Kiddie Patrol on the Kleiner Gilfert

Saturday’s are for resting, so today, despite the super weather, we stayed in bed till late and munched on a big breakfast until nearly midday. My best touring buddy was sick, so I was looking for alternatives. I tried to get my oldest to go for a tour and a Schnitzel up to the Loashütte, but interest was low.

Enter the Kleiner Gilfert. I was able to convince Henry to try a quick yo-yo tour to this peak mostly because we could take the lifts up to the Pfaffenbühl and then just drop off the backside.

I neglected, in a masterstroke of omission, to mention that the climb back up and out is actually much longer than the little 400 meter tour to the Loashütte. Oh well – the weather was FABULOUS!
So my boy is 10 years old. Doesn’t do too badly with a little pow, and will certainly get much better than us very soon. He still bit it – haha! No harm done.

I put him out front. That way, he could set the pace. It was slow, but he kept moving and he wasn’t fooling about with gear, so we made the peak pretty quickly.

Got some nice shots too.

These we’ll keep till he’s big. They’ll be nice.

The peak has a multi-denominational cross on the top. Created by an artist and quite the thing. In reality, the Kleiner Gilfert is not a peak, it’s just a high point on a ridgeline. You won’t find it mother maps. Also – the Gilfert is a peak on the opposite side of the Pfaffenbühl, so even the name is kinda weird. It’s certainly been named by tourists. The tackle up there is selfie-worthy though, so I guess it’s fitting that it’s got a fake name.

We dropped the other side of the ridge in the shade and got at least a few blower turns. Dad tried keeping everyone to the right out of the sun, but neglected to remember that the route cliffs out over there. There is a way down, but it definitely NC-17 and Mom wouldn’t want me barreling our firstborn down that line.

We reversed course and made boot tracks back to the sun-baked slopes frequented by the freeriders crossing out from the resort. Yuck.

The road out was a fast slide, and Henry was happy except for the poling at the end. We made the lot at Hochfügen, and raised a few eyebrows with a kid in tow.

We called mom for a pickup. Everybody was happy and HUNGRY!

But this is my favorite photo of the day:

It’s nice being able to share days like this with my kids. Inreally hope that someday, they’ll like all this as much as I do and I hope they still have places to do it, long after we’re all gone.

Sunny powder day at the Proxenstand

Almost anyway ….. I started out with the plan to head to the Proxenstand because my guidebook told me the whole tour was under the magic 35 degrees and under 1900 meters. The avalanche service has been warning about depth hoar above 1900 on shady north-facing slopes, so my plan was to stay low. I had to search a bit. Close to the hut, but I didn’t want to go to one of my regular places for this kind of situation. I kinda wore them all out last year.

The Proxenstand is a locals tour above Schwatz. Never been there, although it’s just on the other side of the Kellerjoch. The pic above shows the road that runs waaay up to a restaurant up there in the woods on the north-facing side of the Inntal.

You start up through the woods, nothing too thick here, until you break through to the high pasture grounds like this:

Really remarkable, because the whole route is really gentle and just when you think it’s gotta go steep, a route opens up that gets you higher. The way I found was never exposed to any serious slide danger, so when the time came to bend off towards the left for the Proxenstand, a sub peak, I kept going towards this:

Back there, to the left, there is a low angle playground of shaded north powder! The cirque around it is high and steep, but the center of it is raised and forms a natural barrier to the slides that come down off the steep flanks. The way in is flat! You could come here for days in a 4 and as long as you kept the alpha in mind, you could avoid any heavy danger! This place is now on my list of go-to spots! I know some of you will understand my excitement.

It just wouldn’t stop though! I found a stable route out of THAT cirque and into the next drainage on the right (to the west). I gained the ridge, only to find that the ridge wasn’t a ridge, but rather a hanging valley.

I know my map could have told me that, but I hadn’t paid attention and hey – I was only going to the Proxenstand- right?

I followed through that basin, and recognized the Kellerjochhütte – which I’ve been to before, but only from the other side. It became my new goal.

There was a ridge leading up, so I figured I could stay on that and get all the way up. Good thing too:

If you look at the ridge, you can see the self-releases that went all down that north-facing side. These certainly went on the layer of depth hoar that the LWD is warning about. Any safe route would have to stay on that ridge, away from the drop on the other side too – cause by now, I was over 2000 meters. Cue that Kenny Loggins tune….

