In one of my last posts (https://www.theriseguide.com/post/what-is-touring) I wrote about Touring and how you can get started. It is very beginner friendly and easy to get into. You also get to enjoy the alps in a way that you never had before, which makes it all so much more special. I, myself, had never done any touring before this year and therefore I wanted to share some of my experiences with you and describe what I felt while doing it.
I am a snowboarder and therefore have 3 options of going up the mountain, which are: bootpacking, snowshoeing and split boarding. I have described what each of them are in the article that I had mentioned above. So far, out of the 3, I have tried bootpacking and snowshoeing. They are both very different and have their pros and cons, but at the end of the day they both get you up to the mountain. In this article I will describe my experiences with both of the methods and tell you how I found it.
This year has been the first time I have tried any sort of touring and to say the least I have enjoyed it a lot. The feeling of achievement you get when you get to the point where you wanted to get to is so amazing that it is almost addictive. But don’t get me wrong it is really tough. In Val d’Isere you are already starting at the altitude of around 1850m and only going up. There are some easier slopes and some of the harder. I have only been going up the La Daille touring route as it has been the main route and therefore the most secure. It also leads to La Folie Douce, which is where I have been stopping. It sits at around the 2400m, giving you a vertical increase of around 550m. There are some challenging bits when climbing up to La Folie Douce but nothing that can not be done by anyone. It is also clearly marked out and secured daily, meaning that as long as the conditions are good enough, you can go up without any worries.
I have both bootpacked and snowshoed all the way up to La Folie Douce. The main difference between the two is obviously the snowshoes that are strapped onto your boots. They prevent you from sliding backwards and therefore make going up much simpler. I have definitely found it much easier to go up with snowshoes. It did take me longer to go up with them but that is because it was my first and second climb. I also had to strap the snowshoes onto the back of my backpack when riding down but they were barely noticeable as they are not that heavy or long. On the other hand, when bootpacking, you can even go up without a backpack, which makes the ride down feel more natural if you are used to it from the usual winters. If you have a backpack on you, you can strap the board onto the back of the backpack, meaning that your hands are free and you can use poles to make it easier but I have not done it with poles so I can not tell you if that has been the case for me. But having the snowboard on the back does make it feel a little strange, especially when bootpacking all the way to the top because when you stop on the steeper bits of the climb, it can pull you down and I nearly fell over a few times because of that. Snowshoes helped me prevent that by having a little extra step that you can use to make you not be at as much of an angle when standing on the steeps. These little flaps also make it easier to go up on flats, so do not forget to use them as I have done a few times.
So far I have been really enjoying the tours up. You get a different perspective of the Alps and the domain when walking up. When riding on a normal season, I don’t actually ever stop, look around and see how beautiful the place that I get to call home actually is. However during the much needed breaks that I take while walking up, I get to stop and actually enjoy the surroundings and the nature. It is super silent with the lifts shut off too. I have never actually realised how much ambient noise there is in the alps when the resort is fully functional.
At the beginning, I was quite hesitant about going touring as I thought I would be super unfit and would not be able to keep with my friends. However that is not the case. Yes, there are some people fitter than I am, but that does not mean that they will just run off and leave you behind. Also a few of the people I have spoken to actually prefer going up by themselves because it allows them to not concentrate on anything else but beating themselves and trying to make as much progress as possible. So if you take anything from this article, I would definitely recommend doing it no matter how unfit you think you are. You can definitely get up all the way to the top. It may take you a little bit longer than your friend but that’s not what it is about. It is about conquering yourself and then getting the reward of skiing down with your friends, smiling from ear to ear and sharing your best moments when you get to the bottom.
In conclusion, Chairlifts are definitely missed and I am super jealous of people who have been able to have the ability to be at a place where they are operational but at least we have touring and are still able to enjoy skiing and snowboarding in some form. If you are able to, I would definitely recommend giving touring a go. However please, do not travel for skiing until it becomes safe to do so!