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Climbing Skins – Types of Glue

Edit: Hey Everybody – this post seems to be getting around – and as a result I really need to credit all my images. So in the meantime: I took all the photos out. I encourage all of you to imagine pictures of skins and bottles of glue in wildly incongruous settings. 

Last post – we talked about the plush. For those of you who don’t have experience with these things, that’s the “fur” on the bottom of the skins that sticks to the snow as you climb. While there is a lot of discussion about the various types – they all more or less work. Assuming you’re out and about with SOME kind of plush – you’ll get where you want to go, be that the top of your run, or, back to the truck parked at the trail-head.

This is potentially NOT the case with glue. Its certainly unsexy, and it can be difficult to pin down clear differences between glue (or adhesion) types. They often look the same, and there is not much to “feel” when you evaluate them – they either stick, or they don’t. Add to all this the fact that different glues (we have to use this term loosely as some of the glues available today are not actually glues at all) age very differently, perform wildly differently depending on small differences in temperature and humidity – AND – sometimes, a really great glue is so sticky that trying to actually use them (ie: putting them on, storing them, taking them off) is such a pain in the ass that you’ll actually wish for a crappy glue next time.

Glue is important – and it’ll take longer for you to develop a clear preference for a certain kind than for plush types. You’re going to need to live with a glue for a while to really get to know it.

The good news is – as long as you stick with the basics, tried and true glue systems and types – you’re going to be hard pressed to really make a horrible decision. Glues today are pretty good all around.


Before we get into the nitty-gritty – we should talk a little bit about skin and glue maintenance. Its important because even a great glue can be rendered useless in short order if you don’t know how to treat it. In addition – many of the newer glue types (non-glues) are good precisely because they allow you to be a little free-er in your skin and glue maintenance routines. Talking about them without knowing what skin maintenance is about wouldn’t give you any understanding about how great they are…, here goes:

First and foremost, taking care of your skins and their glue is about keeping them clean and dry. Seeing as how the glue is often über-sticky and you are commonly engaged in futsing with them in an exposed, high-wind environment surrounded by nature (read: dirt) – this can be quite a task.

Don’t go stomping over cow-shit or applying your skins to dirty skis. Keeping a clean rag in your kit to wipe your bases down before applying your skins is a good idea. When you rip your skins (take them off) you’ll want to carefully fold them over onto themselves sticky side to sticky side, making sure as much of the sticky surface is protected by the other half as you can.

Note here that many skin users have “cheat sheets” – these are sheets of plastic that are applied to the sticky side of the skins to protect them. These are generally easier to remove later than sticky side to sticky side contact but I don’t use them. Opinions differ – but some people believe that the plastic removes some of the glue every time you use it – and that’s not a good thing. In my opinion – I’ve already got 5280 things to carry on a tour, and jacking around with plastic foil in hurricane force winds is trouble I don’t need. I stick ’em back to back and that’s it. Do what you like.

In any case – once you’ve done this – you’ll need to find a place to stash those skins. Many many a tour has been ruined by sticking skins in your pack! – Don’t do it! No matter how good your glue is, the colder it is, the less sticky it will be. Skins in your pack will freeze up, and will not stick worth a damn, and it can be tough to warm them out in the wild. The place for those skins is down the front of your jacket – possibly inside your second layer depending on the temperature. Be sure when you do this however that your skins are secure – I’ve seen skins slip out the bottom of a jacket more than once during a run. Note: this is why some ski-touring specific jackets have those gigantic mesh pockets on the inside of them. I like these a lot – but the truth is, most of them are not big enough for all but my race skins (small and skinny)…..

if you do this – you’ll be able to skin and win all day in even cold temperatures without too much trouble. As a side note: two or three voile straps should always be in every skier’s kit – if all else fails, these things can strap your skins to your boards with brute force to get you home. Once you do get home – get those skins out immediately – unstick them, and hang them up in a well-ventilated area to dry. On multi-day tours, this can be really important, as your skins will soak up some moisture during the day. If you don’t get it out at night – you’re likely to get trouble by day three or so.

Keep in mind  that while warm air dries better, your glue doesn’t like heat. It breaks the chemical bonds in the glue, and can make them less sticky, or in some cases, just kind of ickey…. so put them in the house, but not near a heater. Never dry them over the stove or something like that in a hut.

When you do put them away for a longer period of time, make sure they are entirely dry, and use the cheat sheets. Store them cold in the bag they came in a dry, clean spot.

Stick em types

Traditional glue

This is by far the most common type of stickum out there. Its basically a paste or gel glue that the manufacturer applies to the underside of the skis. These generally offer the highest level of stickiness – but they also are kind of a pain in the ass to deal with. They can break down quickly, get dirty fast, be so sticky that non-he-man-woman-haters can’t pull them apart without dislocating a shoulder, and in some cases – they’ve got downright toxic ingredients that might be bad for you or the environment. (although this is getting better)

Every manufacturer has their own formulations – and each has its fans. For beginners – reality dictates that your stickum choice is dictated by your skin purchase – but you CAN buy glue from some manufacturers separately to apply on older skins. This is not for the faint of heart – so get some miles under your belt before you try it.

Here are some of the glues I’ve worked with and have an opinion about:

Black Diamond Gold Label adhesive: For a lot of people, this is the gold standard. I find it super-sticky, and it has an iron-like hold even in the coldest of temperatures. It does not appear to be poorly affected by a little moisture. All that is the good. The downside: it is so sticky, I can hardly get them apart in anything above -25 degrees C. I can’t strip them from my skis without taking them off and pulling with both hands – and I don’t like that. Keep in mind that the formulation in the North American market is apparently different than the one in Europe (it smell different) and this NA version is stickier still than the Euro kind. It is also (rumored) to require a different Euro formulation because the NA version is considered toxic! (don’t know if this is true – but going by smell….)

G3 adhesive: Middle of the road sticky. Good for all but the coldest temps – but also susceptible to moisture and break-down. They pill up and get rubbery when exposed to water and heat. Since 2015- certified non-toxic by G3, both in use and manufacture. I quite like these. They work.

Pomoca adhesive: This stuff is geared towards the light a fast crowd. (as are the skins themselves) The tack is much below that of the other brands – but is enough for a one-and-done for sure. The lack of tack makes ripping them without taking your skis off (jedi-master trick essential for racing) a breeze, and the handling is really good. I’d have my doubts about super cold North American weather though or multi-day trips or laps. You can use these for this, no doubt – but you better take care of those skins. I view these as skins for pros.

Colltex adhesive: Colltex makes their own skins, but they also make a bunch of skins for K2, older Dynafit skins, and some other house brands. Their adhesive is more Euro-geared, being less tacky than G3 or Black Diamond – but more tacky than Pomoca. I’ve found them to be positive in their handling, but they react badly to dirt, water and contamination. More so than others. On the positive side – “refreshing” them with a hot iron (put a sheet of wax paper wax side towards the iron on the glue) does wonders for a tired pair of Colltex skins.