I gained that ridge, and the Austrians who were already there did a remarkable job of ignoring my existence. Even my physical presence was summarily ignored and two ladies tried to walk through me. I did my best to accommodate them, but the laws of space time made my vaporization quite impossible.

The view is great – you can look over the whole of the Inn valley on one side and the Finsinggrund on the other.

The ride down was perfect ankle deep pow. I had fallen light and has dried out quite a bit. Of course, I doesn’t dry out – what I was skiing on was surface hoar, which can be a drag once snow falls on it, but as a top layer, it’s rad.

I dropped down along my uptrack, staying clear of the north facing side of that ridge enjoying the views and the blue blue sky. The route was flat, so it was all easy cruising, and although I was by no means the first, I still found the goods. Always enough to share.

I dropped back into that first high valley and passed the Proxen alm – which is open in the summer, and looks nice. Those turns in there were the best, and had I had the time, I would have skinned back up to get some more.

The way out through the forest and bearing right took me back to a road and from there a sledding track. I was able to find a few patches of good turns, but there is surely a better way out. I’ll have to come back and find it.

By this late in the afternoon, the alm pastures were getting a little baked, but I muddled through and hit pavement just before the sun dropped behind the ridge.


So – a nice place! Good for when you’re looking to stay safe – but there is plenty of temptation, so if you go, make sure to stick to your plan. Well – mostly.

Winter is here! Grease up your GoPro!

Roundabout half a meter of fresh in two days! The Berge are looking the part: white all over the place! All we need now are a couple bus loads of Dutch tourists and some Russian culture-luddites and you’d think it was Christmas!

I’ve read my fakebook feed, and I’ve been out there sniffing the produce and despite the breathless instagramming and pictures of dudes getting shacked – I’m reminded of the timeless words of that master of prose: Flavor Flav -Don’t Believe the Hype!

While it’s a good start, the first half of that snow fell with considerable transport, so you got wind-loading combine with bare nuts all over. The temperatures were really low, minus 17 yesterday, which used to be kinda normal but now causes hyperventilating, so the snow is fluffy and weightless – all the way to China. And when I say China, I mean bare rock.

So you kinda got two choices: 1) run the rapids, watch the P-Tex fly and hope when you fall that your motor centers remain intact or 2) roll the amp all the way to eleven and hope that when it all comes down behind you you live long enough to tell anybody stupid enough to believe it that you were performing “stuff management.”

Another dump. Then you can blow up all your followers. Don’t forget to jack your retention to 16.

Today – I went out with my oldest (10) for a event run by MC2alpin in Kutai- “kids on tour.” A guided ski tour for kids from about 8 to 14 with the possibility to rent gear that they need to tour. For 29 euros! All day program. No parents allowed!

They ask that the kids bring their own alpine skis and boots, and then they get hooked up the a contour start-up touring adaptor, a kind of BCA trekker for kids made of plastic that is more about reality than radness. It works really well, and my son has been using his for two years now! They also have kids skins- relatively inexpensive skins with kid-rotator-cuff friendly glue. Both of these things are Werner Koch’s baby over at Contour – and he’s doing great! Products like these do more to build the sport than Dead Bull – but get less press. Too bad.

They took off for some some low angle, easy-peasy powder and parents who were so inclined were treated to a guided tour with newbie tips and a beacon refresher course. Nice!

I was cold. It was minus 7 out and I was dressed to make like somebody was chasing me, but the tenor of the day was Sunday stroll with the hounds. Nuts. I got a refresh on some info, so it was worthwhile. It’s amazing what you forget after a while, and maybe the searing pain in my fingertips will serve to imprint this info more permanently into my cerebellum- like that time I tested my BB gun on my leg.

Henry was warmly dressed (no dummy) and had a good time. I was able to get a series of linked turns through some trees down to the bottom and didn’t blow an edge doing it, Henry and his new buddies were making remarkable turns for a group of pre-teens through what was, for them, over the knee.

Everybody was happy. 

Tomorrow I gotta fly all the way to summer in California- but I’ll be back by next weekend, so look after the pow, and let me know where all that snow blew to so a can shralp it when I gets back – K?


Dreaming of a White Christmas 

Looks like a dream is all I’m gonna get.

Not just in Colorado…..

We’ve had almost no natural snow in the Zillertal, so the only touring is on the piste at the local ski resorts. While this is hugely popular, I’ve stopped doing it. The numbers have increased even compared to last year, and my opinion is that it’s getting a bit out of hand.

