To new heights with the Swedish national team in ski mountaineering

Hector Haines

Hector Haines is British and the head coach of the Swedish national team in ski mountaineering, also known as skimo, and he lives in Åre. For Hector, skimo is not just a sport, it’s also a lifestyle and a natural continuation of his own successful elite career in orienteering and skyrunning. Being the head coach has also awakened Hector’s own dormant competitive motivation and pursuit of success, but now it’s in the role of a leader that he wants to succeed.

Ski Mountaineering: Fast and Light

Ski mountaineering, or skimo as it is also called, is essentially ski touring at racing speed. When the sport is at its best, it’s a magical combination of speed, endurance, and skill in moving through mountain terrain. There are well-known, classic races such as Patrouille De Glaciers, Mezzalama, and Pierra Menta that all represent the origins of ski mountaineering in the heart of the Alps. But skimo is changing, and on the international scene, it’s now the shorter races that are the focus. For example, at the 2026 Olympics in Cortina, only sprint and mixed relays will be represented.

Competitions: A Wide Variety

Every year, several major competitions and a World Cup are held, along with a World Championship that takes place biennially. A typical competition week includes the disciplines of vertical, individual (long), sprint, and mixed relay. Most competitions take place in ski resorts and often utilise groomed slopes and artificial tracks. In Sweden, we have the Swedish Cup which is a mix of different disciplines. On February 10, 2024, we will have a Swedish championship in sprint for the first time in Hammarbybacken, Stockholm.

Equipment: Weight is Everything

To succeed at the highest level in ski mountaineering, every gram matters. For example, the athletes’ carbon fibre boots weigh only 500 grams. There are weight limits in the competition regulations. For instance, skis and bindings together must not weigh less than 780 grams (for a pair of 160 cm long and 60 mm wide skis). The equipment is often weighed by the international federation and spot checks are done after the races. Violations lead to disqualification. Certain equipment is mandatory, but items like crampons and harnesses are rarely needed nowadays. All this, along with the tight-fitting suits, leads to a magical feeling of freedom and speed, which allows athletes to squeeze out that last bit required to cross the finish line first.

The Swedish National Team: Hard Training and Good Team Spirit

The Swedish national team in ski mountaineering consists of individuals from various sports around Sweden, including orienteering, cross-country skiing, biathlon, and cycling. They all share a passion for pushing boundaries and a desire to develop. Tove Alexandersson, an international superstar in both orienteering and ski orienteering, is back on the national team and competing in the World Cup. Ski mountaineering is organised under the Swedish Climbing Federation, which is the only federation in Sweden that has Olympic ambitions for both the Summer and Winter Games. Despite a limited budget, everyone works hard, and we have a packed competition calendar as well as regularly gathering for training camps ahead of the major competitions. Skimo is becoming increasingly popular in Sweden and attracts new enthusiasts, especially young people eager to try out the sport. The youth team under 23 years is also steadily growing. However, compared to other nations, we are somewhat behind both in level and breadth. For example, the Norwegians are currently better organised and more successful.

2026 Olympics in Cortina: A Swedish Medal is Not Impossible

To qualify for the 2026 Olympics in Cortina, Sweden must perform well in the 2024/2025 season, particularly in the World Cup’s sprint and mixed relays. Additionally, our athletes must achieve high enough rankings to meet the qualification criteria. We believe this is achievable, but everything must go according to plan. We also plan to expand the range of national competitions and organize high-quality Swedish championships. There are even thoughts of hosting a World Cup race in Sweden. The question is probably no longer if Sweden will participate in ski mountaineering at the Winter Olympics 2026, but how close we can get to the medals. The odds are good, given the talent and determination of the athletes. If Tove Alexandersson is in top form, an individual success could be possible. It will be exciting to see if we can succeed and be competitive in the coming years.

Pure Academy – Five years of learning, development and adventure

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.

