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Sweaty Betty's guide to ski touring

posted on Tuesday, 2nd December 2014 | find under Tamara, Fitness
As ski season has now arrived, Sweaty Betty Creative Director Tamara Hill-Norton has been reflecting on some of her favourite winter breaks. And the first that comes to mind is a ski touring expedition in Champoluc, skiing up off-piste mountain trails before turning back at the top and descending. Inspired by her husband’s (and the Sweaty Betty CEO’s) tough 8-day ski touring trek across the infamous Haute Route, Tamara wanted to try ski touring in a less extreme and more luxurious fashion. So she contacted Ski-2 to set them up with a ski guide, and weeks later she was in the Italian Alps with experienced skier and ice climber Patrick Chasseur. Here Patrick tells us about the challenges (and joys) behind ski touring… 

Tamara wears the Orbital Down GiletUphill Ski Jacket, Downhill Ski Pants and Anon Wren Ski Helmet

What first inspired you to head up the mountain as opposed to down it?

I am the nephew of a mountain guide, and have always lived in a village 1700m above sea level, so naturally grew up playing on mountains and climbing them year round. 

Tamara found her hip flexors were especially targeted during ski touring. What other physical challenges can the first-time ski tourer expect to encounter?

Ski touring is an aerobic sport but also very technical, so expect to spend a day or two establishing the most efficient technique as you learn to climb using skis. 
Do you recommend any specific training in preparation for a ski touring holiday?

Good aerobic fitness is key, and some basic full-body conditioning can also help prevent fatigue when you’re midway up the mountain. But everyone can get involved, and there are easier routes available for beginners and children alike.  
What about nutrition? Choosing uninterrupted trails means there aren’t likely to be any chalets or cafes in sight, so how do you keep yourself properly fuelled for a day on the mountain?

Everyone will prefer different types of food, but quick and convenient snacks like nuts and cold-pressed bars will maintain your energy levels. If the route requires multiple days’ ski touring and sleeping in a bivouac, then it’s essential to carry fire, water and dry food rations. 
If you could choose just three worldwide destinations to ski tour, what would they be?

The Alps in Italy, over the fjords in Norway and Alaska. 

Any other tips for Sweaty Betty fans interested in ski touring? 

Slide or shuffle your skis rather than picking them up, which requires more energy. Follow behind a more experienced skier so they can carve you an easier path. Stand straight when you feel like you’re losing traction – you may feel tempted to lean forward but that will actually make you more likely to slide backwards. 


The Haute Route, France/Switzerland

Connecting two famous resorts in the Alps, Chamonix (France) and Zermatt (Switzerland), this tour can take up to eight days and entails huge glaciers, steep passageways and ever-changing scenery. 

Need to know: You will need an advanced level of fitness to tackle this challenge, which will require unfailing endurance of up to 10 hours every day. 

The Silvretta Traverse, Austria

Running along the Swiss/Austrian border, this route makes a great introduction to hut-to-hut ski touring. There are plenty of easy summits for beginners, and accommodation is very comfortable with hot showers and great après-ski food and drink. 

Need to know: Wear layers that are easy to pull on or remove, as you’ll come across varied elevations and need to dress accordingly. 

The Italian Dolomites Circuit, Italy 

A great choice to combine fitness, cuisine and culture. There is fascinating history in this area – look out for iron ladders built into the cliff face, which served as fortifications during WWI. 

Need to know: Intermediate off-piste skiers are best suited to this route. The average day will require between five to eight hours of steady skiing; fitness and determination are essential. 

Queyras National Park, France

Staring in Saint-Véran, one of Europe’s highest villages, this route takes you all the way to Abriès via stunning castles and incredible wildlife. 

Need to know: Previous ski-touring experience is recommended and off-piste confidence is crucial. 

Central Bernese Oberland, Switzerland/Germany 

For breathtaking views – among the best you’ll find in the Alps – head to the Bernese Oberland range. You’ll enjoy vistas across the Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger mountains, but you’ll have to tackle some of the toughest climbs in the process. Thrilling descents of up to 4000m are a welcome reward. 

Need to know: This route is one of few suitable for late spring skiing as it stays very high in the mountains. Be prepared for serious thigh-burning ascents.  

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