by Frank V. Persall
Ski touring, which is usually called backcountry skiing, implies the type of skiing where you can have uphill and downhill journeys without the necessity of removing your skis. In most cases, ski touring takes place outside of ski resorts and off-piste.
Along with ski mountaineering, ski touring has significantly grown in popularity, thus causing the appearance of many areas for backcountry skiing. In particular, these are the most popular locations in Europe for ski-tourers: Dolomites (Italy), Alps (Italy), Gran Sasso (Italy), Campo Imperatore (Italy), St. Moritz (Switzerland), Davos/Klosters (Switzerland), Zermatt (Switzerland), La Grave (France), Charmonix (France), Charmonix-Zermatt Haute Route (France and Switzerland), Hochkönig (Austria), High Tatras (Slovakia), and Zakopane (Poland). Yet, more and more routes and interest places are being discovered by passionate ski-tourers. Even though this type of sport gets more and more popular and attracts thousands of beginners every year, take a look and keep in mind the following recommendations before starting your season of ski touring.
If you are a beginner and have no clue about how to ski properly, you will have to get a special intensive 20-day-long training with an instructor or a group, which will help you to learn skiing. It is not the wisest decision to learn skiing alone, because it is a quite difficult matter. With an instructor, you will overcome about 100,000 meters over that period of time, which is equal to the distance expert ski-tourers overcome during the whole season. In case if you already know how to ski, you can try your first steps on a red piste at your resort. After you have made your first steps, you can attempt off-piste ski touring, or even go already the easiest ski touring routes.
There are a few different options how to start your ski touring.
First of all, you may use the services of qualified instructors or professional guides who will adapt the training to your wishes and needs. Yet, this option is noticeably expensive. But if you have chosen this option, look for a guide who has a good reputation in ski touring.
Another option may be to join some club (like the Eagle Ski Club in the UK, or the CAF club in France). You will have other people with whom you will go out, so you will not run beyond the basic expenses. Moreover, such clubs can brag another advantage: you can take hire gear at a very low fee. However, make sure that you have chosen the group with the corresponding level of ski touring skills.
The third option is to go with your friends who fancy ski touring, too. This option is usually the simplest one, but you should keep in mind that your friends are not professional guides, and therefore, you should not let them to take you too far. In case if none of your friends fancy ski touring, you may look for someone on special websites (for example, www.telemarktalk.com for North America, and www.camptocamp.com for Europe).
Concerning the equipment, you must have preferably lightweight, wide and not too long skis. There is a special type of skis called alpine touring skis, out of which you can choose skis which are both appropriate for ski touring and suitable for you. Besides, you may use the same poles that you do on piste, yet you have to shift the baskets there. Also, look for quite comfortable and very warm ski boots. You will be for a long time out in the mountains, so take care about your warmth. Look for comfortable ski touring bindings. In ski touring, you can choose one of a few positions for the bindings: either fixed for descending or hinged for climbing. What is important, you must have Avalanche Transceivers in your equipment. Such devices have saved many lives already: they help to find the skiers under snow much faster. As well you should have skiing clothing (it can be somewhat modified), survival sheets, and the First Aid Kit. A rucksack for 30 liters must be enough for a one-day journey.
After all, what is good about ski touring is the fact that you are not constrained by the time of season opening or when the lifts work. Indeed, you should enjoy ski touring at its fullest, yet do not take the risky routes.
About Frank V. Persall
Originally from the UK, Frank has a passion for skiing and anything snow related. He is currently on a never ending mission to visit the best ski resorts across the USA and the the World. Frank is happiest when he is on ski slopes with his wife and three children.