Ski touring

What is ski touring?

Ski touring, also known as backcountry skiing, is a sport halfway between mountaineering and skiing. It basically consists in travelling over a snow-covered mountain on skis:

  • - for the ascent, synthetic “skins” are attached to the soles of the skis, allowing them to be slid forward and preventing them from slipping back Apart from that, the bindings release at the heel and allow for a movement normally associated with cross- country skiing.
  • - for the descent, the “skins” are removed and the heel is locked down, so that the bindings are locked into the normal downhill position.

Where can you practice it?

Ski touring is the ideal means of travelling over the winter mountain landscape. Unlike alpine skiing, it enables you to travel over the mountain without having to depend on mechanical ski lifts to gain height, and in comparison with cross-country skiing, it gives more manoeuvrability on the descent and can be enjoyed even on considerably steep slopes.

Although ski touring has a long tradition, over the last years it has experienced a considerable development.

Each year we see more and more enthusiasts of this sport at the ski resorts. In Andorra, there are 5 ski resorts, grouped in two domains: Grandvalira and Vallnord, which make it possible to start in mid-November and train or enjoy skiing until the end of April.

There are different kinds of this activity, depending on where the skiing occurs:

  • Ski touring routes in especially adapted and delimited areas of the ski resorts, where the risk of avalanches is highly reduced, allow you to practice this sport in a way which is quite similar to alpine skiing, with an added component of aerobic exercise. Ski touring at the resort is a good way to get started in this sport, the safety conditions are optimal, provided that the skiers take other users into account and follow the rules of conduct.
  • Ski mountaineering away from the controlled areas closely resembles mountaineering, and it requires an excellent domain of the technique, good knowledge of the mountain environment and a high degree of physical fitness and logistical preparation.

Ski touring for fun and in competition, in the patrolled ski area boundaries and in other mountain areas, requires skiing skills in order to avoid accidents and traumas. There currently is little information on common injuries in ski tourers.

Ski touring on the controlled trails and slopes will give an injury pattern similar to alpine skiing, but when it is practiced away from the patrolled areas, ski tourers are exposed to the same risks as mountaineers.

It is difficult to gather objective information on the sporting habits of ski tourers and the eventual accidents and traumas they can suffer, as there is no centralized data bank on them.

We have proposed ourselves to carry out an online study in order to gather information on this subject. Its goal is to acquire a better knowledge of ski tourers and ski mountaineers, study the accidents and traumas they may suffer and find measures to improve the ski touring safety.

It will soon be available on this website.