Ski touring is one of the most exciting sports. Every single ski tour can look differently. You explore various places with your best ski tour friends (or ski guide) and that for sunrise, sunset, or beautiful midday. There are so many possibilities and dangerous surprises awaiting that planning a ski tour can look overwhelming – where should you start? Weather? Route? Who should you consult if you get stuck in planning? We have the answers and show you how to plan the perfect ski tour.
The route: Where should we go?
When you decide on the route you want to take, search for reliable resources. These can be found online, in tour guide literature, or on printed maps. Sometimes tips from experienced touring hikers are best. That's also why we recommend booking ski guides that show you the best routes in your preferred region. If you look for maps to orient yourself look for topographic maps that also include slopes, terrain, steepness, and contour lines.
Once you have found the route on the map, start planning your route by designating checkpoints on the route. Easiest might be the starting point and the top you want to reach. As soon as you have planned those, ask yourself about key-points on your route. Where are challenging parts in your route? Where are guidance points you need to change directions or see whether you are on track? Mark them on your map, ideally with an estimated time – that's how you find them in the terrain.
Another thing you should plan on your map is alternatives. You never know what tricky turn nature might take on your plan. Having an alternative itinerary and possible changes in the route are very important.
Concerning the map, you must have it with you in an analog manner. Simply because reception and internet reception is not always guaranteed on the mountain; however, your phone could also crash altogether because it can't withstand the cold. Therefore, having a map in printed form is always the safest option. Otherwise, your plan for the perfect ski tour is gone the moment you start your tour.
The timetable: How long will it take?
A timetable might sound like some restriction at first, but it is crucial to know how long your ski tour will take. Many of the tour descriptions that can be found online or in tour guide literature include time designation. If your planned tour does not have one, then you can easily calculate it with this rule:
A ski tourer, hiking at a comfortable pace needs approximately an hour per 300 meters in altitude. On the downhill, they need a third of the rate of climb.
Furthermore, you should always add time for changing materials (putting on and taking off the ski skins), breaks, demanding passages, and current circumstances (such as the participants' stamina). Also, the buffer time for the unforeseen is indispensable.
The group: Who is the perfect ski tour partner?
If you plan a ski tour in a group, it is essential to know who joins it. That's because every person in the group needs to do the ski tour and have fun with it.
Therefore, knowing the participants' stamina and training level is a prerequisite in planning a group tour. You should also include them in the decision-making process because there might always be something you do not know (such as a fear of something that hinders someone from mastering a special tour).
When being on tour, always ensure that communication between all group members is secured through mobile phones or radio devices.
Ideally, you are a group of four. Too many people on the ski tour also complicate the tour and the decision-making process initially.
The weather: The weather fairy tells me about the future.
When planning the perfect ski tour, checking out all sorts of weather data is indispensable. And when we speak about "all sorts of weather data," we mean that the weather-forecast is definitely not enough. You need to know about the entire weather situation report, including statements about the snow, wind, and avalanche situation. Such information can be found on ZAMG, for example (please notice that ZAMG is a weather service for Austria, in other parts of the world, you should look for an equivalent).
Considering avalanches, there is a bunch of other information to acknowledge. For example, in addition to the current avalanche hazard level, hazard sources and hazard locations should be explored. You really need to understand and interpret the avalanche report the right way. In Austria, we recommend it to look up www.lawine.at, which provides you with current avalanche reports.
If you need further help, in this case, look up the website of the Österreichischen Alpenverein, which gives beneficial tips for planning ski tours.
The equipment: What do I need to pack?
Packing for your perfect ski tour is also a significant part of planning. Here is a shortlist of what you'll need:
- Your ski tour set comprising tour skis, tour ski boots, tour ski bindings, ski skins, ski poles
- LVS-Set comprising Avalanche transceiver, avalanche shovel, and probe
- Ski helmet (ideally ski tour helmet)
- Ski tour backpack or avalanche backpack
- Something to drink and a snack
- Optional: First-Aid-Material, GPS, headlamp, bivouac
To sum up: How to plan the perfect ski tour.
We know to plan the perfect ski tour sounds like a lot of work. Deciding for a route, creating a timetable, attentively studying the weather situation, and considering your ski tour group members' wishes. Fortunately, in the end, it is always worth it; you are safer on your ski tour, have fun, and planning also has it in itself to create pleasant anticipation. Have fun!
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