• 2 February 2020

Getting into mountaineering is one thing, but ski-mountaineering offers a whole new world of exciting challenges. This activity combines backcountry touring with snow skiing – the ultimate adventure! 

While this is an activity that everyone can get into and enjoy, it also comes with potential dangers and challenges. 

Here are some valuable tips for beginner skiers interested in taking up mountaineering. Follow these simple bits of advice to help you have an amazing time on the slopes. This might just be the highlight of your next winter ski holiday

What is ski mountaineering? 

Ski mountaineering combines downhill alpine skiing with backcountry touring. This is a thrilling activity that involves climbing, working through difficult terrains, and skiing down some major slopes. 

If you want to take skiing to the next level, then mountaineering is an exciting way to do it. 

Getting into mountaineering 

Here are some tips for anyone interesting in trying this sport on their next winter holiday. 

A group of skiers starting their descent off Valley Blanche
A group of skiers starting their descent off Valley Blanche
1. Confidently ski on pistes (marked ski paths)

This may seem obvious, but it is the essential first step to start ski hiking. Before you can traverse far-off mountain peaks in the snow, you will need to be able to confidently ski down steep slopes. 

Start small, take some lessons if you can, and build up your skills skiing down snowy pistes. Try to take a few skiing trips to increase your confidence on the slopes. This is an essential first step for alpine touring. 

2. Learn how to use skinning skis

Now that you can ski down snowy pistes, you will need to learn how to ski uphill. Learning how to use skinning skis can be challenging at first, but it is a necessary step for snow touring. What is skinning you may ask? This is when you attach climbing skins to the bottom of alpine skis in order to slide your way uphill. 

Skinning up a mountain is a useful skill to learn – especially if you want to explore vast landscapes. Knowing how to go up and down terrains on skis are the two fundamentals of ski mountaineering. 

3. Get the right mountaineer equipment

In order to tackle the snowy wilderness, you will need to have the best gear you can get. This will make a major difference to your overall experience. The right gear will also help you to enjoy safer ski touring. 

Start with a great pair of touring-capable ski boots and crampons. Make sure you have the right touring bindings for backcountry skiing. You will also need the appropriate skis for the kind of terrain that you will be on. Some other bits of necessary equipment includes adjustable poles, a headlamp, shovel, and a first aid kit. 

Your instructor or ski guide should help equip you for the mountain. Most ski areas will have plenty of quality mountaineer equipment available for hire. 

Always make sure that your ski gear is ready for action
Always make sure that your ski gear is ready for action
4. Understand avalanche safety

Ski mountaineering will require you to explore vast areas where avalanches can occur. This is one of the biggest things to be aware of in this sport. Before heading out into the backcountry, make sure that you understand avalanche safety procedures, and what to do in case of an emergency. 

If you are serious about becoming a ski mountaineer, then you will want to take an avalanche course. These are available for those wanting to better understand avalanche terrain and how to deal with it. Be aware of the potential risk of an avalanche, and make sure that either you or the person you are skiing with, knows what to do in case of an emergency.

5. Work on your endurance

Ski mountaineering requires plenty of endurance. When starting out, it is important that your fitness levels can handle the kind of routes you will take. While you will be starting off on shorter beginner mountaineering courses, over time this will increase. 

Ski mountaineering can involve climbing, trekking, downhill skiing, and pulling yourself through the snow. This can be exhausting. You can always train by going on long hikes if you don’t have direct access to snow. The high altitude will also have an impact here.

6. Gain some rock climbing experience

While you don’t need to become a master rock climber, some climbing experience will make a significant difference. Ski mountaineering can involve all kinds of terrain. This includes ice, rock, exposed ridges, and steep mountain faces. 

Understanding the basics of alpine climbing and getting to know the equipment used will help you out a great deal. This will also help you to realize just how useful your tools (like an ice pick) can be. 

Become a pro mountain climbing ski mountaineer
Become a pro mountain climbing ski mountaineer
7. Practice during the spring

The spring months are when the snowpack is the safest. This is the perfect time to try out ski climbing for beginners. As you advance in mountaineering, you will need to make all kinds of decisions. These will be based on things like the snowpack and weather dynamics, and they can come with significant risk. 

Mountaineering during the spring months reduces these risks significantly, allowing you to get a better understanding of the climate and terrain. 

8. Find a partner

You can’t start ski mountaineering alone. This is an activity that requires company – for both safety and teaching. Beginner ski mountaineers should look for a partner, or group to join on these adventures. 

Never go out alone, and always tell people where you are going. This is a vitally important and necessary safety procedure. When starting out, make sure that you always head into the mountains with an experienced guide or instructor. 

Ski mountaineering is one of the most thrilling activities for adventure seekers. It is also one of the best ways to truly experience the sheer natural beauty of the snowy wilderness. If you are heading out on a ski trip soon, consider adding some mountaineering to your itinerary. 

Beginners will need to start with a guide and gradually learn over time. However, this is one of the most rewarding and exciting things that anyone can do on a mountain!

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