February 1, 2012 – Skinning to Sallie Barber Mine

Skinning???  No it has nothing to do with dead animals…

Mike and I took Phurba out this afternoon to get us all a little exercise.  We call it skinning, some people call it ski touring, either way its a good way to get out in the backcountry and have some fun in the snow.  Phurba loves it of course, because he gets to play and run and have a great time with Mom & Dad.

Ok so this information is on the video… but I decided to put it on the website so people can have a little more time to read it and maybe understand it a bit better or maybe wonder more, “Why the heck would they want to do that?”

So here goes:

Ski touring (Skinning) is a form of backcountry skiing (or off-piste skiing) involving traveling over the winter landscape on skis under human power rather than through the assistance of ski lifts or snow vehicles. It can take place in terrain ranging from perfectly flat to extremely steep. Since, unlike alpine skiing, backcountry skiing involves extended stretches over flat and uphill terrain, the skiers’ heel must be free to allow a natural walking motion while traversing and ascending. Ski touring has parallels with hiking, backpacking, and mountaineering.

Ski touring requires cardiovascular fitness, mental toughness, and a firm understanding of mountain craft. Touring involves navigating and route finding through potential avalanche terrain, and often requires familiarity with meteorology along with skiing skills. For advocates who possess the skills to safely enter the backcountry in the winter, the rewards of touring can be exceptional. Ski tourers can access mountain ranges and experience solitude, even in areas that would typically be quite crowded in the summer.

On reaching the summit or other intermediate destination, skins (if used) are removed and the skiers prepare to descend. In traditional cross-country skiing equipment and more robust telemark equipment, the skier’s heel is also free on the descent, while AT skiers lock down their heels for the descent in typical alpine skiing style.

Competent ski tourers also get to experience the self reliance that few others ever get to experience in the modern world. In many mountain areas, cell phones are worthless and the ski party must rely on self-rescue should something go awry.

Ski touring requires the ability to ski off-piste, good navigation skills, and good awareness of the risks of the mountain environment in winter. In particular it requires the knowledge to assess and test snow conditions to minimize the risk of avalanche. Avalanche rescue equipment including radio transceiver, probe and shovel should be carried, and the ability to use them quickly and efficiently is required.

Don’t worry folks…  we have all this rescue gear and are experienced on how to use it.

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