What is Ski Touring?
Ski touring is skiing off-piste away from marked or patrolled areas, also known as the backcountry. Typically touring is done off–piste and outside of the ski resort boundary. Allowing access to areas that are not possible by lifts. It maybe for a period of more than one day, where you would stay overnight in mountain huts.
The equipment used is different from alpine skiing. You attach “skins” or as the French call it ‘peau de phoque’ which translates as seal skin. Today a combination of goat hair and nylon material is only ever used. This allows you too slide the ski forward but it will not slide back . Your heel is released in the binding, when in walk mode. This allows you to slide your foot forward and walk up a slope, without sliding backwards. When you reach the summit, you then remove the skins and set the bindings to ski mode. This allows you to enjoy the downhill descent. The moment you are off-piste, in the backcountry, it’s obligatory to wear and carry mountain safety equipment.
Why go Ski Touring?
Ski touring is an amazing way to explore the mountains. Away from the hustle and bustle of the normal pistes allowing you to access areas that are not possible with ski lifts. It is such a different, unique off-piste experience and gets you great snow. It’s incredibly peaceful – it’s just you and your group in the mountains with endless stunning scenery. It offers a challenge and a huge sense of adventure and achievement. Taking you to places which you know many of you friends, colleagues and family would never think possible. Exploring the mountains in the most natural way possible.
Benefits of Ski Touring?
Ski touring is a brilliant form of fitness, offering a great cardiovascular workout with limited impact. You don’t always have to go far off the beaten track to be able to enjoy this unique form of exercise. You can just use the sides of the pistes and go for a hike up the slopes, to get the lungs working! Here in Nendaz every Wednesday evening you can walk up the piste of Grand Jean-Pierre to the top of Tracouet, where the restaurant remains open for drinks and a meal.
If you go out for the day or if you’re lucky enough to make it an overnight trip and stay in the mountain huts at altitude, it’s a great way to escape, and enjoy the simple life again with no phone signal, limited power supply and running water!
What to wear for a Ski Tour?
Skis & bindings:
You cannot use your normal skis to go touring with. Instead you need a special ski touring setup, which allows for the heel to release from the binding. There are two types of touring binding, a frame alpine touring (AT) binding or a tech ‘pin’ binding. For your first time, we’d recommend using the frame AT binding where you can just use your normal ski boots. The pin setup on the other hand requires a special touring boot that will fit this binding.
Ski touring boots (as well as the pin binding itself) are much lighter and therefore easier to walk up hill – the boots themselves have a special walk mode which allows more movement in them which again makes it much easier.
It’s best to dress with layers, rather than heavy jackets and ski pants. When you’re walking up the hill, this then allows you to remove layers easily to remain at a pleasant body temperature. Down jackets are really useful to have in your rucksack and will keep you instantly warm.
Rucksack & Mountain safety gear:
This is essential to keep extra dry layers, water, snacks etc. If you’re planning to go on a full ski tour then the rucksack will also store your essential mountain safety equipment. This will include a metal shovel, avalanche probe and ski helmet. An avalanche transceiver (beacon) will need to be attached around your chest before setting off in the off-piste with a guide.
How to give Ski Touring a go?
With these types of activities, you see and hear about them and then wonder how you can actually give it a go. Below are our recommended steps to try it out here in Nendaz…
Check out our partner shop just opposite the main lift here in Nendaz, Gaby Sports. We’d be able to come and help you to choose the most appropriate and best gear for you.
Intro to ski touring technique:
To figure out how it all works and before you set off into the wilderness, take an intro lesson with us here at Montagne Magique. This will consist of getting comfortable with the new equipment and learning how to use it efficiently. The sessions will take place on the pistes.
Ski tour fitness:
Whether you’re looking for a hiking buddy or focussed fitness training for future ski tours during the winter. We offer fitness prep sessions. We’re keen ourselves on maintaining our own fitness during the winter. Every Wednesday we hike up to Tracouet, evening during the winter – just get in touch!
Off-piste freeride clinics:
If you are a competent skier, we’d recommend to go out with our Swiss Snow Pro instructor, Sander Kan. He is the top backcountry specialist ski guide in the 4 Valleys. He will help you learn and improve you’re off-piste technique, to ride faster, steeper and explore even more terrain.
Nendaz Ski Tour Tracks:
An exciting new offering this season in Nendaz are the new ski touring tracks through different forests throughout the Printse ski area – Sander can guide you along these as well.
As with all our courses, safety is our main priority! Helmet and mountain safety equipment required.
Backcountry Day or Overnight Tours:
If you’re looking for more backcountry day trips and overnight tours e.g. the famous ‘Haute-Route’ (Chamonix-Zermatt). We work closely with a local mountain guide, who’ll make sure you’re in the safest possible environment. And of course show you the best conditions and experience a wide variety of mountain terrain including glacier backcountry skiing.