Want to get away from the crowds and ski resort infrastructure to explore the mountain under your own steam? Then you need to try ski touring. Pete Coombs explains this fast-growing type of skiing, and how to get started.
What is ski touring and split-boarding?
At its most basic, ski touring is attaching skins to the bottom of your skis or split-board (the touring version of a snowboard), and ‘skinning’ up a mountainside with the intention to ski back down again. For some it’s more than that: a way of travelling through high mountain terrain on a multiple-day journey, with the downhill part being secondary to the journey itself.
So why forgo lifts, and choose to hike uphill with your skis on?
A lust for fitness could be one answer, or a desire to ski fresh powder could be another – and is the main reason for some people. But if you ask most people who go ski touring why they do it, they will tell you that it’s the whole mountain experience that grips them; the escapism and isolation that only travelling within a small group, well away from the lifts, pistes and crowds of a ski resort can bring. There’s also that self-satisfied internal glow of knowing that you’ve earned your turns the hard way!
Do you need to be super fit?
You don’t have to be super fit, as touring is only slightly harder than going for a hike at altitude. In fact, many ski tours will start in a ski resort and use the lift system to gain most of the altitude, before skinning into the nearby off-piste (slack country) areas.
Do I need to be able to ski off piste well?
While you don’t have to be super fit, you do need to be able to ski/snowboard off-piste in both good and bad snow conditions and poor light. There’s little point in climbing a mountain on skis if you can’t ski back down it, and if that’s the case, then you must first take off piste lessons.