31 March, 2009

Silvretta Alps Traverse

Klemen has just led our our second successful ski tour through the Silvretta Alps on the Swiss Austrian border this winter. Despite a fair bit of poor weather the group enjoyed a week of great skiing.

Plenty of fresh snow provided some great downhill skiing, but hard work for Klemen breaking trail in places going up! Enjoy the pictures courtesy of Carsten and Martin.

Getting ready to go...
Over the horizon...
Klemen's birthday...
Plenty of fresh snow...
A long day ahead...
The reason for all the effort...

28 March, 2009

How to Get Fit for Ski Touring

by Matt Dickinson

At Mountain Tracks we are often asked how to get fit for ski-touring. Whether going day touring or hut to hut touring, being in good physical shape is essential, both to enjoy the tour and avoid injury.

Ski touring is a combination of physical effort, taking us into remote untouched mountain areas and great downhill skiing So we need a combination of both aerobic fitness for the up hills and ski fitness for the down hills.

Preparation for the Up-Hill

Skinning is an aerobic exercise which requires more in the way of stamina than strength. A rhythmic steady pace is desirable often for hours at a time. It is important that the muscles are never allowed to ‘pump’ or for lactic acid to build. We need keep a reasonable pace, and also perform at altitudes over 3000m where thinner air is a factor.

The best way to train for this is hill walking, cycling or running. 1 or 2 hours per session is enough and the frequency should be increased as your trip approaches. You should concentrate on sustained motion, the ‘interval’ style workout is not necessary. Remember, the objective is stamina, not speed and strength. As you get more aerobically fit, you will notice your breathing rate drop and become more controlled, aerobic exercise strengthens the muscles involved in respiration, and helps the flow of air in and out of the lungs, this will be very helpful at altitude.

Preparation for the Downhill

Downhill skiing is highly dependent on strong leg muscles and your routine should target muscles important for skiing as well as burn calories and increases metabolism. The inner and outer thigh muscles are important because they surround and stabilize the very important knee joint. The knee is vulnerable to twisting forces which can damage ligaments, so it is important to keep the legs well exercised prior to your ski trip, especially if your day job is mainly sitting.

My favoured activities for building leg strength and knee satiability are steep hill walking and cycling. Both these activities send a lot of power through the knees and keep the tendons, ligaments and muscles ‘taut’ which in turn keep the knee stable.
In addition you can use gym machinery. A leg press for upper quads, a leg extension for lower quads and a leg curl for hamstrings. Several machine types work the inside and outside thigh muscles.

Of course the best warm up for skiing is skiing. So if time allows, ski a few days before your trip, taking care to build up slowly.

25 March, 2009

Best of the Dolomites Ski Safari 2009

Our first Dolomites Ski Tour in 2 years took place in the week 7-14 March. Led by Guido Candolini and Tomaz Jakofcic, our group enjoyed a real mix of weather and conditions from blue sky powder to high winds, low visibility days!

Check out the best of the photos...

24 March, 2009

A Ski Tourer's Tale of the Haute Route

A 17 year old girl on her first trip to the Alps was waiting for her turn to snowplough down a nursery slope in Zermatt as a group of weather-beaten, rucksack wearing; tight turning skiers appeared over the hill.
“Where did they come from?”
“Chamonix. They’ve just finished the Haute Route.”
She wonders if she’ll ever be good enough to do that.

Fast forward 33 years and I’m walking up the steps of the Couronne Hotel in Argentiere, skis in hand, rucksack on my apprehensive shoulders.
That evening Matt, our guide, talks us through the tour and asks what we’ve done before. Experience differs widely and we’re all looking forward to the challenges ahead. The banter begins and later, draught Leffe induces more laughter as the group begins to gel.
The next evening my bed is covered with a big mound of kit. We’ve had a warm up day and are getting ready to go. There’s much debate about what to take or leave behind. Ruthless decisions are made in the quest for a lighter pack.
6.30 alarm, breakfast, boots and off, heart thumping.
The next 5 days are a patchwork of sights, sounds, snow, sun, seracs, soup and skinning. Laughter threads the whole thing together. Long traverses lead to climbs where a steady uphill rhythm grinds down the heights that look so daunting on approach. View after view opens up as we travel through this astonishing landscape. Days are punctuated by welcoming huts, each one an oasis of rehydration, refuelling, rest, warmth and sleep (if you remembered your earplugs).
Reaching the peak of Pigne d’Arolla was an emotional moment for me. I’d never seen myself in such a place in any optimistic dream and I wondered why I’d waited so long to embark on this adventure.
The final day started before dawn. The wind was biting cold as we set off, hoping to complete the route. Thanks to Matt’s great leadership and an easing of the weather, we crested the final col to see Zermatt far below us and the Matterhorn towering above. Down we sped to a well earned beer, smiling all the way.
What a feast of rich ingredients go into this Haute Route Gateau, but the icing on the top is the people who travel with you, climbing the same hills, seeing the same views and sharing the laughter.
Thank you Mountain Tracks for making a 17 year old’s ambition a 50 year old’s achievement.

On the way up.....

Heading off into the distance....

A wonderful view from the hut...

Enjoying a well earned team beer at the hut...

Thank you to Wendy Shipley, who joined us on a Haute Route 14th - 22nd March 2009.