Really nice Contour Hybrids….

Contour adhesive: Contour has got a nice idea going – their stickum is a traditional glue, but its applied a little differently than other types. it has two layers. The one side is super-sticky, impossible to pull apart super-glue, and the other is less tacky stuff that makes the skins easier to deal with. Contour puts the super sticky stuff on the side of the skin, and the less tacky side towards the base of the ski. The result is supposed to be that you have easy to use skins that don’t pull off all their glue every time you use them. I find them really easy to use – by far the easiest to pull apart and fold up – but you have to be really careful when putting them on. Even the smallest amount of wetness will make them unstickable. You’ll need to dry them well at every application – so be sure to have a dry cloth with you. Yes – you CAN run a cloth over them – you can’t do this with other skins. An added benefit – if you do find a family of gerbils has nested in your skins overnight – you can wash the fur-balls off with soapy water. I like these skins for one and done trips, and for mid-winter riding. Due to their water-susceptibility – I don’t take them on spring or summer tours. Still – one of my favorites due to usability.

(EDIT: Werner Koch – (the guy that MAKES these things!) let me know that an earlier picture included here showed TRADITIONAL glue – so I swapped this one in instead. See the comments for his take and a link to a video showing more about this glue innovation. Thanks Werner!

Non-traditional adhesives

Kohla: Kohla has traditional and non traditional adhesive – I believe the Kohla traditional adhesive is manufactured by Colltex – and performs accordingly. More interesting is Kohla’s non-traditional adhesive, which uses a polymer of some type that is adherent to ski bases – all without glue! The bottom of the skin is covered in two separate areas of this stuff, with the edges being more adhesive to ensure they don’t peel up, and the middle being less so, in order to make ripping them a bit easier. It works! The benefit is that you can pull these apart with no trouble at all – they barely stick to each other! – which is also kind of a downside! But – you can through them in the dirt, BRUSH THEM OFF and stick them to your skis! Works! Downside – extreme sensitivity to moisture – any drops, and they won’t stick, and every pair I’ve seen seems to have broken down pretty badly after one year of use. I  don’t how durable they will turn out to be.

Gecko: Another type of polymer adhesive. The first to market, and unfortunately – a loser. They do all the things a Kohla skin does, but they also peel off their backing and generally do not last even one year. I only mention them because I still see these being dumped on Ebay for low prices to unsuspecting neophytes. Stay away from them. Caveat: The company still exists – and claims their new formulation takes care of all these old issues. Time will tell.

In conclusion

Since most of you will only have one set of skins, and the adhesive will be determined by the manufacturer – its likely that your choice will need to be a compromise between plush, adhesive, availability, weight (not to be ignored) and price.

Although alternative adhesives are making inroads and have a lot to offer – I still think they are best for pros, or for a second set of skins. In a few years time, that may well be a different story – but for now – taking care of your glue and a refresh every two years or so, should keep you stuck on and on your way.

Next up – cutting strategies!


Climbing skins – today: Types of plush

Looking forward to this
Looking forward to this

I’ll admit it – I’m casting about for blog ideas since I haven’t gotten out into the hills yet. I don’t like to write about gear and stuff to buy – I figure there are about one million other skiing blogs that do that already, but in this case – I’m not talking about a particular brand – just varieties.

First off – I guess it makes sense to take at least a cursory look at the various types of skins out there – since newbies don’t often know there are different kinds at all. Let’s order them up in terms of their popularity – or if your prefer – the most commonly sold first, followed by the less common.

Plush type: (or – what’s the “fur” made of?)

a popular brand of full synthetics - they make other kinds as well that look similar - so ask!
a popular brand of full synthetics – they make other kinds as well that look similar – so ask!

Full Synthetic

Most common these days are fully synthetic skins. They are 100% Nylon, and while there may be variations in the exact formulation, they all generally provide the highest level of grip going up. Besides being really grippy – they are also really robust, meaning that if you stomp all over a bunch of rocks climbing up, you won’t damage them too badly. They’ll last about 3-5 years of heavy use – maybe more. They are also, generally, among the most inexpensive skins – although this is a relative term when it comes to our sport.

The downside – and there is always a downside – is that these skins tend to be kinda heavy (yeah, it really makes a difference) and all that grip makes for poor glide. With every step – you’ve got to spend a little more energy to push the ski forward than you might with some other options – and if you ever spend time on a flat approach, you’ll not be able to kick and glide like a nordic skier might.

The only other thing to mention is that they do a pretty good job of keeping water from soaking the fur – which can be good in spring when you might have wet snow about. Having wet skins will cause dry, cold snow to freeze to your skins in a second if you get in the shade – making big clumps of snow form under your skis. Something we call “glomming” or, alternatively “a good reason to return to the bar”.

Last note: These tend to be the novice’s choice. If you haven’t got your skin technique down pat – the grippy nature of these things is forgiving. Some brands are even available as “high traction” versions – which is the equivalent of gluing 70s pile carpet to your skis. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Another popular mix skin. Also - they make other kinds, so be sure to ask when you buy.
Another popular mix skin. Also – they make other kinds, so be sure to ask when you buy.

Synthetic Mix

These are a skin that is a mix, maybe 70/30 or 60/40 of synthetic plush and natural mohair, which is the fur of a particular kind of goat. (No – they don’t kill the goats – they brush them. I think. Come to think of it – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a boldly quaffed goat at the beauty shop – so maybe they shuffle forth so we can too – dunno.) Anyway – the idea behind the mix is that the nylon of a full synthetic skin provides grippiness and durability – while the mohair reduces the weight a bit and improves the glide. Mohair slips along much more smoothly than synthetic plush. They are also significantly thinner than most full synthetics – meaning they fold up and stow into your jacket much more easily.

They are a bit more expensive – due to the pampering of those goats – and they are a bit less durable. You’ll get 3 to 4 years out of these babies at the most, if you use them a bunch. After that – the plush won’t grip and they’ll glom up very easily. They don’t grab as well as a full synthetic – but the glide is supposed to make up for that. They are a compromise skin – that attempts to unite the best of both worlds, and they do a good job of that. If you’ve been at it for a while and feel confident – you might like to try some of these.

one of the brands still offering a full mohair variety. Here as well - they've got 5280 kinds, so be sure to ask the salesperson which one is which
one of the brands still offering a full mohair variety. Here as well – they’ve got 5280 kinds, so be sure to ask the salesperson which one is which

Full Mohair

These are the most expensive of skins. They use full mohair and zero synthetic. (At least for the fur) Often – they are sold as “race skins” or “guide skins” – and for good reason. Other than their cost – they are the lightest of all the skin types – gram counters care about this, but they are also thinner, and more pliable than the other skin types, so folding them up inside your coat is easy and less bulky. If you put them in your pack, (NEVER DO THIS! TRUST ME!) they take up less room.

