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Are you a climber or a descender?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hello all.
Last morning I was reading the thread "Alp Ski vacation help"
http://forums.epicski.com/showthread.php?t=72948&page=2
by skiking4 (in the Eurozone) and a couple of discussions going on there
hit home with me...
I'll skip the hint of "skiing Europe versus skiing NA" that was
developing because it's been debated many times (as an example,
whenever I read articles on the Italian ski related magazines discussing
"visits" to NA resorts which say "the Rockies aren't mountains rather,
overgrown hills" I can't help but wonder if these people went to the right
right place...) and I've come to form my own idea:
That we ski whatever our resources (money, time, distances to resorts,
geographical locations and, last but not least, our inclinations, mental
and physical capabilities) allow us to.
We come to like and enjoy what our brains (which are the origin of all
decisions and preferences) tell us it's fine with and for us.
The other,which interested me more and stems from a comment by Mr. Prickly
Quote:
Originally Posted by prickly View Post
Zermatt is definitely that way. Some other resorts
a little less so.
Generally in Europe, it's less snow-oriented, in the sense that we just
don't get as much powder as the western US or western Canada.
If you're just into the powderhound thing you end up feeling much less
fulfilled here than you would over there.
Touring is huge here, though it's not always powder-oriented.
There's often more of a technical aspect to it.
For a lot of guys who tour here, the descent is almost secondary.

And given the less frequent fresh snow, the going hard thing is less
frenzied.
If there's no pow to compete for, it really doesn't matter what time
you set out, does it?
All bets are off on days it does dump. Though, again, over here with
less blasting and less tree cover, there are more closures after storms
than I think you get in the US (and forget about skiing during a storm
in the Alps, it's just total whiteout).
In hithereandtither's post, the video linked show what kind of pow
it's usual to meet offpiste
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVOQB...eature=related

Still, this is not what I wanted to discuss, rahter, what I've
put in bold of Mr. Prickly post above...
How do we "read" touring ?
It's true that here it's huge, and it's also true that for 97% of people
here, touring is "just" winter mountain climbing, a replacement for
their summer activity, with the descent being ancillary, if not a
necessary evil. People who approached touring (let's not talk about
heli or cat skiing) with the descent as their main objective were
sort of looked upon or considered just the odd one.
Things have been changing since the "freeride" thing took off, but
the idea behind toruing is still mostly about climbing rather than about
skiing down.
What's your view, "earning one's turns" aside?
Do you see touring as climbing? or as Descending?
Of course one is closely linked to the other but me, having limited
resources to dedicate to climbing, I always considered touring for it's descent possibilities...
post #2 of 17
I have grown to like the climb more now, not so much as the descent, but I still like it.

Except when I'm breaking trail through 3+ feet of snow.
post #3 of 17
50/50 for me. The climbing itself may not blow that much air up my skirt, but I truly love where it takes me. However, even the most heinous of climbs can have a certain beauty and be rewarding in itself. When the track is perfect, the weather awesome, the scenery fantastic, the company pleasant, and the beer cold...well then a climb is something good in itself and the descent is the cherry on the ice cream sundae.
post #4 of 17
Being a weak-legged and weak-lunged flatlander, the climb can be really tough on me.

But there is a certain sense of accomplishment that one gets out of the exertion, and moreover, the prize that awaits makes it all worthwhile.

P.S. Do Italians really think of NA mountains like that? Italy's great, (it's where I learned to ski), but it's not like it's leaps-and-bounds better than Alta, or BC, or wherever...
post #5 of 17
I'm pretty much into skiing down hill.

Touring . I thought that was cross-country skiing with some uphill skinning and downhill thrown in, sort of like hiking or on a larger scale camping while hiking only in the winter time. I never realized there was a significant amount of climbing involved. I thought the mountain climbing was the exception in touring.
post #6 of 17
I echo Bob Lee.

I've done lots of hiking/climbing where I knew going in that the skiing would be, ummmmmm, "marginal" at best.

Don't get me wrong. The ideal would be short, easy hikes followed by zillions of vertical feet of perfect powder or incredible corn. That's not always the case, unfortunately. A fair percentage of the time the skiing turns out to be "interesting", but I still love going up just to see what the world looks like from up there.