I know many won’t agree with me. That’s OK – but I am a resort skier with my kids too, and the current trend has become a distraction, and if I’m being honest, a bit of an annoyance. I don’t have a problem with practice per se, but the numbers are such that on a few days, there are more going uphill that down. BTW – before getting out your knives to cut me to pieces, keep in mind that I also am of the opinion that the profilation of high-speed quads (6,8…10s?) leads to a dangerously overcrowded piste as well. Nobody remembers standing in line for the lift anymore, and it sucked, but it also meant that at any given time, there were far fewer poeple actually on the slope. The trend towards uphilling exacerbates this. 

An obvious solution would be for dedicated uphill tracks, and a few places have them, but even there, it seems like an awful large percentage of people don’t stick to them, so the plan is kinda moot. In Bavaria, the law says that ski tourers can’t be restricted. There was a court case a few years back that settled this pretty definitively. While I’m generally in favor of free access, I think in this case, prudence and a willingness to co-exist should reign the day. In Tyrolia the law is different, and it’s fairly certain that if the resorts wanted to ban the practice outright, they probably could. If things continue as they have, they may well do so.

Back to ski-touring. I mean: not at a resort. I’ve seen some reports from over towards Stubai saying something might go there, but it is a no go in my neck of the woods. The forecast is calling for a rainy Christmas- so I’m loading up on booze for a remarkable New Year’s Eve party. Make lemonade, you know.

If you’re a tourist headed out for your Christmas ski vacation, the good news is that the pistes are in remarkably good shape. The snowmaking guys have done an excellent job and most every piste is open and well grippy – so you can have a bunch of fun zipping down the slopes and dodging the tourers – or being dodged, as the case may be.
If you’re about on New Years and you see some guys with a ginormous outdoor disco-dance floor complete with lights and disco ball, playing Schlager and wearing Björn Borg costumes – then say hello. That’ll be us.

Saturday – the best and the worst of it.

Last Saturday I was looking for something fun to do, but i was getting that feeling that despite the blue skies and good weather, this was not a day to get nutty. (See last week’s post) Anonymous John rolled up to the hut around 9 AM – he’s just gotten a new girlfriend, so o-dark-thirty starts are not in the picture for the moment, and I can’t say I was all that unhappy to sleep in myself.

We’d talked about where to go the night before but without too many good ideas and even less options because of the instability of the snowpack, we gave in to decision fatigue and decided to lap the Kleiner Gamsstein – which at a whopping 400 vertical meters barely qualifies as a tour. It does, however, have other advantages: 1) we know where it is! (ha!) 2) its really close 3) there’s parking 4) its in the sun, faces SE 6) its under 2000 meters 7) almost nothing on it goes over 25 degrees…..annnnnd 8) there’s a restaurant nearby that has a giant schnitzel for 10 Euros and beer!

See why I’m always going there?

Anyway – we set off from the parking spot with a couple other muppets and soon were skinning up the forest road with the part-timers behind us. We made the sun-line and soaked up what was looking to be a great great day.

On the way up – Anonymous John and I were talking about how this was going to be a big day for avalanche incidents. We’re not particularly smart or anything – its just that these days, the combination of weekend, sunshine, new snow and a dicey snowpack make fortune-telling the easiest job outside of government work. We both know that on days like these, lots of folks will be getting powder fever, and be doing things they wouldn’t if it was nasty weather. Sadly – we were right.

Anonymous John lost a screw in his splitboard binding. No loctite – no nuttin….! It seems to me that despite all the improvements to splitboard gear in the last few years – there is still a long way to go. A.J. didn’t have a replacement screw – so we “fixed” it with a voile strap. It worked on the way up – but he would have to board today without a toe-strap on his front foot, as the strap wouldn’t allow the binding to slide into downhill mode….glad Anonymous John is such a good snowboarder. He took it well. Relaxed, as always.

We made a secondary peak, which is actually nicer to ski from than the true peak – and I attempted to rip my skins without taking off my gear. While I was doing the funky chicken – Anonymous John was putting together the intricate metal puzzle that is a splitboard, while sleep-deprived from the throes of new passion the night before (I’m sure,) and trying to eat a sandwich. Mind you – I have the coordination of spastic pile of jello – but I was still finished eight minutes or so before A.J.

I think the sandwich and the drink are Pavlovian. I mean…..four hundred meters! People can live for up to four days without any water….but everybody is gulping gallons of the stuff every time they walk up a set of stairs.