In addition to all that – skinning on these is like gliding on a cloud. They allow you to push forward with noticeably less effort than a comparable synthetic or mix. For experienced skinners – this is the general non-plus-ultra.

So the downside? Well – you better have your technique down – because these babies do not grip as well as the other sorts. You need to know just how to weight them up, and you kinda need to know just how far you can push it – because if you start to slide – you’re going to finish too. Also – for the same reason – if you like to march straight up the hill on some kind of masochistic mission to bring recto-linear geometries into nature – these may not be for you. Additionally – they do get wet more easily – so you’ll have to take care of that with wax or something – which is a whole other blog post. They last about 2 years of heavy use – but being goat hair – are a renewable resource.

So new its still a photo-rendering. These are unmistakable, at least. Certainly only for those of you who enjoy being on the bleeding edge of tech. The jury is still out on these.
So new its still a photo-rendering. These are unmistakable, at least. Certainly only for those of you who enjoy being on the bleeding edge of tech. The jury is still out on these.

Foil skins

These are super-new. No experience with them here, but they are a plastic sheet with a pattern on them that grips in one direction and slides (better) in the other. The upside: they are really light, glide really well, and cannot get wet at all. They are supposed to be really thin – which should mean they fold up really well, and they might last a long time too. Time will tell on these.

If you’ve used them – tell me about it.

Next post – I’ll talk about the next big thing to think about with skins….the glue! There are lots of different kinds out there – and it does make a difference!

Costs and benefits of DAV membership for foreigners

DAV LogoThe ski season is starting soon – I know you’ve been thinking about it. II didn’t go to South America, or New Zealand either – no sponsors and I’ve got a job and kids – so that’s how it goes. Over on Fakebook the whole world is getting neck-deep pow every day during one of the worst South American winters in memory – and the NZ season is SIIIIIICK, despite the fact that they NEVER get pow down there. (I have spies) I say this in order to reassure the 95% of us that somehow think we are missing out – because we aren’t. We’re about to start a great season of perfectly normal ski-touring, and you don’t need tons of money, a helicopter or an instagram account to do it. There ARE, however, really useful memberships and clubs that can not only improve your experience, but also take care of you if something does happen while you are “DROPPING” for your GoPro edit.

Dude! I'm gonna rip the SHIT outta this!
Dude! I’m gonna rip the SHIT outta this!

The DAV membership is one of these. Membership in the Deutsche Alpenverein (German Mountaineering Club – Loosely translated) is generally only held by people in Germany – but its such a good deal – and it does so much, that for some of you living in other countries, it is still a good idea – especially if you are planning a trip to Germany or the Alps. I also know that there is a sizable expat community over here who may not be aware of what the club offers. For these reasons – I thought I’d write a post for all of you….here goes:

First thing you should know is that the DAV, as its called, is more like a gym membership than it is like a Greenpeace membership – meaning: your membership dues pay for a number of services – you get something for your money – and its quite a bit!

Here is a list (not intended to be comprehensive):

Mountain Sports

  • A full catalog of training courses covering all aspects and levels of mountain sports
    • ex: Climbing, Skiing, Kayaking, Biking, etc etc etc
  • Attractive group trips and excursions with qualified leadership
    • all levels, from Kids programs to full-blown alpine expeditions
    • all over the world
  • Multiple sub-groups with special themes or interests
Glacier rescue course run by the DAV
Glacier rescue course run by the DAV


  • Maps, Guidebooks and informative materials, either for free, or at greatly reduced prices, in the club’s offices
  • The DAV’s own magazine, delivered six times a year to your home, Panorama. Really high quality mag with interesting articles and information – but still only in German!


  • Cheap rates at over 2000 huts located all over the world – many in remote alpine environments (not just in Germany)
  • exclusive access to self-service huts in the German and Austrian Alps
  • Reduced prices on hearty meals at serviced DAV huts – of which there are many
This is just one of the self-service huts you have access to
This is just one of the self-service huts you have access to


  • Worldwide insurance coverage while engaged in alpine sports through the Würzburger Versicherungs-AG
    • You need to read the fine print – but you are covered in case of accident – coverage includes
      • Rescue
      • Transport
      • Medical
      • Theft
      • Etc
  • Safety updates prepared by the DAV’s own lab
    • the last several years have proven these guys to be among the best in the business. They “discovered” several potentially life-threatening issues with sports equipment that have resulted in recalls and litigation
    • You additionally benefit through recommendations from this team which do not always enter the public sphere 


  • Free or reduced entry prices to DAV climbing centers throughout Germany
    • Including Thalkirchen, Munich – which is the world’s largest
  • Special programs for children and top-level athletes at the highest levels of the sport

This list is big, but it doesn’t really show the magnitude and the breadth of their offer.

Climbing Center Thalkirchen - the biggest!
Climbing Center Thalkirchen – the biggest!

Here’s how to become a member: 

The office in Globetrotter in Munich - its one of several just in Munich
The office in Globetrotter in Munich – its one of several just in Munich
 Maybe the most thourough way to become a member would be to pick yourself up and get down to your local club section. If you do happen to be living in Germany, here is the Section-Search for all the locations. They are just about everywhere and you can ask questions and get information on the club dues, which vary according to section – from about 45 to 90 Euros per person, with special deals for families and multi-year contracts, and anything else. The difference in prices comes from the fact that some sections have quite a lot to offer in terms of courses and facilities – while others are smaller. All sections still allow access to the huts and facilities in the mountains though.
Even though you could save money by joining a section somewhere outside of your residence or planned area of travel – if you want to take advantage of facilities or training in your immediate area – it would make sense to join the section you live near – or are planning to travel near.
Since most of you living outside of Germany can’t just trot down to the local section and join up – you can still download the application here and fill it out (google translate can help you). When you’re done – simply mail it to the section of your choice and you’ll be all set.
That said – membership also is a way to not only protect alpine environments – the DAV is active in this regard too, but also to ensure that these environments are accessible for everyone. If you like to put your money where your mouth is – supporting the DAV is a good way to do it – regardless of the breadth of their offering.
See you at the trailhead!

Snowsport safety has a problem, and needs to change


First post of the season and I drop a statement like that. Its all a bit serious and a little heavy for an appetizer. After all, the main course of touring and powder and all that is still several months away for the vast majority of tourers here in the northern hemisphere. (Congrats to everybody who made the Southern Winter happen – or have been getting after it high on the glaciers.) Why would I start out with a statement like that? I think its justified.

Aside from being an old curmudgeon who likes to point out everything that’s wrong without offering any solution, I think I’m ready to say that the current focus on the dangers of snowsport activity is not only a drag – its blatantly ineffective in changing behavior, and people are getting hurt and killed as a result.

just a sample from today
just a sample from today

The season hasn’t even started and my facebook feed is already filled with injury, death and destruction. Some from skiing, some from avalanches, and a smattering from other “extreme” sports like mountain biking and basejumping. On the big screen and on the DVD circuit – this year’s crop of ski movies are showing images of ever-more “commited” terrain for us all to drool over – while universally lamenting the loss of treasured friends and declaring the necessity to “remain vigilant”. Or something like that.

