When to ski…

  • Creator
  • #7619

    I was wondering if anyone had words of wisdom regarding how to decide when to bring skis on and climb and whether not to use them.
    I summitted Mt Hood today and performed a ski descent. The upper half of the climb (above The ski lift for those familiar) was super iced over, to the point of which I couldn’t even skin. I therefore climbed to the summit with the skis on my pack. On the way down it was so icy and irregular that linking turns was essentially impossible. While faster than walking it was extremely uncomfortable and not really that much fun. I delayed my start so that the sun could warm the snow but it was a bit cloudy and that is never happened. I would’ve probably been better off leaving the skis at home.
    I was wondering if other people encounter this situation and how you make decisions regarding when to ski and even whether or not to bring skis.

Posted In: Ski Mountaineering

  • Participant
    DominicProvost on #18543

    Bad skiing is part of the backcountry experience, you bring your skis when you’re hoping for decent skiing conditions, sometimes it doesn’t happen.

    Steve House on #18626

    Yes, this is often a problem with “big mountain skiing”

    I myself am an avid skier, I love it nearly as much as climbing. But I really never have (and probably never will) focus on ski descents because as you found out it is very often much faster to simply climb down. And faster on the way up to move in mountaineering boots and without the extra weight of skis.

    For example, when @scottjohnston and I climbed Cho Oyu in 2001 there were people there trying to ski it. But we were not only faster than they were on the ascent but also on the descent where conditions for skiing were terrible (breakable wind crust). They were really stoked in BC to claim a “ski descent” but we had to chuckle since their descent was slower and more difficult than ours.

    The exception to the questionable utility of skiing from summits or on big mountains is when there is a lot of horizontal travel. A prime example iss going up Denali where you can often use skis all the way to the base of the fixed lines at 15,000′ if you’re a good skier. Again, I’ve never taken my skis higher than that because it doesn’t make sense to my alpinist-brain, I”m way faster on foot. But from there down–yee-haw!

    Ultimately this is one of the many decisions you have to make as an alpinist, skis are a great tool, but as with every tool they only help for certain jobs. Don’t hammer a nail with a crescent wrench.

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