While the Lifts and many Businesses in Resorts remain closed, that hasn't stopped the residents from making the most of the mountains. Ski Touring and Hiking has seen a huge increase in popularity... but it comes with a big ol' warning label.
There's nothing like skiing a line that you've earned yourself by walking up. The sense of achievement and adrenaline are a level above riding a lift up to the top of the piste! However, Ski Touring is not exactly beginner friendly. First and foremost you must have a high level of knowledge of the environment. This article by Henry's Avalanche Talk (based in Val d'Isère) is a good introduction to what you need to know and can expect:
Not only do you need to have knowledge of the environment and safety precautions, but you must regularly check the weather and conditions. Where do you plan on going that day? Has it seen much sun or wind recently? What base did the last snow fall onto? The answers to these questions could mean life or death (sorry for being dramatic, but it's true) and so it is highly encouraged to go with a Guide unless you are both highly experienced and informed. The Avalanche rating is normally visible on the Ski Maps in the Lift Stations or on the Pistes but with Covid-19 keeping resorts closed, you'll need to be a bit more prepared in your research before you set off.
Ever heard the phrase: "all the gear and no idea"? While no one wants that label, when it comes to off-piste (which is everywhere on the mountain in French resorts right now) it is far worse to not have the gear that you need. An Avalanche kit containing the minimum of a Transceiver, Shovel and Probe should be firmly attached to your back before you step foot on the mountain. Make sure that you have tested your equipment and that you know exactly how to use it (Step 1 in this article). I attended the free Avalanche Training Talks provided by the Association Vie Val d'Is last season where the use of equipment was demonstrated. While that was a great base of knowledge, it really doesn't compare to being in an emergency situation on the mountain which is why decent training is really recommended. Here are some organisations currently offering Off Piste Training or Guiding:
Just choose your Resort, Dates and 'Ski Touring' from the filters
New Gen https://www.skinewgen.com/
Offer Off-Piste training/guiding in most of the major European Resorts
Never go out on the mountain alone and don't take any unnecessary risks. The more knowledge you have, the better!
Don't forget that just going Hiking can be as dangerous as Skiing (if not more because it's difficult to move away from danger quickly) so stick to marked trails and take precautions.
This article isn't intended to scare anyone off from the incredible experience that is man-powered exploration of the mountains- far from it! It's just important to stress the very real dangers and that with the big increase in Ski Touring due to lifts not operating, more inexperienced people will be giving it a go. I wake up every day to see if any announcements have been made by President Macron about resorts opening, but still no luck.
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