And then the cut to the guy dropping directly out of the heli onto an untracked slope of Alaskan powder angled at 5280 degrees with a bergschrund and the bottom of it so deep it goes all the way to fucking China. Not just China: fucking China.

This is not (just) another lament about the disingenuous nature of these kinds of promotion. There’s been a lot of that already – both from inside and outside of “our” sport (or sports) – as we like to call it. Its clear to me that these videos, and most of what passes for “skiing” on my social media feeds has about as much to do with skiing as your typical porno flick has to do with sex.

Yes – porn has the physical act of sex in it – but its neither real, nor in the least realistic. No matter your opinion of it – its a kind of performance – and even the so-called “amateur” flicks are presenting a fantasy. Most people – even if they don’t think about it consciously – know this and behave accordingly. While going to the door in a negligee to let the pizza-stud in is a perfectly acceptable action in a porno – if you do it in real life (too often) you get either a weird reputation or locked up. Or both. Some people do actually confuse porn with real-life sex – but these people are usually lonely, mentally unstable and generally unhappy creatures. We pity them or shun them. Their behavior is considered abnormal.

So why spend a whole paragraph talking about movies named “Logjamming” and their kind? Well….similar to sex-porn, ski-porn flicks and the ski-porn social media producers are showing a fantasy world that – if you attempted to recreate it in real-life – would be a recipe for disaster. We know this. Dropping onto 38 degree slopes loaded up with neck-deep untracked without doing a ski-cut or anything is a sure-fire way to end up dead sometime – like a lot of things in ski movies. Again – I’m not writing to complain about that – its a fantasy, and one that I enjoy. The people who pay the price for that fantasy – the stars of the industry who die or get injured making these images, or creating the personal brand you have to have to make them, know the risks, I think. They make that decision and it’s theirs – I respect that. I find, however, that the inevitable voice-over admonishments to “stay safe” and “listen to the mountains” coupled with shots and discussions about the avalanche or terrain dangers faced by the crew don’t serve the message they are supposed to convey. In fact – they have exactly the opposite effect.

taken right off of - this is clearly being shown as positve
taken right off of – this is clearly being shown as positve

I don’t doubt the sincerity of the participants. When they include segments like the ones mentioned, I think they want to scare people a bit – to show them how dangerous things can be. The intention is to promote sensible behavior and safe travel in a dangerous environment. In a larger sense, one can even say the goal is to provide a forum within our community to discuss and participate in a group meditation on the nature of what we do. Its noble – but if you take two steps back – its also weird, like if someone in one of those pornos suddenly started talking about STDs and the importance of trust and commitment in adult relationships.

The real problem lies in the unexpressed but clearly visible relationship between risk and fun. Watching these videos, one gets the distinct feeling that if you want to have big fun, you have to take big risk. The pros shown in the videos are clearly taking big risks – and in the last few years – they take a lot of effort to describe just how big those risks are. They show explicitly all the ways they evaluate those risks, and even take lots of opportunities to point out examples of people and situations where the risk was wrongly evaluated – often with tragic results. Sometimes – there is even some soul-searching and lamentation – usually followed by a renewed commitment to hazard mitigation and an affirmation that the injured or dead were “living life to the fullest.”

Before I get flamed for that – let me just point out that here again – we make a connection between big risks and big reward. These people were “really living” so while its sad they are gone – we can take solace in that.

We don’t have to do this. My experience has shown me that the biggest risks do not make for the most fun – in fact – they detriment from it. My best days skiing in the backcountry are not the ones where I was doing stuff that made me nervous – they are the ones where I was relaxed and comfortable, skiing great snow with good friends and achieving athletic feats of skiing prowess without injury – or if I’m honest – even a lot of effort.

first auto-result out of google
first auto-result out of google

The social media phenomenon has trained everyone that risk is a component of our sport – that’s good – but it has also unwittingly instilled a perception that risk is a necessary component of fun – so we attempt to manage risk to maximize fun. This is clearly not working. People are getting killed chasing that porno-like fantasy of high-risk fun – even seeking out risk, either consciously or unconsciously in order to have a “more real” experience.

This isn’t just about the Go-Pro crowd – who I bag on all the time while writing a skiing BLOG. It affects even our terminology and training. A typical avalanche danger report is an example. All over them – you find various descriptions of where the dangerous spots are: elevations, aspects, times and weather patterns. Just like everybody else – I read these and think: “Too bad I can’t go there – it’s too dangerous. Its going to be hard to stay off those primo slopes. Even worse if everyone else is going to be tracking them all up right in front of me. Now: how can I get as close to the edge of that stuff as I can without getting into trouble.”

It sounds reasonable – but its not working, and worse, its probably not making for better ski days either.

This guy. Image taken from
This guy. Image taken from

I read an interview with Bob Athey – the “Wizard of the Wasatch” whom I don’t know – that seems to make a lot of sense to me. He had a falling out with the Utah Avalanche Commission partly because he disagrees with the risk-focus of avalanche reports. His argument was also that the constant referencing of risk only makes people more likely to seek that risk out – especially when our popular culture rewards and praises such risk-taking (both in life and posthumously) and insinuates that with additional risk comes additional fun.

What if, instead of talking up the risk, our training and our materials focused first on “how to find the fun.” What if we talked not first about the weak layers, but told skiers how to get the best freshies for the least effort while having the biggest laughs? While leaving out all mention of risk would probably be a bad idea – people tend to react to positive messages better than to negative ones. What if we told them where to go – instead of where not to go?

Ski-Porn will always be ski-porn – but if the stars of those flicks really wanted to change the behavior of the public, they could use their social media channels to show how much fun a powder day on a gently-sloped gladed hill can be with their friends – or – since nobody wants to see that (it breaks the fantasy) they could remain in character and refrain from safety speeches. Maybe – some of them would come clean at the end of their career about how nerve-wracking it is to stand on top of those lines and know that you have to perform or die, or both – just to pay the rent. I think its likely however that many of the people in those films are – like a lot of porn stars – suffering from some kind of deficit or even a kind of addiction – and may not be able to feel what most of us would feel in those situations. No offense is intended – we all fight our own private battles.

best Go-Pro face EVA!
best Go-Pro face EVA!

So what does all this mean for me? For you?

For myself – I’m going to make a bigger effort to focus on the fun and let go of goals. I’ll stop planning to climb to a peak and instead plan to ski on some slopes. I’ll look for more sunshine and if I like a spot I’ll stop and ski it, instead of continuing further up or down and exposing myself to ever-more opportunities for danger. I’m going to get out my maps, look for and mark low-angle spots with low consequences and I’ll go there first – instead of “saving” them for days when I think the avalanche danger is high. I’ll slow down and if I get nervous – I’ll quit. Full stop. I’ll know where the closest restaurant is and the best way to get there at all times and I’ll think about what I could order there. I’ll smile more and if things get hard – I’ll be a little more critical of my choices.

