I am trying to get a little bit more into winter mountaineering from this winter on, something I have not done a lot before. My experience for the moment is only a few days out with snow shoes, nothing really serious yet.
I have a bit of experience in alpine (skied each year between 6 and 20 yo) and XC (less experience) skiing, but I developed a consistent hatred/fear towards alpine due to a lot of bad experiences (different people broke different limbs of mine). On the other hand I feel quite comfortable with XC or snow shoes.
Generally speaking I am not a lover of speed/extreme stuff, so don't care about adrenalin.
I wondered how useful and easy it would be to start with ski touring. Is it something you definitely need to know at least a little bit to access some places? Given my bad experience with alpine skiing, do you think it is sufficiently dissimilar to allow me to overtake this hatred of alpine?
I have no definite goals but I guess I would be mostly looking for stuff in the Pyrénées with a hint of travel over the world. So that could be anywhere, really. I am just trying to develop general skills.
In reply to drolex:
Ski touring skills (skinning and kick turns) would only take a few hours to get the hang of. But you wil need to also develop some off piste skiing skills. From your OP I get the impression your (bad) experience so far has been limited to crowded groomed pistes? If so I would recommend an off piste ski course which will open up a whole new world of adventure to you (mostly) away from loonies crashing into you. This wil open the way to ski touring
In reply to drolex:
If you want to go on to do Alpine stuff in winter/spring, touring skills would be useful. Otherwise it's not much use for climbing but is good fun in its own right. You don't have to be a really good skier by you do need to be competent off piste and potentially on glaciated terrain, though there's plenty of touring on non-glacial terrain. There's easy day touring you can do in the Alps and in Scotland but avalanche risk is always a factor even on easy tours.
Given that you need to invest a lot in gear, a touring course in the Alps or hiring an instructor and gear for a couple of days would be a good way to start if you aren't sure that you will definitely want to stick with it. Ski hire shops in places like Chamonix sometimes sell ex hire gear in the summer for good prices. Eg I got my skis with bindings + skins for €400 in that way from a shop in Argentiere.
In reply to drolex: Ski touring is a lovely way to spend your days. Sure it's a great way to access Alpine areas in winter but it's a lot of fun in it's own right. Sounds like you can already ski so add some snow safety skills and you're laughing.
I've been a XC skier for 30yrs and started playing with the idea of telemark about 18yrs ago......and did some ski-mountaineering in Italy about 19yrs ago.........then when we had the first big winter 2009-2010? I hired various telemark/ski mountaineering/touring equipment and enjoyed myself! Then bought my own gear for the next season........only this last season have I truly felt that I had the proper "knack"...........I can now telemark red runs...........telemark off-piste, and parallel on steep off-piste, and ice climb with the skis on the rucsac, and skin like a good'un..........
Coming from XC you will find the uphill easier, the along slow, and the down hill scary at first due to speed...but speed is your friend............
Also defo get the bible red book that is "back country ski-ing skills and techniques.
In reply to Snowdave: I'm in a similar position to the OP, but with almost no skiing experience; I'm curious as to opinions on how it would be best to proceed to learn.
The most accessible option appears to be refine my alpine skiing with some of my friends who are very experienced and acquire a cheap, (probably old) Randonee setup...
In spite of this, I'm drawn towards tele over randonee, but I've been told (rightly or wrongly) it has inherant disadvantages from a climbing POV, namely you can't climb very well in Tele boots due to the increased flex, it's slightly more difficult to ski across the flat in anything but the most flexable boots, and it's more difficult to descend in-control carrying a heavy pack...
To confuse the matter further, a friend of a friend suggested that xc skiing was probably a better overall solution, even though you have to descend steep slopes on foot; which would at least lend itself to using silvretta bindings with mountaineering boots (albeit, loosing some of the efficiency of the XC setup).
Is launching straight into tele over alpine/randonee going to make me better at it/less concerned by it's shortcomings, and would I actually be better learning XC as a method of accessing climbs and then developing downhill skiing as a separate thing entirely if it takes my fancy?
In reply to KellyKettle: unfortunately 'XC' can mean very different things depending on who's talking/writing. If you want to ski in the mountains I'd forget the very light XC gear which is designed for skiing on prepared tracks & is very difficult to control when descending most types of snow.
But if by XC you mean narrowish skis but with steel edges together with leather or plastic boots (gear the Norwegians call fjellski)then its fine for terrain like the Cairngorms or much of Norway and is much better on flat/gentle terrain than randonée gear.