I think I would get along well in the European model.
post #7 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
Touring . I thought that was cross-country skiing with some uphill skinning and downhill thrown in, sort of like hiking or on a larger scale camping while hiking only in the winter time. I never realized there was a significant amount of climbing involved. I thought the mountain climbing was the exception in touring.
There's x-c touring also.

But there's the Alpine touring, which is serious uphill for hours before going downhill (for minutes). Yes, I think there's always that perversed enjoyment for suffering.
post #8 of 17
Climbing cliffs in the summer.
Jumping cliffs in the winter!
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by notsosmart View Post
Being a weak-legged and weak-lunged flatlander, the climb can be really tough on me.

But there is a certain sense of accomplishment that one gets out of the exertion, and moreover, the prize that awaits makes it all worthwhile.

P.S. Do Italians really think of NA mountains like that? Italy's great, (it's where I learned to ski), but it's not like it's leaps-and-bounds better than Alta, or BC, or wherever...

The comment about "overgrown hills" was not intended to stir things, rather it was intended as an example of how, on both sides of the Atlantic views differ, and comments of semi-ignorant degree are made...Anyway, not all Italians think such. Some of the reporters said so, and I've come to take their reports with more than a grain of salt.
Me, I've never been there so I can't really say anything other than
if I'll ever come to cross the Ocean, there are at least a couple of places I want to ski in NA, East and West...
Back to climb/descent...
I'm weak-lunged as well (because I was and am weak-hearted too so my body was going oxigen privy faster than others, no mater how much I breathed) and the climbs were always though on me. I recall once, climbing a mountain which is behind the Saslong, called the Sass piatt (because one of its faces is an exact inclined plane) I thought I saw the Virgin Mary at one point, so exahusted I was.
I think I came to "dislike" the climb mainly because our guides used to pressure us to reach points keeping a determined pace and respect times.
I agree that on the mountains, a challenging and often dangerous environment, what with the possibility of abrupt changes in weather conditions, speed is an essential factor, but I preferred a more "leisurely" pace during the ascent...
I like Bob Lee & Bob Peters comments, my ideal offpiste involves
using lifts as much as possible, so to save my energy for the descent, then take a max of 1-1,5 hrs hike, preferably less, to reach a starting point. If I could, I'd skin myself anywhere, but "the descent" would remain my main goal.
Ghost, if you wish to reach places that aren't lift served to ski "off piste" (even if, as Mr. Prickly and others have said many times, "off-piste" it's everything which is not groomed/not marked as a run) or that aren't near a ski area, then skinning your way up it's the only way. Sometimes, especially near the top or in steep, narrow couloirs, it involves climbing in a near "worming way" up...
post #10 of 17
Actually, even in Europe, there’s both “descent” and “ascent” off-piste.

When I started skiing off-piste in Val d’Isere about 12 or so years ago, we would use “fat” skis (well, fat for those days – Salomon Cross-Mountains, IIRC) with standard alpine bindings. Hiking for turns involved long traverses, a bit of side-stepping and sometimes taking one’s skis off and putting them on one’s shoulder. It all depended: sometimes it was no more than dropping off the side of the piste (but always with a guide and wearing an avalanche transceiver). I think that the first time I had to skin I used touring adapters on alpine bindings

Things have changed as more and more people ski off-piste and do it in such a selfish, undisciplined way that three or four people will trash a slope in ten minutes. If you want untracked powder, you have to skin, not least to get away from d*mn snowboarders who think that cruising from one side to another of a virgin snowfield is really cool. So nowadays everyone has touring bindings and skins, even though we don’t use them all the time.

But, basically, off-piste in Val d’Isere remains “lift-served off-piste”. The walks we go on are usually about 30-45 minutes and they’re a way of extending terrain. The longer since the last snowfall, the longer the walk! However wonderful it is to be out in the solitude of the high alps among the wild-life, it is, in the end, “descent” off-piste.

But some of the Val guides I skied with also did more extended tours, using the alpine hut network. The Haute Route is the most famous/notorious. They also did overseas adventures. Here is a web-site to give you an idea:

http://pagesperso-orange.fr/jeanmarcpic/page10.html

(If you’re bored at work, have a look through the photo gallery.)