All these things will make it easier for me to keep my skiing real, and make it easier for me to stop chasing a fantasy. I will probably stop before the peak more often, and I might miss some pow – but I’ll be safer and much more important than that:

I’ll be having more fun!

Hope you all will be having more fun – this year – and for lots of years to come!

Yo-Yo-ing up the Rosskopf

Up top

So – Sunday came around and while the weather on Saturday had been kinda bad, the night was cold and clear, and the forecast was for a bluebird day. I was hoping for a firm start, so I hauled myself out of bed at five AM and was at the base of the ski area a little before six.

Hochfügen had closed for the season on Friday….two days early. It certainly wasn’t due to a lack of snow. They announced their early closing via Facebook at about four PM on Thursday. Apparently – somebody died and everybody wanted to go to the funeral on Saturday, so, they just folded up the sidewalks and that was it.

I mean, don’t get me wrong – any time someone dies, its important. That person, whoever they were, was loved by someone, and its important to mark their passing, not so much for the person that is no longer, more so for the people left behind. Closing a destination ski area with short notice, a business that half the valley depends on to pay the bills and the host of hundreds of guests every weekend (at least) which have to make plans to get to….that’s a little bush league.

I said as much on their Facebook site. I have to admit – I’ve got a beef with these people, because they do things of this sort all the time. The details are pretty boring, but on more than one occasion, they’ve advertised a party, only to start it earlier than advertised and drink all the beer with their local friends for free – or outright rope off the party and conspicuously only allow locals inside the ropes. (Seilrennen – anyone?) I got stroppy with them, and was promptly thrown to the dogs wearing milk-bone underwear….I admit it, I may have shown my ass a little on that one – but ain’t nobody gonna have a moment of silence at the lifts for me when I shuffle forth….

In any case – the place was empty. That was rad.

Early morning stoke! No people!

It was cold until the sun came out – the car said minus 8 centigrade. I pulled up my hood and put the hammer down to get warm. The sun wasn’t up yet, so I had to work to stay heated, but I cleared into the alpine pretty soon and I got those first sun rays that are always the best.

Spring down below – here, still winter

Still saw nobody on the trail, and since my route was a non-standard, I figured I wouldn’t. I climbed up on the slopes of the ski resort, still pristine with a bit of fresh still on them from Friday night. Down in the valley, everything was green, but up here looked like prime corn harvesting time. I enjoyed the silence and the weirdness that is an empty ski area.

Saw a new memorial to the employee who died near the top, under the slope he was buried on. He was on the avalanche commission for the ski area and was digging a snow pit when he got caught. I did not know him, but he looked like a nice guy in the photo. I suppose – if you weren’t a nice guy – they’d still try to put a nice-guy-photo up for you….but nice-guyness is surprisingly hard to fake and this guy looked legit.

Doing what I do – these things always make you pause, as they should. What if that was me? Would they be able to find a nice-guy-photo of me? Am I doing the right things? Should I even be here? I always think about stuff like that – not doing so would be stupid. I always come back to the idea that life without risk is pretty boring – and life should not be boring. Risk should be the sauce though, and never the meal. I love what I do, and its the thing I love the most, but its not worth dying for – no way. I say this because people actually say things like that all the time – and they equate a skiing and mountain lifestyle with death-defying risk. I don’t. I’m just as happy cruising around on the flats as I am gripped at the top of the Murderhorn – there is no inherent benefit for me in huge risk-taking, and I do believe that the current obsession with just this kind of risk is mostly due to emotional imbalance or narcissism, or both.

there’s another too – that I had never noticed to the right

I kept it up and made the ridge, just before the sun cleared onto the backside – a good time too! I don’t really keep track most of the time. I tell time in the spring by the snow condition, but I guess I was up in an hour or so. A lot faster than the last time I took this route, which was at the start of the season.

front and back
feet are light, and I got the moves

Took those turns down the backside. Nobody ever goes there. I don’t know why, there is plenty of nice treeless alpine and you can run a long way if you want. Nice and firm, which suited my gear and I went well down, losing about 5 or 600 meters of altitude and moving into a zone that looked completely untouched all winter. Funny how that ridge separates two worlds so completely….one side, Euro-Ski-Madness and on the other, the stillness of the hills. I felt really fresh, so I skinned up and went back for some more, but this time moving southward instead of straight up where I had come from.

I was moving down the ridge, but there was no clear route directly to my goal of the Rosskopf, so I thought I’d yo-yo over and get a couple runs in on the way and make lemonade out of lemons. I got back up near the ridge, but it got steep up there and the sun was already shining on the top half of that face. It was probably still cold enough, but I move like a scared bunny in the hills, especially solo, so I ripped the skins and took a nice run down again, still pulling to the south.

got some a deese!

As always, a blast, and nothing even remotely near the magic 25 degrees. The hard snow ran fast and easy – so I slapped the fur on again for a trot up the Rosskopf, still further south.

I came up the backside. When I got near the peak, I curved around to the normal route up, which comes up from the ski area on the other side of the ridge. MAN! it was a bunch of people. I got kinda peeved, but then I thought – of course – on a day like this, this was the perfect place to be. I couldn’t fault them for making the same decision….and….best part was, I had changed it up, so these were the first I’d seen all day. I am a sly fox after all.

nice view up there….
but sharing is caring….

Took the run off the frontside this time….all the way back down to the parking lot. I didn’t bother with photos or video of that one – but what a blast! A nice long run, probably near 1000 meters, all in the sunshine, with perfect carvable corn all over it. Lots of terrain features and only a few tracks.

I feel better than I look.

All in all – one of the best days out this year. The weather, the snow, my gear, fitness….I love it when I a plan comes together!

I probably won’t be out this weekend, and my kids are jonesing for some time on the Italian lakes – so I may be out a week or two….but by the looks of it, if you seek, you shall find….for some time still!

Hope to meet you in the hills!

Touring around Hochfügen

Kruezjoch - looking out
Kruezjoch – looking out

My wife and I try to take at least one trip every season without the kids or other friends to go touring together. Skiing is what brought us together and we’re skiing all the time, but with the kids, either one or the other of us is always having to keep watch over our little pro-team, or we end up in groups of friends for tours around the world. Taking the time to go out together has become one of my skiing highlights every year – and I say this even though my wife is a splitboarder.

This year, we were all gunned up to go back to the Italian Alps someplace, but the snow’s not that good there, and booking a place to stay was a hassle. Sabine suggested just staying at our hut near Hochfügen, which has a lot of possibilities, a fair amount of snow, and is cheap to boot – so we collected Oma at the train station, said goodbye to the groms and headed down to our home sweet second home for a four day weekend.