The snow was nice! Creamy….a consistency we’ve taken to calling “hot pow”. Its not powder – but its not corn either. Its creamy, but not really heavy like mashed potatoes. As good as it is, it takes a little skill to ski it – and we’ve got a little. We saw some others take a few tumbles off the true peak – but my friend and I made it look good.

We got to the bottom and I pushed for a lap back to the restaurant. John agreed – but was not feeling fit. I knew a schnitzel would be just the thing. Since we only wanted the ridge anyway and we wanted it easy – we stuck to the forest road all the way up. . We’d barely cleared the last band of trees when we saw two helicopters cross over the saddle and run down towards Axum, followed shortly thereafter by two more going to the same place. I knew something big had happened.

Most anyone who is into the sport already knows that on that day, there were two groups of twenty tourers in total from the Czech Republic who got caught in a large avalanche on the Geier, not far from where we were, but on very different slopes. Despite being well equipped – all of them had avalanche packs and all the gear – five were killed. It could have been much much worse. You can read about it here (in German). Many other events also happened in other places. Here is the statistic from the Avalanche Service Tirol:


That’s Saturday over on the right.

So it appears our mojo was working when it sent us to haul whimpy-pow and eats. No complaints from me. Anonymous John and I sat inside and ordered this:

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Anonymous John gaped at it. I ate it.

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This is the guy

We went out and got another run in. Had some glopping, but some wax and scraping took care of that. We stuck to the skiers left and went down through the trees for the next go, after which point, Anonymous John hit the road to get back to Ms. Anonymous. I took a nap.

Here’s some pics:

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Out and About in a thin, shady snowpack

20151127_121123There’s no way to say it nicely – this winter kinda sucks. Its the worst I’ve seen since moving here about twenty years ago, and I’ve seen a few bad ones before – but nothing like this.

At the moment, the snowpack is extremely thin – many places have less than a meter of snow on the ground, and seeing bare spots at 2500 meters is not unusual. Worse than this though, is the combination of the thin snowpack and a weak depth-hoar layer. Although improving due to stable temperatures and additional snowfall, the snowpack has spent most of the last three weeks plus at a level three on the avalanche warning scale – and if I’m honest, I think it would have been a four if there had been enough snow to cause damage to buildings.

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A lot of people forget that that warning scale not only attempts to estimate the likelihood of avalanches – it also factorizes the potential damage those avalanches can cause. This commonly becomes difficult to evaluate for winter sports folks right around the break between level three and level four. The last few weeks, we’ve seen many days where the likelihood of a slide is close to a level three/four – but there was so little snow that the scale did not justify going to a higher danger level.


Of course – this only matters if you are a highway maintenance manager or a forestry agent. These people care about the size of avalanches – small ones are no big deal for them, but big ones can take out their crop of lumber, or potentially tear out a bridge or similar. If you are a skier – every avalanche is deadly – so the damage estimates don’t really matter so much.

Every year it seems we have at least a couple of days which straddle this difficult to judge line. Patrick Nairz over at the Avalanche Warning Service Tirol has taken to calling them “critical level threes” – which I think is a good idea. I also bet that if we see changes in the whole system in the next decades – you’re going to see changes right in this area.

So the end of the story is that I’ve been picking around the hills and sticking to safe slopes under twenty-five degrees and being really careful about the old twenty-four hour rule. As far as ski-touring blogs go, its pretty boring stuff.

Worse still – I think we’re in for more of this. We’re well into the season now – and even if we get a big dump or two of snow, we’re not likely to ever reach anything near a normal snowpack. That depth hoar layer is not going away, I think, until we begin to have consistent springtime temperatures and the snow goes isothermic – but of course when that happens, it’ll be melting, and there’s just not that much there to melt. I expect to have to tip-toe around the mountains all winter now – followed by a pretty short spring skiing season. Its not a year for big goals.

I’ve been getting some time in with the kiddos in the resort though…..this could be the coolest stoke EVA!

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And I bushwacked with Anonymous John.


hes very sensitive about this

Tobi was out to tag rocks on the Lampsenspitze…..04-02-2016 - 1

and I even went touring with my oldest for the first time up a forest road!

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There is some good fun to be had when the sun is out and you’ve got a spot with no worrisome inclines. I’ve had a good time despite everything hitting a few unspectacular lines I’ve watched from the road for years. I hope others will slowly take the hint too. Every time it snows there are people getting buried. The snowpack has a long memory – things that happened in November are still relevant….even if you can barely remember it.

Let’s see what we can make out of it!


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!

The world is a big place – get out and ski it!