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The wonders of ski touring

Have you tried it yet? Skiing uphill – and then down? In Scotland over the last couple of years, the numbers of people going ski touring has increased dramatically. [caption id="attachment_931" align="alignleft" width="208" caption="The rise and rise of ski touring"][/caption] Scotland has been fortunate to have been blessed with several years of fantastic snowy conditions, with the white stuff covering the country’s five resorts for many months each winter. In the Cairngorms, in particular, the ski season has run from November through to May, and while on-piste conditions haven’t always been perfect for downhill skiing and snowboarding, off-piste the snow has remained plentiful, and perfect for ski touring. Local ski hire shops have reported that they have been stunned by the rise in requests for hire of ski touring kit, with demand far outstripping equipment. The basic kit for a day of ski touring includes touring skis, with “skins” –  strips of a non-slip material – that are attached to the bottom of the skis; boots that can be unclipped at the heel to allow for an up- and-down movement; and poles. Perhaps another reason for the trend for ski touring is that while resorts can sometimes be busy, on touring skis you need only your own energy to head off into the mountains. There is no requirement for ski passes, lifts, or groomed pistes. Be aware that as a novice, however, it is vital that you hire or befriend an experienced ski touring leader. Going off the beaten track into the winter mountains can be dangerous. There is the risk of avalanches, and the snow-covered mountains dictate a high level of navigational skills. The art of skiing uphill takes a little practice. The aim is to walk-glide uphill with the aid of the hand-held poles and the heel-lift boots attached to “skinned” skis. The sport requires a good level of fitness and it gives the muscles in your legs, bum and arms a great workout. Of course, it depends on where you’re skiing. The best place to start is on lower-level tacks, for example in the forests in the Cairngorm area. And then you can take your ski touring higher. Many skiers love the idea of heading to the summit of Cairn Gorm. With a peak of 4084ft, it’s the sixth highest mountain in the UK. It takes around two hours to ski to the top, and then a great deal less time and effort to ski down again. Why not give this skiing activity a go this year?