Ever heard of ski touring? It is vastly popular in parts of Europe but almost unknown in the US. You strap on special skis with a removable fur or skin on the bottom and hike up snowy mountains. Ski touring is usually done in the backcountry; however some people also hike up regular ski slopes. However, this isn’t recommended due to the risk of accidents with skiers and snowboarders. Ski touring the backcountry requires proper preparations in order to stay safe in potential avalanche prone areas.
This being said, I wanted to try out this sport for a while now. I finally convinced Harrison to partake at a co-sponsored, professionally lead tour by Adidas and Keller Sports. We departed from Munich early morning and made our way south towards the Austrian border. Once we arrived in Garmisch at the bottom of the Alpspitzbahn, we collected our test materials from Völkl and Adidas, as well as our avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel. The excitement in us was rising and we couldn’t wait to finally start, but first we had to take the gondola to our starting point at over 2000m. Our two guides and professional freeskier Caja Schöpf tortured us downhill on our first backcountry slope on skiis. This was our first endurance test and apparently the hardest section of the day. I sort of got the hang of it pretty soon and Harrison made a great figure on the skis as well. However, we also witnessed an avalanche right next to the main ski slope where people were shoveling to find a skier. This made us worry for a bit even though we had our avalanche equipment with us.
Further down the mountain, we left the ski resort and diverted into the forests leading towards the back of the impressive rock formations. After putting up the skins on our skies, adjusting our bindings, and taking of a few layers of clothes we started our moderate climb through the forest. The pace was slow and easy to follow as we were a group of over 15 people, half of whom were beginners. The climb increased at parts and a few skiers were already on their descent. Hiking on skies is a lot different than in shoes but you get used to it fairly quickly. The weather was gorgeous and temperatures rose to about 13° C. After leaving the forest we were totally exposed to the sun and the sweat was dripping down from our faces. We really enjoyed the panoramic views and being far away from the slopes. After a short break and some skill training we split up the group in two and continued on the steeper incline to the top of Stuibenkopf. Slow and steady wins the race. The amazing backdrop of the peaks around us made us forget the time and effort and we soon reached the top where we enjoyed our deserved break. It was breathtaking and we took in the 360° views. I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures and almost forgot to eat.
Now was the time to go downhill and meet the other part of our group at the Stuibenhütte for another short break. Fear or fun? As long as we didn’t have to turn, it was fairly easy and after a few falls we all made it down safely. A lot of other skiers came out during this fantastic weather and the hut was quite packed as everyone enjoyed the sun and beers.
The rest of the day went by very fast and we skied back through the forest towards the ski slopes where we went up a few gondolas before skiing all the way downhill into the valley. What an exciting and thrilling day that was. We learned quite a few new skills and explored new ways to conquer the mountains and backcountry. We look forward to the next season and to more backcountry experiences! You don’t have to be a pro skier to go ski touring! There are plenty of easy routes for beginners. However, I strongly recommend taking a guide and get the proper safety equipment.
You can book a private tour or participate at a bigger tour and rent your equipment at the many rental places near the lifts and gondolas. Check out the Alpinschule Garmisch, website of Zugspitze, or Explore Share for more information. From Munich you can take the train or Flixbus to Garmisch which takes about 1 to 1.5 hours. Don’t forget to bring snacks for the day as well as clothes to change on the top after your sweaty ascent.
Get out and explore!