I thought it sounded amazing and I decided that I would try a proper ski tour. Unfortunately, medical issues have meant that my first ski tour will probably be my last, but it was, indeed, a memorable experience, and, as Nobody suggests, very, very different from what we’d been doing back in Val.

The tour was four or five days in the Gran Paradiso (national park, surrounding the highest mountain in Italy, of the same name) going from hut to hut. I was nervous beforehand that my ski technique might not be good enough. As it turned out, the skiing itself was much less demanding than the climbing. We had ropes, climbing harnesses and couteaux for the skis and we got to over 4000 meters, but it wasn’t true mountaineers' mountaineering (thank God!).

If you think about it, you’re bound to have to ski some pretty average snow, given that you start climbing at the bottom of the snow line – you’re not going to get “champagne powder” there. A couple of people in the group were super-fit, but, fortunately, not competitive! We all took our own time and the guide was great. In fact, one of the best memories I have is how much I liked everyone in the group at the end of the tour – a good job if you’re sleeping eight to a room in a mountain hut where the toilet is a hole in the rock! This is real “ascent” touring, and I think there’s probably more of it than there is in the U.S. because of the mountain hut network.

Beyond that, there’s true ropes-crampons-ice-axes ski mountaineering and extreme skiing, which is another level up again, but that’s something I can only watch and admire on YouTube.
post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nobody View Post
I think I came to "dislike" the climb mainly because our guides used to pressure us to reach points keeping a determined pace and respect times.
I agree that on the mountains, a challenging and often dangerous environment, what with the possibility of abrupt changes in weather conditions, speed is an essential factor, but I preferred a more "leisurely" pace during the ascent...
One of the interesting things about climbing is that everyone has their own best pace, and, unless the group is really very well selected and trained for homogeneity, someone is losing energy by going faster or slower than their own best pace.



Quote:
I like Bob Lee & Bob Peters comments, my ideal offpiste involves
using lifts as much as possible, so to save my energy for the descent, then take a max of 1-1,5 hrs hike, preferably less, to reach a starting point. If I could, I'd skin myself anywhere, but "the descent" would remain my main goal.
I don't know. For me, the 'tour' as a whole would be the main goal, without looking into the climb or descent and comparing them to other climbing hikes or lift-served descents.

The choice of favoring climbing or descent prejudices one's brain against the realization that the tour is bigger than the sum of its parts. JMHO.

BTW, is there any such thing as via ferrata-served skiing?
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by comprex View Post
BTW, is there any such thing as via ferrata-served skiing?
I don't really know.
I've usually linked a "ferrata" with summer mountain activities, don't recall anyone telling me that they've used such a a path for winter touring purposes...
I'll ask around but I doubt that anyone would use one to climb a peak during winter...
Would you climb this


Or this


With touring boots, in cold weather and with your skis strapped to your backpack?
Brrrr, I shiver at the thought.
post #13 of 17
Vis H&T's comment: Val d'Isere is known as having Europe's best ratio for hiking to turns. Lots and lots of short and medium climbs to offpiste stuff there. There may be other places that rival Val in this regard, but I haven't heard of them.
post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by prickly View Post
Vis H&T's comment: Val d'Isere is known as having Europe's best ratio for hiking to turns. Lots and lots of short and medium climbs to offpiste stuff there. There may be other places that rival Val in this regard, but I haven't heard of them.
I never made the time to go do it with him, but Doug Coombs always told me that he thought Verbier was just about the best place in the Alps for backcountry hike-to-turn ratio. I wish I'd taken him up on it.
post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nobody View Post
With touring boots, in cold weather and with your skis strapped to your backpack?
Put that idea into the heads of New England or Scottish mixed climbers and see what happens. (Stand well back)
post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters View Post
I never made the time to go do it with him, but Doug Coombs always told me that he thought Verbier was just about the best place in the Alps for backcountry hike-to-turn ratio. I wish I'd taken him up on it.
Well, he would have known.

My wild guess (since I've not skied them) would have been that somewhere like La Grave or Alagna (or even Ste Foy, which I have) -- resorts with not that much on-piste skiing or a big lift system -- would give you the most off-piste for the least hiking.
post #17 of 17
Yeah, though at La Grave you really don't need to hike at all. Haven't been to Ste Foy yet, really want to go.
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