Sabine through the woods at the Sonntagsköpl
Sabine through the woods at the Sonntagsköpl

Friday was a bit touch and go with the weather. There had been some fresh, and it was still snowing, with marginal visibility and kind of blah weather. Since it was a short day anyway (we left Munich after breakfast) we decided to just run up the Sonntagsköpfl – which is probably the closest thing I’ve got to a standard. I think I’ve been up there about ten times this season – but what it lacks in adventure, it makes up for with options, access, ease and comfort.

Dicey weather - but no crowds
Dicey weather – but no crowds

This is one of the most popular tours in all of Tyrol – so I was suprised to be putting in a track the whole way up. The snow was hot pow – only about 5 cm, but it was enough. We dodged snowfall and clouds the whole way up, but topping out the sun shined through and made for some nice turns off the left hand side of a spine that points to the northeast, meaning on that aspect I can usually find good pow. We did.

Nice snow and occasional sun too!
Nice snow and occasional sun too!

Cappucino and Aperol Spritz at the coffee bar in Hochfügen were well appreciated by Sabine as well.

Saturday was the best day of the trip – with bluebird skies and warm temps well into the teens. We hit a tour I’ve never been on, despite its proximity to the hut, the Kreutzjoch. There is a very small parking spot right behind the Gasthof Schellenberg on the road to Hochfügen – about halfway up – next to a dirt road/track going up and to the east. There is only space for about three cars if you squeeze, and there is no visible skiable terrain from the road. These two things together mean that very few non-locals frequent this tour.

this is looking up the trak from the road
this is looking up the trak from the road

I’d looked on the map and seen that above the treeline, the road empties out into a high cirque, and while the amount of skiable vertical didn’t look that great – the terrain features looked beautiful. I was excited to be getting in there with Sabine, and on such a nice day too.

We followed the road up, got impatient, bushwacked, climbed up a streambed and engaged in general mountain orienteering sillyness. Yes – we knew where we were, and yes, we got where we wanted – but no….the road wouldn’t have been a bad option. Yes – it winds and winds up and down, but I think it would have been faster in the end. Simpler for sure.

roads - good things
roads – good things

Those road-building-guys kinda know what they were doing. I think its notable that they usually try to keep a 15 degree angle whenever possible or less. This is pretty much a perfect skin-track as well. I’m gradually coming to the conclusion that if there is a road going where I want to go – always follow it. It will almost certainly be the more efficient option.

Bushwacking is not sooo bad
Bushwacking is not sooo bad

Topping out into the cirque – the scenery was fabulous. The walls to the east, and especially the west, are so steep, and the whole place has a pleasing aesthetic. Here again, we saw no one the whole way, and took our time until Sabine heard a giant wumpfing in the snowpack. She was standing on the flat base of the cirque bottom, so no direct slide danger, but the snowpack had spoken, so we ripped the skins right way and picked our way out through the mashed potatoes of the afternoon.

topping out into the cirque
topping out into the cirque

I’ll be back to this place next winter for sure. There are many small chutes on either side of the cirque which could be a lot of fun for the right crew.

there is some serious bro-fume applied in this photo of the Schellenberg Am
there is some serious bro-fume applied in this photo of the Schellenberg Am

Sunday the weather was coming in, and since we started late – we took the lifts up into the ski resort and dropped off the backside of the Pfaffenbichl intending to then skin up all the way to the Rosskopf, which overlooks the entire massif.

Hochfügen backside. Skins are a must you ABS-people
Hochfügen backside. Skins are a must you ABS-people

The drop into the next drainage over from the ski resort in the sun was a dream. Amazing how a resort so known as a “Freeride Mecca” has NO TRACKS anywhere on the backside. Despite the marketing hype – most of the guys on Dukes and Beasts don’t actually have or use skins….a fact I’ve learned to count on and exploit.

weird inclusive christian religious symbol. A wurst hut would've been more universal still.
weird inclusive christian religious symbol. A wurst hut would’ve been more universal still.

On the way up, we were moving fast. Sabine’s Phantom Bindings and hard boots have really made her quick compared to most splitboarders, but it wasn’t enough to beat the weather that was moving in from the southwest. We bailed on our plan, took a shorter route to the ridge and the sub-peak of the Kleiner Gilfert, and then dropped off the ooposite side of the ridge back to the sledding track that leads all the way down to the base area of the ski hill.

Cappucino followed.

The next day was really crappy weather. Rain, and lots of it – so we had a long breakfast and went home early to the kiddos. As much as I like the time alone with my wife – life is kinda slow when they’re not around.

Me - going OMG at all the lines I'm goggling
Me – going OMG at all the lines I’m goggling

There is still so much to see and do right the hut. I’m looking forward to another month or more of touring up high – and I hope to meet some of you out now that the casual tourists have gone!

Have fun – and see you around!

Return to the Faneshütte – Skiing the Dolemites

Lots of days like this!
Lots of days like this!

So – Sorry about the long pause in blogging. I know you both were dying for the next update – and to be honest, I got really busy with work in December and I’m just crawling out from under it. I have been out skiing quite a bit though, just not blogging.

Couple weeks back, I went back to the Faneshütte, a place I loved last year, with a buddy and a new friend of his. I was hoping to enjoy not only the great skiing the area has to offer, but the great food and luxury of the Faneshütte again as well.

Da Spot!
Da Spot!

I can always recommend this place. It’s well-run, super-clean and cozy, with amenities not usually found at “huts”. The food is some of the best you are likely to have in ANY restaurant, let alone at a high mountain hut. Honestly – its worth a trip just for the food and the sun deck. (which quite a few Italians do…Sundays)

This year, the snow was sparse. It was a hit to the thalamus to see the really low snow, and more importantly, all the BIG rocks sticking out all over some of the runs I took last year with my wife that were pure silk from top to bottom. Skiing is what you make it though, and my buddy Tobi, and our new pal Sepp made the best of it and enjoyed the bluebird weather on the first day out.

Toby - finding the snowy bits
Toby – finding the snowy bits

Bad news was – Toby was already getting hit by a nasty cold at the end of day one. He bailed mid-afternoon, and wouldn’t be seen again on skis. A real shame….but there’s no point in pushing if its no fun – and it was really cool of him to just wait out three whole days in a hotel while Sepp and I made some runs.

We had some mornings with thick fog – but for the most part, sunny skies. The snowpack was a downer though – thin, with many lines unskiable and most only slightly better than that. Top it off – things were very unstable, with three fairly hard-core rain crusts in the pack – each one with an accompanying layer of depth hoar building up near them. Sepp and I played it safe, and moved around like scared bunnies, only once going above 25 degrees, and not making a single summit in four days.

You can ski on fifteen degrees
You can ski on fifteen degrees

We went up the Zehnerspitze – kind of the big hit in the area, but all the way up we were skittish. I dug a pit on a representative slope, and what I saw didn’t give me warm fuzzies, but it didn’t set off alarms either. I agreed to tentatively move up the hill using proper safety protocols and keep our eyes peeled.

