow beyond the edge of the piste) - ski whatever conditions you find - this is how i learned to ski mashed potato snow. Obviously consider location , risk in doing this etc - it can liven up piste skiing!
ian
aligibb - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to iani: Yep a really good way to get used to going into mashed up stuff. Once you are used to skiing the stuff at the side you can move on to skiing the edge - as in down the L hand side fo the piste do the turn to the L on pist to off and then the right turn off piste to on. Whilst maintaining a consistent turn hsape, speed etc. Obviously only yo be done where conditions and skill level allow and not where a piste basher has made a 1 m wall at the side!
JFort on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to ALL:

Great, lots of things to think about then! Maybe split boarding is more of an option than we had realised. Yet the costs do add up, same for a new ski mountaineering set I'm sure, and at least I have board boots.

Ok so I'm not the best boarder, thanks but I know that already, when you can't afford weeks away in Europe, and only get a few days in Scotland in each winter then skills do drop, plus lack of confidence is my main problem, popping my left sacroiliac joint out didn't help! I'm a lot better off piste than on with my board.

I fancied giving skiing a try as a novice with the hope of being able to take up ski mountaineering in the future, I realise skiing off piste is a lot harder to get to grips with as boarding so this may change my mind!

Plan is to head to the Snow Factor in Glasgae this weekend for a 3hr introduction to skiing, see how I get on and then make a decision about what to do. Oh yeah and hope and pray for another amazing season in Scotland, like that one a couple of years ago, then I can head up Arthur's Seat to practice my off piste skills and ski to work too!!
beardy mike - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to JFort: Sounds like a solid plan. Plug away at it and you'll get there and as a few people have said, make sure your basic skills are really solid - it will stand you in good stead once you head off. Ski touring is mega fun (if a little knackering) and opens up a whole new way of getting into the mountains.
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aligibb - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to JFort:
Hi again J Fort,

Cost wise between skis and boots and split board there prob won't be much difference, although you can chuck a pair of touring bindings on any skis really (and may want to do this if less than perfect snow coverage!) but split boards are generally pretty dear. I would say the less you need to convert the board between skis/board the better as it has always taken my friend a good 20 mins with freezing cold hands to get it sorted. So if you do an up and back down thats fine, but if you do an up along down traverse up down etc that you are alot more likely to do in scotland it'll probably wear thin pertty fast.

In terms of off piste/on piste thats the massive differnce between boarding and skiing, skiing off piste is alot harder and needs alot more experience. But is well worth it and brilliant, so don't let it put you off, just prepare well so that you don't have a crap experience 1st time off piste and re injure anything.

If you can get hold of some cheap 2nd hand x country skis that will be s good way to get out and obout in the snow as well and v good for balance and fitness.

Hope the skiing goes well on the weekend!
prog99 on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to aligibb:
> (In reply to JFort)
> my friend a good 20 mins with freezing cold hands to get it sorted. So
Really?? I can swap over nearly as fast as the skiers. Its not that hard!

To the OP, if you are in Edinburgh then happy to show my split board setup.
aligibb - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Mike_Watson_99: Fair one, more likely then he was just a bit of a muppet, he did break something on it each time we went out!
JFort on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to Mike_Watson_99:

Thanks! Sent you mail.
Terry James Walker - on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to aligibb: One important thing that I would strongly recommend on the skiing side, is this:
Get a pair of Alpine Downhill ski boots, and an allround alpine ski, with downhill bindings.

You'll learning progression will be much faster on a decent ski, boot and binding than with lightweight touring gear. Once you're feeling confident, sell it and buy touring gear if you want. Don't fall into the trap that all my mountaineering mates have done, and teach yourself with touring gear on.
Bruce Hooker - on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to Terry Walker:

> Don't fall into the trap that all my mountaineering mates have done, and teach yourself with touring gear on.

That's what I tried to do - first time with an old pair of leather ski-mountaineering boots with laces. It wasn't ideal.
Dave Kerr - on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to Terry Walker:
> (In reply to aligibb) One important thing that I would strongly recommend on the skiing side, is this:
> Get a pair of Alpine Downhill ski boots, and an allround alpine ski, with downhill bindings.
>
> You'll learning progression will be much faster on a decent ski, boot and binding than with lightweight touring gear. Once you're feeling confident, sell it and buy touring gear if you want. Don't fall into the trap that all my mountaineering mates have done, and teach yourself with touring gear on.

Have you skied with modern touring kit? Your advice would be a big waste of time and money.

aligibb - on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:
> (In reply to Terry Walker)
> [...]
>
> Have you skied with modern touring kit? Your advice would be a big waste of time and money.

I agree, some diamir fritschi bindings can go on whatever skis you want, I have them on Dynastar legends which are a really good ski touring or not.
Theres no point buying downhill gear if touring is the intention.
aligibb - on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to aligibb:
But to be honest I'just rent some stuff from the snowdome for your 1st few goes until you get going...
JFort on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to aligibb:

Indeed I agree, not planning on buying anything this season, seeing it as a test for skiing to see if I take to it or not, also not ruling out the split boarding option. In reality it will be a few seasons before we may get into the mountaineering side of things. The costs are huge, plus we rock climb too and also want to get into winter climbing, if only we all had the time and money to do everything we wanted!
Dave Kerr - on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to JFort:

When you come to buy think long and hard about the skiing you will do and do not be swayed by hype / fashion. And if you want to focus your spending on one bit of kit make it the boots.
Terry James Walker - on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:

> Have you skied with modern touring kit? Your advice would be a big waste of time and money.

Yes, lots of it.

I actually agree that bindings are multi-purpose, at the skill level of the original poster. But a lightweight pair of Scott skis or some Scarpa boots for instance, ain't gonna help a learner out. In my opinion, having tested both and lots of other skis and boots, touring kit is rubbish for learning to ski well. Come on Ali, back me up!
kevin stephens - on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to Terry Walker:

well it's all relative. I did a lot of my off piste learning with light (ish) Scott Mission skis and Scarpa Denali touring boots and got on very well. However I've now treated myself to a pair of Black Diamond Factors, they do ski a lot better
aligibb - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to Terry Walker: Terry think I'm sitting in the middle on this one, yes lightweight touring stuff wouldn't be great to learn on but then you don't have to have lightweight touring skis - you don't!!! ha ha, I've got some new stuff, so hopefully see you somewhere on the Mont de Grange with it soon?!
galpinos - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to kevin stephens:

Well, as you said “off-piste” learning, I assume you had a modicum of experience piste skiing before you headed off-piste. Add to that, Missons are hardly lightweight touring skis, they’re a mid-level all-round ski ideal for intermediate progression and great to learn on, and you weren’t exactly “learning to ski on lightweight touring gear”

Trying to learn on Scarpa F1s and some Trab death sticks on your first lesson would be a different kettle of fish.

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