Ski Tips for Mountaineers
It's that time of year again! The North faces are dripping with ice, the gullies are choked full of neve, and the harsh cold of winter has gone. Unfortunately, just try to walk anywhere and you'll be up to your oxters in snow before you know it. What you need, of course, is a pair of snow shoes. What you want, on the other hand, is a pair of skis - so you can whoop it up on the way down. But what if your skiing isn't really up to it? What if, like me, you've spent many years grappling with the planks on adventures beyond your ability - refusing to spend time learning to ski properly? Well don't hold me to any of this, but here are some top-tips that might just help you get away with it:
Get some really fat skis with proper touring bindings! Enough of trying to get by on those old relics, with some ancient rusty binding. Bung them in the skip because fat is best when the snow gets cruddy. Proper touring bindings because you need to go uphill and, with all that extra cargo, you definitely need them to release before you break something!
Learn to ski defensively! The place to work on your ski technique is with a little pack on, close to a resort, and preferably within reach of the pisteurs when you blow it. Out here no-one can hear you scream (except your mates of course, but they.re working on the next .you-tube. clip) so learn how to avoid breaking yourself. Side slipping is great when it gets steep; traversing and kick turns are essential for crusty snow; and a solid snowplough or stem turn is hard to beat in the mush. Especially when you.ve got a big pack on!
You are going to fall over . a lot! Save energy when you get up, by taking your pack off first. Try to avoid heaving and levering yourself up on bowing ski poles . they will break sooner or later. Better still, in soft snow, to cross your poles on the surface of the snow above you. Now push on the centre of the cross to save you floundering in the powder.
Keep the pack small! You can spread the weight around a bit by wearing your harness . and even some of the rack. Just remember that you may land on it any minute - so choose carefully! This may also give you an excuse to keep your lid on . which may not be a bad idea! You can also wrap your rope in an old fashioned mountaineers coil, and wear it round your body. Just be sure that anything on the outside (especially crampons or axes) is well lashed on . or you.ll lose it in the next wipe-out.
Don.t even think about carrying a spare pair of climbing boots! You can climb pretty well in touring boots, but skiing in climbing boots is a total epic (and really risky for your ankles). In fact, you can front point for ever in a pair of touring boots, so big sheets of ice are a doddle to climb. Fluted routes, pulling over bulges, and funky mixed climbing can be a bit trickier with limited ankle flex. Mono point crampons can make things a bit easier in these cases.
Keep your skins warm! Having got to the base of your route, don.t just leave them to freeze in the bottom of your pack. If it all goes wrong later on, they could be your .get out of jail free. card. Keep them down your jacket when you start skiing, and they are ready for use whenever you need them!
Finally, learn how to .do it properly. come on one of off-piste ski holidays. Click here for details.