Choice between heavier telemark & randonée gear is personal, I prefer tele as thats what I've mostly used (came from a XC background) but its true that tele boots aren't as good if you have to remove your skis to climb (although even thats not true if you go for the new NTN bindings )
Going uphill in tele is as easy as AT if you have pivot bindings such as black diamond O1 or G3 Targa Ascent. It's way easier on the flat especially on small bits were all the AT skiers need to unclip with tele you have flex already there.
I think you are referring to nordic or "cross country" skis. Not the beefy tele stuff which is as strong as AT.
It's all about skiing. Tele and AT are all skiing and the fundamentals are the exact same.
Forget mountaineering boots and compromise if you want to enjoy your day.
> (In reply to KellyKettle)
> I think you are referring to nordic or "cross country" skis. Not the beefy tele stuff which is as strong as AT.
As it was told to me (and I'm dubious of the advice as I don't think the person involved has much experience of tele) alpine-style skiing is easier and more controllable when carrying weight, so even compared to beefy freeride tele setups, the rando wins out...
> Forget mountaineering boots and compromise if you want to enjoy your day.
> Why are you skiing? For climbing or for skiing?
Mixture, I'd be skiing as a method of going climbing more easily for the most part, but it's also quite a compelling sport in it's own right... I could see myself progressing into skiing for the love of it, if time/money allowed.
In reply to Doug:
> But if by XC you mean narrowish skis but with steel edges together with leather or plastic boots (gear the Norwegians call fjellski)then its fine for terrain like the Cairngorms or much of Norway and is much better on flat/gentle terrain than randonée gear.
That is what my acquaintance was describing, as "a bit old-school, but versatile".
In the first instance that might be a good starting point, (especially as the equipment is available relatively cheaply), though I'm unsure how would be best to start as someone who's almost clueless on skis but happy with being out and about in winter conditions? Some initial time with a guide and then (assuming the weather provides bountiful snow again) lots of manageable practice? Or on flat/(very) gently rolling terrain would I be able to teach myself?
If I'm getting along with, and getting out on skis regularly through a winter or two, then I could start considering "proper" skiing, with a bias toward tele.
> Or on flat/(very) gently rolling terrain would I be able to teach myself?
You can teach yourself track XC skiing fine, classic style is basically just walking until you get enough momentum to kick and glide, skate style is harder but in Scandinavia I doubt anyone is "taught" it besides from parents or the like, except athletes being coached and tourists. But understand just how light the gear is and how kinda useless it is out of the tracks.
I think even steel edged straight touring skis are a total bugger to turn, I would imagine you often end up just doing survival parallels and not teleing at all. Turning was hard enough on my early 90s "downhill" tele gear - the skis had some side cut and the lace up boots were high and stiff, with lower boots and no sidecut I suspect downs become a chore and where's the fun in that?
If you are thinking of going ice climbing in the alps with ski-in approaches, I'd just bite the bullet and go straight for an AT set up. I was skiing over a glacial ice cap this May for a good few kms, flat and boring, and my friends weren't going any slower than me (tele gear) on the flat with their modern AT gear and had a better time on the steep downhills. I've telemarked for 19 years, but want AT gear now. Some thoughts on why: http://lightfromthenorth.blogspot.fi/2013/05/lyngen-in-may-ski-mountaineering-trip.html
'Tele is dead unless you have a goatee and ride a “Fixed” gear bike. Tele is now about style, not function. Snowboarding is a pain in the ass in the backcountry but at least has some useful function in junk snow, tele skis don’t even have that benefit.'
> (In reply to Snowdave) I'm in a similar position to the OP, but with almost no skiing experience; I'm curious as to opinions on how it would be best to proceed to learn.
> The most accessible option appears to be refine my alpine skiing with some of my friends who are very experienced and acquire a cheap, (probably old) Randonee setup...
> In spite of this, I'm drawn towards tele over randonee, but I've been told (rightly or wrongly) it has inherant disadvantages from a climbing POV, namely you can't climb very well in Tele boots due to the increased flex, it's slightly more difficult to ski across the flat in anything but the most flexable boots, and it's more difficult to descend in-control carrying a heavy pack...
> To confuse the matter further, a friend of a friend suggested that xc skiing was probably a better overall solution, even though you have to descend steep slopes on foot; which would at least lend itself to using silvretta bindings with mountaineering boots (albeit, loosing some of the efficiency of the XC setup).
> Is launching straight into tele over alpine/randonee going to make me better at it/less concerned by it's shortcomings, and would I actually be better learning XC as a method of accessing climbs and then developing downhill skiing as a separate thing entirely if it takes my fancy?
So much of what you want to know is basically a personal thing.............
BUT here are some practical tips/ observations...........
I've skied almost every type of XC gear out there...also skied various AT & tele gear...........