A big-gaint group of ten to twelve came down the front face we were going up. A real dick-move as they were right over us in the path. Everybody’s smiling though – and Sepp and I weren’t looking for trouble, so we waved and thanked our luck for so many volunteer stability testers and were just glad that it hadn’t gone.

On the way up we crossed their tracks, and we could see that at every single turn the members of their group had caused a fair amount of shear in the snowpack – and there were shooting cracks at every curve.

RED FLAG! Shooting cracks are a no-go and they make my mouth go dry when I see ’em….so I rounded up the posse and Seppi and I took careful, separate buttery turns that I totally didn’t enjoy back to a safe spot. Oh well.

Beer. Waaay better than sports drinks.
Beer. Waaay better than sports drinks.

There was food, red wine and espresso back at the hut – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

We had a lot of that – and despite the poor snow, and Tobi’s sickness – we’ll be back next year for sure to enjoy this great place!

Maybe we’ll see you there? Wanna break trail?

Looking for Snow in the Sellrein


The word is…winter is coming.

No – this isn’t one of those Game of Thrones memes…..its just that from the looks of the weather report, we should be getting some snow soon. Which is good – cause I went out yesterday and got completely shut down in the Sellreintal.

For those who don’t know – the Sellrein is a geat place for touring. Just one valley over from the Stubai Valley, which is maxed out with infrastructure, this little place is one of my go-tos for unspoiled human-powered skiing and boarding. There is very little lodging, but whats there is quite good, and the spot holds onto snow very well. It’s a great choice for first-timers to Europe – but you’d better have your skills down. Some of the tours are quite long, and in some cases, you’ll be crossing glaciated terrain for the big stuff.

I thought I’d find snow back there – but I hadn’t really decided on the valley until I noticed a break in the dismal-looking weather back there. So I pointed my car to the bright spots in the sky and parked all the way at the back by the Gasthaus Lüsens.

There's the sun!
There’s the sun!

I took the route up towards the Schöntalspitze, because I thought that would have some snow in it, and its not steep enough to slide (at least at the top) so I thought it would be a good choice for me, on my own.

The start was snow-free. I mean completely.

The snow-covered Alps. Whatever.
The snow-covered Alps. Whatever.

I thought it would get better over the crest of the bottom part of the hill – but as I ascended, it looked worse and worse, so I followed the summer path around instead of going up through the woods as you normally would, into the next side-valley, by the Westfalenhaus. Back by that hut, you can usually count on some snow.

this is the opposite side of the valley. Should have been a clue.
this is the opposite side of the valley. Should have been a clue.

As I crested the round – I saw a lot of nothing. All the snow there was was deep in the back of the valley and was either glaciated, or steep – so it was clear I was not getting and turns.

Keep in mind that I was well above 2000 meters and this is December!


I trecked most of the way to the hut – but turned back because it was getting kinda dark. I really ought to get some friends together for a weekend to that hut. Its got a winter room, and there are four really nice tours that you can do from there. Its far enough away that its not super-busy, but not so far away that getting there is a battle.

Can you spot the fat Gams?
Can you spot the fat Gams?

On the plus side of a low-snow start to winter, I saw a bunch of chamois back there. They do well here, away from the disco-snow-bars, but these looked particularly plump and happy. I suppose the mild weather is letting them eat themselves silly. If the hunters don’t get them, they’ll die of a heart-attack or something.

Tomorrow's another day!
Tomorrow’s another day!

I got back to the car as night fell (early right now!) and was glad to get my boots off after a couple thousand meters up and down in them.

So – Here’s hoping for some snow soon! We need it.

Ski Touring in a weak November – Pfaffenbichl

This is what November looks like now
This is what November looks like now

Saturday I got myself motivated to get up the local hill near my hut, despite the temperatures in the middle teens (C). So – while my wife and kids and our visitors lounged about in the sunshine after breakfast, I gathered up my stuff and got my wife to give me a lift to the Pfaffenbichl.

Its a good choice for a ski tour in the early season because its in a ski resort, starts at a high elevation, and long before the ski season has actually begun, they are usually doing some kind of snow creation or rationing at the place, so you can often ski there even when its green to the left and right of the slopes.


Saturday was particularly daunting. The snow of three weeks prior had not had any significant refreshes and there was grass well down the mountain. A couple of guys who were finishing up told me that there was snow up higher – but it was for masochists only.

I figure that all ski-tourers are masochists.

I shouldered my sticks, and started up the green and succulent-looking pasture. After about 150 meters of vertical gain, in a shady spot, I was able to get on snow and start skinning – but there were patches with very little or no snow for another 150 meters of vertical, at least.

green green green
green green green

There was no shortage of optimists, however….I saw about 10 people or so on the way up. Again – continuing the trend of two weeks ago – all go-go racer-types in super-light gear and tight pants. While I have a lot of respect for them, these guys must be the real masochists – they take the best part of the sport (in my humble opinion) and reduce it to inelegant, poorly controlled survival skiing, in order to optimize the running-uphill-until-you-vomit part.

I remained – as is my style – vomit-free.

Stuck in a rut
Stuck in a rut

The snow up top was tracked and rutted. I stuck to the shiny bits to optimize my uphill sliding and soon made the ski depot. I started up the last climb to the peak and enjoyed the rock formations on the way up.

Lots of shapes like this around here
Lots of shapes like this around here

Up top – I drank the beer I had stashed in my pack. It was a .33 liter little beer….my wife bought these, and since she is one of my two readers I want to make use of the opportunity to say that .33 beer is acceptable only in foreign countries – like, you know, America, or Hessen or something like that. In Bavaria and the Alps, all beers are .5 Liter. After nearly 1000 meters of elevation gain, sitting on the top of the Pfaffenbichl – you want more than three sips of beer.

Me - yes - thats my face.
Me – yes – thats my face.

I started the route down after enjoying the last rays of the sun, and scoping out a few ideas for the coming weeks, when I hope the snow will be more plentiful. Several people had been down before, so there was a little track that I followed through the deeper snow on each side.

is a path always good?
is a path always good?

This wasn’t such a good idea. I slipped at one point, and began sliding. I was lucky enough that I had time to roll on my stomach and I was able to stick my arms into the deeper snow on the sides of the path. This stopped me – but if it had been at all steeper – things might have been very different. Ditto if there had been a drop off below me – which in some places, there are.

The moral for me: either take crampons – which is kind of a pain, or stick to deeper snow. The obvious paths are not always the best ones. I was able to continue down without further incident by getting off my little path when it got steeper.

The ride down was uneventful – as these kinds of marginal snow rides tend to be. I gave the off-piste a try, but there was a crust on it that was nasty – unsupportable – and the only way to ski that stuff is to go really fast….but the snowpack was not deep enough to give me confidence to do that. It was certainly only a few centimeters thick in places.

walking into night
walking into night

I had to walk down the last 200 vertical meters or so….and since my wife was buying grub at the supermarket in the valley – I continued walking down the road to the hut. It was a nice walk – with the day slowly fading into night and the sounds of the forest all around. Soon – the green woods I walked though will be still, and white with snow. I am looking forward to it – but I wouldn’t want to miss this time. Everyone’s getting ready for winter – here’s hoping you are too.

