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Untouched nature, steel-blue skies, slopes covered in powder snow as far as the eye can see. Backcountry skiers can enjoy the ultimate winter experience in the mountains: Simon Bolton, mountain guide, ski instructor and owner of the Alpine Centre Gstaad, presents a 4-step programme for the first ski tour.
1. The correct equipment
Whether beginner or old hand at touring: shovel, probe and avalanche transceiver (LVS) these items belong in every backpack, plus warm drinks and energy-rich snacks. Hides – once from seals – facilitate the ascent, but ‘they have to be well waxed’, says Bolton. Ascent and descent in wind and weather can also be a challenge. It is definitely worthwhile investing in good equipment.
2. The correct leadership
It is highly recommended that ski tour beginners are accompanied by an experienced mountain guide. It requires a trained eye to judge the nature of the terrain as well as a lot of experience in assessing weather and avalanche conditions.
3. The correct technique
The magnificent view from the summit is earned step by step: walking is in opposition, not in pace, the sticks are extended wide and glide from the hip. « Don’t think about it too much», advises the expert, Bolton. When on a ski tour for experienced skiers something is quite the opposite: for example with the ski tour binding, the shoe is only fixed at the point of the boot when ascending, for the descent the binding is repositioned and the stopper block fixed.
4. The correct clothing
The ascent can bring you out in a bit of a sweat. During breaks and the descent the wind whips around your ears. «We recommend the onion principle for ski tours: functional underwear, fleece jacket and wind and water repellent layer on the top» - says Simon Bolton. Hats, gloves and ski goggles are also a must.
Tip for beginners
According to Bolton, in the sector between Zweisimmen and Hornberg the Amslerengrat is the first choice for beginners: this is due to the relatively easy descents and accessibility. Basically however, the whole area with its mix of easier downhill runs and small climbs is exceptionally well-suited for an introduction to the adventure of backcountry skiing. The ascent starts at Rotengraben (Bus stop, Turbachtal), follow the hiking trail uphill in the direction of Parwengen, Traverse to Parwengensattel and from Grat a wonderful view into Turbachtal.