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First time ski touring? 15 little things you need to know

Ski touring with its specific equipment, its climbing technique, the skins to stick on and take off can be a complicated discipline if someone is not there to initiate you.

Having a mother who is passionate about mountain sports, I was lucky enough to be able to start with her, following all her advices! She is not a guide but she has accumulated a nice record of adventure including several La Patrouille de Glaciers, La Haute Route, semi-autonomous stays in Norway and Kazakhstan, as well as several summits including Mont-Blanc.

In this post, I'd like to share with you all the little things she taught me that help me on every ski tour!

Choosing your equipment

1. "If you are a beginner and want to have fun on the way up, choose light equipment and soft boots for the climb."

2. "If you are going up to go down, choose freeride skis with touring bindings and good boots for the descent".

Before the start of the climb

3. "Skins and bindings should be prepared at home to save time and avoid doing it in the cold.

All the little preparations that you can do at home in the warmth, are to be done before leaving. This avoids having to take off your gloves to prepare your bag, put on skins or adjust your bindings. If you are going in a team, it also avoids the others waiting on you in the cold.

4. "In your bag you should always have: a ski jacket and gloves for the descent, a fleece, a hat, something to eat and drink".

In a ski tour, there are two parts: the ascent and the descent. You need to have the equipment for both as well as an extra layer (like a fleece) in case it is colder than expected. Food and water are also important: cravings can happen quickly.

5. "Don't overdress, it's hot when you climb!"

The mistake I made a lot in the beginning was not knowing how to dress for the climb. I always ended up having to stop 200m after the start to remove layers.

  • For spring days, a simple long sleeve Odlo is enough for the top. Even a t-shirt is sometimes enough.

  • On cold but sunny days, I wear my ORTOVOX set (see Equipment) with the long sleeve odlo top underneath.

  • For the coldest days, I add a windproof hardshell jacket and a neck warmer.

6. "Sunscreen and goggles are mandatory.

Even without the sun, snow, cold and wind can sensitize the vision and make the eyes water. Goggles are therefore mandatory to avoid a headache and burnt eyes at the end of the day.

"Put anti-chafing cream on your heels to avoid blisters"

Compeed and other brands make anti-chafing creams which help enormously to avoid blisters - especially on first rides or if you rent your shoes.

Climbing and technique

Even though you "just have to climb", here are some tips to help you on the way up.

7. "You don't cross the roads with skis and skins"

Wet snow, water and mud on the roads can damage your skins. You might say "at least we don't scratch the skis". Unfortunately, wet skins have less grip on the climb and can create frozen clogs on your skis that are very annoying and difficult to remove. Take your skis off if you have to cross a road or cross a muddy path.

8. "Don't lift your ski to move forward, you slide your foot forward to move forward.

Every walker's intuition is going to be to lift their foot to move forward. In ski touring, you have to get used to sliding your foot forward. You go much faster and are less exhausted.

9."First you plant the poles, then you move your legs forward".

A little tip to improve coordination and stability on the climb. With the poles in front, you can easily push with your arms and stabilize yourself. This also takes the strain off the legs on long trips and increases your the speed.

10. "The legs are perpendicular to the skis and the weight is on the heel to better adhere when climbing".

This technical tip is essential to be able to climb the slope properly. The wrong reflex is to lean forward and put the weight on the forefoot. Your ski will slip and you will fall.

The arrival at the summit

Finally at the top! But it's not over yet just stay focused and follow the tips below:

11. "When you get to the top, the first thing to do, before taking off your skis, is to get dressed".

When the effort stops and the muscles cool down, you quickly feel very cold. The first thing to do when you get to the top is to take off your second layer, your gloves and your hat in order not to get cold. It is very hard to warm up once you are cold, especially after sweating.

12. "We check that the stoppers are on (or the skis are attached) before removing the skins.

A fatal mistake is to remove the skins before the bindings have been put back into the ski position with the stopper or the skis have been properly attached to the boots. Because if you put a ski down without skins or stoppers, it will slide back to the chalet without you.

13. "We take off our skis on flat ground if possible."

Before you start your transition to ski mode, choose a flat, stable spot. This will make your life easier.

Group rules

As mountain hiking is never done alone, here are some tips and rules to follow when you are in a group.

14. "Always go at the pace of the slowest"

This is a rule that many people don't follow, but it allows everyone to have fun. If there is a real difference in level, you can make two groups with the fast people in front. But if a few are always behind, they will not enjoy themselves and will probably run out of energy faster. Respect all levels!

15. "NEVER leave someone alone in the mountains"

This is the ultimate safety rule to respect in the mountains, whether in marked areas or off-piste. It takes two people to find each other and help each other if there is an avalanche or an accident.

Have a good ski tour!


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