Learning Your Turns When Touring Gets Technical


Not all turns you earn when ski touring are in light powder or sugary corn. The pillows might look perfect but fresh snow can still get mighty technical...

The photo, above, was Monday morning's office. We had all of a 20 minute commute from STYLE ALTITUDE HQ at 9am to one of our favourite backcountry routes. North-facing it's reliable for cold snow even in March and, with plenty of trees, it's relatively safe even after a fresh dump of snow (although it wasn't as much as we'd hoped having missed out on the nuking on Sunday over much of the Alps).

We didn't have to ski tour and earn our turns, that morning, as we could have used the Serre Chevalier lifts, opposite us, to access side and/or slackcountry. But it is still holidays up the hill so putting on skins and climbing is preferable to the powder frenzy in resort. We met just six other ski tourers en route, one who was ahead of us laying the uphill track albeit with skis a tad narrower than Gav's SCOTT Pure Tour 100s.

With the sun coming out between the clouds highlighting the pillows of snow and four chamois balancing athletically on the rocks above us, it was a spectacular morning. We stopped at a scenic plateau at around 2200m to transition rather than going higher further up the steeper and more exposed sector, it being a 4/5 avalanche alert.

Then we headed down, our tracks snaking in the pristine snow as we glided down and down - and then one more turn and I nearly shot over the tips as the heavy warm snow grabbed my skis. For a moment I thought I'd left my skins on. We had Velcro-like snow for the last couple of hundred metres down to the van not helped by our line being compromised by a mass of snow shoers' tracks from the day before, set in the snow cement creating a trail of lumps and bumps.

So it was a case of straight-lining where possible so as not have to turn and powering the skis around when necessary as in avoiding trees, with a bit of a snow plough thrown in when in real need. I'm not sure if there is a right technique but this worked for me!

But, hey, to tour in the backcountry you need to be able to ski all sorts of conditions. It's not all fluffy light powder or sugary spring corn. Check out Gav's guide to the different types of snow and how to ski them, here