Skitouring Season Is On!

Wednesday, 29. January 2014

by Michel Raab, Outdoor Program Director and Risk Management Officer

Winter term is definitely a highlight for all of our outdoor enthusiast Ecolianers. Skitouring classes offer the unique opportunity of exploring the Alps and enjoying the pleasure of skiing untouched powder.

This term, we are offering three skitouring classes per week, with a maximum capacity of twelve participants per class. These classes are led by certified skitouring leaders. In these lessons, both teachers and students go out for a full afternoon or a full day of skitouring to the back country. There, students learn skills such as navigation and route finding in avalanche terrain, avalanche rescue, group management, self care, team work, climbing technique and off-piste skiing technique, all the while traveling through forest, across alps, along alpine ridges, and over summits. Weather can range from complete whiteout conditions to bright blue skies, and from calm or light breeze to full on blizzards. Every day is different, and we all learn to adapt and make the best out of the conditions with smiles on our faces.

Last Wednesday, which happened to be a Ski Day, we were able to go on a full day tour with the beginners' class. We drove across the valley to Schwarzwaldalp, at the foot of the Wetterhorn group, and climbed up to the Bandspitz (2402m). It was a cold morning, -13˚C, with clear blue skies, right after a storm, which made for perfect powder snow conditions. After going over the avalanche report, a map briefing, and a gear check, we started walking up the mountain. Skiers skinned up while snowboarders snowshoed up, slow and steady.

After more than three hours and an ascent of about 1000m, the team arrived at the summit. We enjoyed lunch under the sun in a privileged spot. Iconic mountains such as the Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau, Engelhorn, and Wetterhorn gave us company. In the distance we could see the Hasliberg, where the rest of the school was enjoying fresh snow in the ski area. The descent was a real treat, on fresh powder. Once back at the Ecole, we debriefed the day and shared highlights, gave some feedback, and heard what people learned from the day. After organizing and putting all the gear back in the gear room, we headed back to our houses to enjoy the evening with our Ecole families.

It was a great day for skiing and for getting to know each other. This type of experience through the Outdoor Program is a unique way for our community to bond, to get in touch with nature, and to foster a healthy lifestyle. We still have a long winter term ahead of us, and we look forward to more alpine adventures!