Ski Touring

Monday, 21. March 2016

Text: Martyn Bryant, Photos: Stefan Wäschenfelder

Ski Touring classes complement the winter activities offered at the Ecole. They are extremely rewarding - students get great exercise ascending slopes and great rides down enjoying powder runs.

They are usually half-day tours in areas on the Ecole’s side of the valley inaccessible purely by ski-lift. If the students are lucky enough to have ski-day coincide with their ski-touring afternoon then their tour becomes a whole day tour. In this case they have time to escape the ski-resort completely and to drive across the valley to the Reichenbachtal, a stunning region, and take tours there.

Touring is a unique experience, climbing as the day proceeds and the light changes, through different terrain, past streams, through the timberline. Every step or slide of the way is a post card, humbled by the great mountains of the Bernese Oberland. Aside from the 4 and 6 days hikes, it’s the furthest the students get into the surrounding nature over the course of the school year.

The guides - who have many years of experience between them - consult the Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research everyday so they can keep tracking the snow pack throughout the season.The factors that the guides are considering are shared and discussed with the students at the beginning of each tour - what are the risks, where are the risks, why are those the risks. Even beyond theoretical knowledge the guides are fully alert to signs that slopes are safe - such as looking for previous avalanches, cracks in the snow pack and making snow profiles to see the stability the snowpack.

All in all it's a lesson in being well prepared, considered, and conservative, and then delighting in the freedom of skiing untouched powder in a sublime landscape.