Thursday, 11 December 2014

learning to skin!

I arrived in Cham last night to cold temps and a dusting of snow, however the conditions are far from perfect. This morning, me and Colin decided to head up to Argentiere and skin up Pierre a Ric to the Lognan on the Grands Montets to see what conditions are like. There have been a few changes to the lifts since my time away, the most noticeable being the replacement of the Plan Joran chair lift to a brand new lift station and bubbles.

 Anyway, the conditions at the bottom of Pierre we shit. minimal snow coverage, dodging rocks. They've had the snow cannons on over the last couple of days and the further up we skinned, the worse it got. Piles of frozen, man made snow, sheet ice with a light dusting and where the piste bashers have tracked their way up and down, they've left frozen tracks which made it even more difficult to skin up. To the point where we took off our skis and boot packed it up for a few metres.

From about 1700m, the snow gets a little better and the top half of Pierre has actually been bashed properly. They've got the snow cannons on at the Lognan at the moment and probably will until saturday when they're partially opening the lifts for the beginning of the season, conditions dependant.

But it was a steep learning curve for me today as I put skins on for the first time and did my first ever skin up a mountain. We managed the 700m of asscent in 1hr 30mins even with the shit snow. But Colin was a good teacher, showing me kick turns, offering advice about how to skin and how to store your skins when not using them etc. And at the same time, I was learning from my own experience. So as a complete beginner, here's some advice I can offer:

1. If someone says to store your skins in your jacket, do it. The glue gets REALLY sticky when cold!
2. Practice putting on and taking off skins in a comfortable environment BEFORE you have to do it for real.
3. You really do need Harscheisen early season, they'll help alot.
4. Skins don't work too well over rocks or on sheet ice, so try to avoid them.
5. Heel risers really do help, just know when to adjust the hight to suit the terrain.
6. Kick turns really aren't too hard to master, just make sure you're in a stable position with firm pole plants before moving each ski.
7. Start bold, start cold. yeah it's cold when putting on skins, but you'll soon warm up when you set off.
8. 'Gliding' the ski as opposed to picking up the ski uses far less energy.
9. Go at your own, steady pace. Don't try and shoot off at a fast pace, you'll soon burn yourself out and spend a lot of time stop/starting and getting cold. Find a pace and rhythm you can keep to without having to take a break every 5 minutes.

Like I said, I'm a complete beginner at this and these are just some points which I've picked up over the course of today. You'll find plenty of professional advice online from guides, but learning from your own mistakes and observations is just as important.

We finished the day by managing to blag the lift back down to Argentiere with a film crew. Our first attempt on our own was met with a scowl from a maintenance bloke.

There's not a huge amount of snow forecast for the rest of the week, so it'll be interesting to see what we can do. Although, the Helbronner lift on the Italian side of the mountains is open and people have been heading up there to get some skiing and touring done. It might be worth considering if we can get transport over there.

The Lognan today (11/12/14)

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