A mountain guide’s Christmas wishlist

Christian Edelstam

Christian Edelstam is a certified IFMGA mountain guide and Pure Ski Touring’s head guide. Christian lives in Abisko in the north of Sweden, and also teaches avalanche safety, a climbing instructor, member of the ski patrol, glaciologist and product tester for Tierra. He’s got more than 10 years’ experience guiding at the Kebnekaise and Abisko mountain stations and is driven by a genuine joy for adventure and discovery. Christian has been working with Pure Ski Touring since 2010.

Christmas is approaching. A cosy period, hopefully involving time off, wintery outdoor activities, spending time with your loved ones, candles, plenty of good food, mulled wine and sweets. For some, Christmas also implies a degree of stress. Christmas is a time where consumerism is rife, and this gives some of us pause for thought as to what to get as gifts. Here are some ski touring-related Christmas present ideas with sustainability in mind.

Our Equipment and the Environment

I’m meticulous with my equipment choices, and typically tick off my own wishlist. The chance that someone else buys exactly what I want is basically zero, and I really don’t want to end up with stuff I don’t want. I’d really like to state that I don’t want anything I don’t need, but that would not be completely honest. Our consumption-driven society and addiction to economic growth seems difficult to combine with sustainability and concern for our environment. My own consumption concerns me greatly, and I sometimes find it difficult to discuss our environment because I really care, and tend to get frustrated with others that disagree, whilst at the same time I keep travelling and consume more resources than I really need. Let’s call it for what it really is: double standards.

My three ultimate Christmas presents

My tips for Christmas presents would ideally look like this: 1) Buy nothing at all — satisfy yourselves with what you already own, 2) Donate money to Protect Our Winters, and 3) Buy something second-hand. And maybe also take the opportunity to either sell or donate some of your used equipment that you’re no longer actively using. Selling stuff can sometimes be more work than sound economic return, but hopefully you’ll make someone else’s day and you’re also helping them to not go out and buy new stuff.

Only buy the best

Anyway, the whole idea of this was to offer some actual Christmas present tips for ski touring. As I said earlier, I’m meticulous with my equipment, ski tour a lot, and ought to be able to offer genuine insight into equipment choices. And try as we might, we can’t really stop our lives in our efforts to save the planet. If we want to keep doing this wonderful activity we do need equipment, and with that in mind it’s better to buy quality stuff that ideally also can be used for other purposes rather than being stored away for the bulk of the year. Many outdoor clothing manufacturers work on improving their environmental sustainability, and it’s a good idea to read up on their efforts on the web or asking in person in the store. Make sustainability part of your decision making.

Christmas present 4 – a thin, light, windproof shell with hood

I am a proponent of wearing multiple jackets instead of non-windproof mid-layers when ski touring. Especially in windy conditions with driving snow it’s uncomfortable to have to remove the windproof layer in order to adjust your clothing. I usually set off uphill wearing a base layer and a thin windproof shell. If that gets too cold, I layer another jacket on top, like a waterproof shell. I also always carry an insulated jacket to wear at breaks or when descending. That way I never have to remove my innermost windproof layer, and never run the risk of getting my base layer wet from driving snow. Some might argue that you get worse overall breathability from layers of jackets when compared with midlayes such as fleece. And arguably there may be a weight penalty, but nowadays a lightweight insulated jacket can weigh less than a fleece. A windproof jacket is also really versatile. It breathes better than a waterproof shell, so when I need something windproof in dry conditions I find a windproof shell a better choice.

Christmas present 5 – a pair of hard-wearing, windproof soft shell trousers

Many ski tourers say that their legs sweat less than the torso and aren’t really troubled by walking in waterproof shell trousers. I partly agree, but unless the conditions really dictate a trouser that can stand up to driving rain, a pair of hard-wearing, windproof soft shell trousers will be a much more comfortable, more practical choice. An important detail to consider is the ability to adjust the width at the ankle, and ideally with a 20-30cm zippered vents with a thin bit of fabric or netting inside. Ensure that the trousers with vents open fit over an unbuckled boot, yet are sufficiently tight-fitting when you close the vents and buckle up your boots. If the fit is good there is no need for an internal snow gaiter, although internal gaiters also work well. Soft shell trousers, just like the windproof jacket, is a versatile garment. Ankle width adjustability also makes them more versatile.

Christmas present 6 – reusable sandwich bag

Don’t pack your lunch sandwich or trail mix in a new plastic bag every day. Even if you don’t have a reusable bag, you can at least make sure you reuse a normal plastic bag a few times. Will it get a bit messy? Sure, but I’ve not had any mould grow in my sandwich bag during the four, five days of a typical ski touring trip. Yes, perhaps if you accidentally crack your soft-boiled egg in it, but if that happens, just invert the bag, rinse it off, and hang it to dry overnight. A modest water volume, or we lose some of the environmental effect. I try to bear in mind that if every person use one less bag, we save 6 billion plastic bags. A simple change that has considerable environmental impact.

Merry Christmas
Christian Edelstam

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