I've done hop telemarks on the gun barrel on cairngorm using my "back country XC gear" (Fisher E99 mtns with NNN BC bindings and heavy leather boots)............not fun as you are trying to work against the length (210cm) and the camber of the XC ski.
My tele/ski mtn gear is Scarpa T2eco boots 7TM bindings (power tour) and a 176cm ski trab ski..........This is tele with the "duck-bill"...the plastic boots have a built in bellow flex (better for uphill, along, and need for tele). Also I have ice climbed and done long walk ins and not had any problems with the duck-bill getting in the way! (got the petzl wire bail for tele boots to adapt my petzl crampons)
My mates ski AT.........but I trounce them on the along and the uphill.......I'm starting to get my speed on the downhill and just about keep up on a red run!
My bindings which are the 7tm power tour are the best "duck-bill" bindings out there..........you can almost get a XC tour glide and they free pivot like AT and they DIN release in a fall............stay away from NTN bindings as Rottefella are still having problems with the old ones (version 5??).and the new ones have problems too.........when they produce a version that is as well built as my 7tms then I might get a set of NTN!
I can do most types/versions of parallel/skid turns as well as tele.....all on tele gear....infact my AT mates can't believe how good I can parallel....but these are skills needed for the steep (get the paul parker book of freeheal skiing)
heavy packs..........yep skied with a full 45lt pack with ice axes, crampons in Coire an Snechda........crampons on at back skis on rucsac.......skin along plateau....ski down nice slopes...........still finding my centre of balance for perfect teles on frozen crud..........
If you want to try hire a set of teles (mtn capable) in Aviemore..........but if buying get a tele setup which can do it all!
And when you get to a nice slope a pull some good teles!!.............even my AT friends just stand and stare and are really jealous when I just rip a perfect set!.......
> (In reply to Snowdave)
> Interesting. I used to have the 7TM Power Tour and I thought them pretty rubbish. Both the Targa Ascent and O1 have just as good climbing ability and better raisers I think.
> I don't understand the big issue with "parallel", which the tele turn is anyway. It's not any big deal to parallel on tele gear.
> Maybe I am picking you up wrong and I am no expert tele skier. It;s one of these things you never get quite as good as you want to be
BD O1 are to plasticity for my liking, and the Targas looked a bit DIY!......I liked the DIN system (only available on 7TM). Never had any problems with mine...........and they have been used in various conditions, tours, skinning, etc.......maybe you were unlucky with your pair???
With out getting into splitting hairs about all the different types of "parallel" turn (don't have my Paul Parker book to hand at the mo).....what I consider a true parallel is when you go from one edge to the next by just flexing/bending the knees etc and the skis are "parallel" with the lead ski tip within one inch of the trail ski tip............even a tucked in tele (trailing knee tucked in tight behind lead knee) my lead ski tip is about 16inches in front of my trail ski tip!!
Also tele bindings are generally mounted further back on a ski than AT/Downhill bindings! These days most AT/tele skis are the same (there are exceptions) and you can mount either an AT, or Tele, or downhill (alpine) on the same ski.
AT and Alpine will usually mount with the centreline of the boot on the ski mid line (or main mark)........this puts the centre of the ski (radius/arc) under the centre of the foot which is perfect for a parallel turn..........
However to mount a tele binging on the same ski you would put the pinline (on a duckbill Nordic norm 75mm) of the binding on the ski centre mark (or main mark).............This puts the ball of the foot for tele/XC where it needs to be.............this can make it harder to initial a parallel turn as you have more ski length in front of the boot........
P.S. I have been taking in "general terms".......you can mount bindings further back or forwards, depending on ski length/skier height compensation, weight compensation, etc etc..........
I've mounted a few bindings in my time! (I've spent about 15yrs in the retail trade working in specialist ski/climbing/mtn shops)
In reply to drolex: On a slightly side note, I would recommend giving alpine skiing another chance - in my experience the worst type of skiing anyone can do is a crowded piste with wannabe fast guys weaving in and out and then crashing because they've not got the skills (or the ethics given that this is probably a blue/red run). Get yourself to a lesser frequented resort or one of the big ones on a quiet week, take some experienced friends and start playing around in the easy off piste i.e. side of the runs, under the lifts etc. I guarantee you'll be hooked in minutes and wonder how you ever found the speed scary.
Just my two pence as someone who dislikes busy pistes and revels in every bit of powder I can possibly access.
> (In reply to KellyKettle)
> My mates ski AT.........but I trounce them on the along and the uphill.......I'm starting to get my speed on the downhill and just about keep up on a red run!
> even my AT friends just stand and stare and are really jealous when I just rip a perfect set!.......