Early Season Ups – or How to Ski on Cow Poop.

Early season - spotty snow, immaculate stoke
Early season – spotty snow, immaculate stoke


…..this is how my buddies are pinging me on Fakebook on Wednesday of last week. Complete with maps and official-looking graphs and shit. While I appreciate the sentiment – to be totally honest – I wasn’t really ready for a five meter dump-fest, and I know my quads aren’t either. Its a long winter, and I really do kind of like the idea of easing into it. Don’t get me wrong – I hoped for nice coverage, but it seems to me that every season there is an announcement of this sort – and they rarely pan out.

I think the meteorologists do it for click-bait. You’d think that as someone who reports on observable phenomenon, they would be immune to this sort of thing – but I have my doubts. Damn you Zuckerberg and your Silicon Valley minions….even the news wants eyeballs these days.

I had a couple of requests to go out to the Stubaier Glacier – but the prospect of starting the season out with a bunch of GoPro-wearing fluorescent adolescents wasn’t high on my list – neither was the moolah for a lift ticket in what I assumed would be less than ideal conditions. SportScheck, one of the biggest sports retailers in Munich was also holding a test-day up there, and while that is always interesting – it does draw a crowd. So I decided on a hike up my local hill, Hochfügen.

The Webcam didn’t look too bad. My wife went up in the morning, and I hung around the hut and messed about with the kids. The cloudy skies and general unfriendliness of the weather made it easy to give up first tracks, and when she returned, she confirmed my suspicions. The greenness outside of my door was not, in fact, five meters of snow. There was some of it – but this was also inter-spaced with a bit of that ubiquitous flora which Americans call “lawn”.

I decided to give it a go. This is what I ended up looking at when I got to my usual parking spot by the idiot-lift over by the creepy giant dog with an open mouth that my kids inexplicably love to ski INTO.

The dog is lurking behind the sign. Ready to eat small children.

 I figure – I’ve skied worse – and since I’ve learned that what you see at the bottom rarely tells you much about the top, I started out. Slow and steady. First tour of the season and there was no reason rush it.

This did not, however, seem to be the opinion of many others I saw. It would appear to me that the split currently occurring in ski-touring is really getting into swing this year. I saw more skin-tight Euro-fartbags than I have ever seen before. Fully four pairs of custom made carbon boots, complete with under-one-kilo skis and binding seemingly made of bailing wire and solid air. Man – these guys, and gals, were ready to go! They were jamming up that mudbath like they were on the hills of Gallipoli under heavy fire. My middle-of-the-road workaday skis were met with more than one “you won’t need those fatties today!”. The other half was the fat Fat FAT SUPERFAT crew with skittles-colored clothing, helmets, full-body goggles, gear made of strengthened steel and bindings that went to eleven.

This is a trend. Nobody wants to just tour. They want identity. Its hard to identify with “I go touring – in different places. Sometimes kind of fast and stuff. You know….whatever.” People like the gear and the sheen that goes with ski racing, and the stuff is super-best of something – they equally like the hard-core, freeriding thing with the aggro gear and the equally eye-catching super-fat skis. I get it. The truth is that the majority of people would probably be happier on more moderate gear, if it was all about how they skied. But – of course – one does spend a lot of time looking down at your skis when touring, so I suppose the warm feelings washing over them due to carbon infused awesomeness is worth something. I just worry that the middle of the road will slowly become an uninteresting market for the manufacturers and it’ll get harder to find that kind of gear as time goes by….we’ll see.

after the first 100 meters or so – it got worse:

You can, indeed ski on cow shit. Get back on those tails - and DO NOT HOP. Splashes are possible.
You can, indeed ski on cow shit. Get back on those tails – and DO NOT HOP. Splashes are possible.

I kept after it though, and after the patch above, things steadily got better. The fog rolled in and it was a bit soupy – but the snow was ok and the go-fast crew left me behind to ponder the mysteries of the universe, or at least the mysteries of modern, consumer-based economies, on my own.

Very few thin spots on the piste
Very few thin spots on the piste
Off piste is still a no-go down low
Off piste is still a no-go down low

Things went well. My fitness over the summer has not been too bad – and I got up with none of the wheezing and hacking you sometimes get. I didn’t even think about calling a paramedic! I also did not use my climbing aids at all. I think I’ve decided that I don’t need those things. I mean, the only time I want them is when I am climbing straight up some steep line, and I really hate doing that. Whenever I can set my own skintrack, I make a point to keep it very low angle – and I was again proven the smarter this time out when I passed the race-ready crew three-quarters of the way up in my beef boots and baggy pants. They did not seem impressed – but in all honesty, its not about fitness – they are all waaaay fitter than me, but the 35 degree skintrack is a bad idea, and on anything longer than about 300 meters – it won’t get you to the top faster or more ready to ski. If I could be sure of not having to follow some poorly set skintracks this season, I’d get a set of low-techs and leave it at that….but since I WILL have to follow Biff and the Bonzo crew up a few ramps to Rad-ville, I’ll probably keep my risers on.

Lifts that are closed look kind of sad
Lifts that are closed look kind of sad

Near the top – success! I started to poke out of the clouds, and I have to say – the snow was pretty good!


Getting to the top – I was treated to a great sunset with the peaks of the surrounding mountains poking out all over the place.

Hadn't seen the sun for a few days, so this was extra nice
Hadn’t seen the sun for a few days, so this was extra nice

I enjoyed the show and then slid back down all the way to that scary dog. Up top – the snow was really good, and I even ventured off the obviously packed piste into some untracked left and right. This proved to have a little sun-crust on it, which wouldn’t have been that bad, but as I was out for the first time this year, and I also couldn’t really be sure of the snowpack thickness, I decided to give that a pass. Down lower I took a different route down than most of the others had and enjoyed some un-tracked mashed potatoes before moving on to bovine excrement and fescue.

All in all, it was a good trip out. I felt good, I got only one minor little blister while firming up my feet for the longer days ahead, and even the thin snow is a blessing. Five meters of snow might sound great, but at this time of the year, a big dump like that would likely be followed by a long dry spell. (In fact – there has been no new snow in the Alps since) This spells trouble for ski-tourers because as that 5 meters of snow sits there, it transforms to ever-larger crystals, especially near the earth. The next snowfall then comes after a month or more, and its sitting on a layer of weak snow that could act as a lubricating layer for an avalanche. In really bad years – these early season avalanches claim lives and the weak layer can persist for the entire season.

Its far better for the winter to ease into things with small, consistent snowfall over the space of several weeks than for it to all hit us at once. Its better for us too. More time to ease into that feeling….

Hope everyone had a great start – and hope to meet you on the hill!