It’s so close I can actually smell it….
No, not Christmas you festive tool……WINTER!
Having spent the best part of the past couple of months writing about skiing in my new role as Gear Editor for Fall Line Skiing Magazine, I’m super excited to be heading to the Alps this week to finally get my 2018/19 ski season underway.
As I count down the days (not ‘sleeps’, because I’m not 5 years old or a total tube) till float-off, I’ve been trying to think of ways to keep myself occupied and the best I can come up with is to continue writing about skiing.
I often get asked the same questions when quizzed about touring – what’s so good about it? Can you really go ski touring in Scotland? And why are you always wearing that horrendously bright yellow jacket in all your ski pictures?
So whilst we wait for the epic winter of 2018/19 to get underway – here’s some answers to help stoke the winter stoke-ski.
“SKI TOURING – SERIOUSLY, WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?”
Um…I beg your pardon?
Ok, let me try and explain. Ski touring is such a fantastic sport because it teaches you things.
It teaches you to appreciate the natural world and the amazing landscapes you’re travelling through.
It teaches you acceptance because not every day is a bluebird powder day and you have to deal with what you’re given.
It teaches you teamwork and the importance of looking after other people and at the same time it teaches you self-responsibility, the need to manage your own sh*t and not to rely on others.
It teaches you humility because there’s nothing like a day in the high mountains to make you realise that it doesn’t matter how many Instagram followers you have, you’re basically totally irrelevant.
It teaches you to try no matter how hopeless things may appear from the outset because you’ll never know unless you go.
And more than anything, it teaches you to always be curious, positive, passionate, and probably a little bit crazy.
Basically it’s a metaphor for life wrapped up in the ultimate combination of freedom and adventure.
“SKIING IN SCOTLAND – SERIOUSLY, WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?”
Um …. I beg your pardon?
Ok, I get it. It’s not Verbs or Cham darling but it’s actually pretty damn cool, IF….and this is very important……IF what it offers matches what you are looking for.
So. If you’re looking for predictable white fluffy hero angel dust all-season long then obviously you’re going to be better off heading to Japan BUT….if you’re looking to have an authentic adventure and a genuine wilderness experience, then it doesn’t get much better than a wild, windy day ski touring in Scotland.
There’s so much terrain to go at, it’s so varied and accessible, and compared to more popular places like the Alps, there’s relatively few people out there on the hill.
As Martin Burrows Smith, IFMGA mountain guide and one of Scotland’s original steep skiing pioneers says “one of the main reasons I go ski touring is for solitude and peace and you can get that in abundance in Scotland” (‘Scottish Off Piste’ - a short film by Off Piste Performance/FilmUpHigh).
“THAT BRIGHT YELLOW JACKET – SERIOUSLY, WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?”
Um…I beg your pardon?
Ok so I know you think that I go touring in a hi-viz vest but that bright yellow beacon of brilliance is actually a hybrid mid-layer called Beryl. Ok that last bit’s not totally true, it’s actually called the Elevation Polartec Alpha jacket and it’s made by Dynafit – the human-powered mountain specialists.
But Beryl’s more fun right? Ok, let’s call it Beryl.
Beryl’s bloody brilliant because she enables you to go from the bottom of the hill to the top without having to stop to put on layers or take them off.
Beryl and her hybrid mid layer sisters tend to have targeted insulation so they keep you warm where you need to be kept warm but breathe in areas where you tend to work up a sweat like under the arms, on your back etc. These clever lassies also come with a degree of built-in weather protection so they can withstand light precipitation meaning you won’t need to stop and dig out your shell when it starts to rain or snow a bit.
Basically Beryl and other hybrid mid-layers reduce stop-start (tiring), they minimize faffing (annoying) and they facilitate fluidity (likey likey) – all of which make for a more efficient backcountry ski experience.
What great gals they are…..
The Nitty Gritty - Know Before You Go
Scottish Avalanche Information Service – SAIS
Mountain Weather Information Service – MWIS
Mountaineering Scotland – Snowsports Touring Code
Ski Mountaineering in Scotland: Scottish Mountaineering Club Guide by Donald Bennet and Bill Wallace
So there we have it. Can I go skiing now? Ho-hum……tick tock, tick tock.
When it comes to ski touring, I’m unashamedly blatant about my love for the sport that fills my soul up with so much snowflake-shaped good stuff so if you’ve any touring related questions, hit me up in the comments box below.
Pic credits - Michael Austin and Bruce Goodlad: Avalanche Geeks