A Learning Journey to New Heights

Pure Academy started in the winter of 2019 and has now existed for five years. It’s time to briefly reflect on the fantastic journey we have made. As the principal of this popular ski mountaineering school, I have seen how we have developed and become a respected education for those who want to take their ski mountaineering to the next level. As a mountain guide, I have always had a passion for teaching and learning. Being a guide is not just about leading a group, it’s about sharing knowledge and helping others grow. Our goal with Pure Academy has always been to convey the skills needed to become stronger, safer, and more independent in ski mountaineering. The demand and interest in education in this field have only increased over the years. Many people don’t just want to go on ski tours, they want to understand more aspects of the mountain, from avalanche safety to ski mountaineering techniques. Building Pure Academy from scratch has been a challenge, but at the same time, an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable experience.

Experts as Teachers

It was clear from the beginning that we needed a structured curriculum. With the help of our partners and network, we developed a multi-year education that covers everything from the basics of off-piste skiing to high-alpine tours. Each part of the course builds on the previous one and is offered annually, which gives participants the opportunity to fully plan their education based on their own conditions. With Pure Academy, we wanted to create a ski mountaineering school where participants could learn from the best. Each part of our curriculum is therefore taught by an expert in the specific area, such as mountain guides, avalanche instructors, ski instructors, first aid instructors, training experts, and climbing instructors. These experts share their knowledge and experiences through workshops and specialized courses. Pure Academy would not have been possible without the support from our partners and network. The inclusion of SVELAV’s avalanche courses, Freeriding 1 and Freeriding 2, for example, has been very successful. The SVELAV courses focus on personal risk management, which is crucial on every ski tour.

A Three-Part Curriculum

Pure Academy is divided into three different stages with a clear progression. Each part builds on the previous ones and gives the opportunity to develop skills at a pace that suits everyone by simply following the order in the curriculum. The first stage is called “From Off-Piste to Ski Touring” and focuses on developing basic techniques and safety. Participants learn to handle different snow conditions and terrain, as well as to use avalanche safety equipment and follow safety protocols. In the second stage, “From Ski Touring to Ski Mountaineering,” we delve into techniques and strategies for more technically demanding terrain, such as glacier skiing, rappelling, and light climbing. Participants learn to use alpine climbing equipment and navigate in high-alpine terrain. This stage gives participants the opportunity to develop their endurance and technique in more challenging situations. The third and final stage, “From Ski Mountaineering to High Alpine Mountains,” is an applied multi-day tour between huts with technical elements. Participants plan and carry out the tour themselves with the guide as a mentor. Elements included are navigation in difficult terrain, handling of exposed passages, and advanced climbing techniques. We also focus on developing participants’ ability to make safe decisions in difficult conditions.

An Exciting Future Awaits

Personally, I think ski touring is the best activity there is. The exercise, the fresh air, the sense of adventure, beautiful environments, meeting people, the meditative aspect of the ascent, the rhythm of the downhill skiing, and that indescribable feeling when there are no other ski tracks. For many, however, ski touring can feel like a threshold. With Pure Academy, we want to help more people cross that threshold, and we are passionate about teaching about ski touring. The first five years have been an extraordinary journey. We have seen participants grow and develop, become independent ski mountaineers who can tackle any mountain challenge. I am proud to have been a part of this, and I am really looking forward to the next five years. Read more about Pure Academy here

The boot should feel like a firm handshake!

Jakob Annerdal

Jakob Annerdal works as a boot fitter in a largely snow-free country, England. His workplace is the Ellis Brigham store in Bristol with clients from all over the southwest of England and South Wales. The main advantage of not having the mountains around the corner is that, as a boot fitter, most of your clients are local – should they not be satisfied, they’ll return in short order to let you know. That way, you’ll soon learn from your mistakes and improve your skills in the profession.


The route to the perfect boot

Boot fitting is the process where you step-by-step improve a boot’s comfort without sacrificing the chosen boot model’s properties. This process can be long or short, depending on a whole host of different factors. The time a customer chooses to spend on boot comfort depends on how meticulous the skier is in terms of achieving the goal of an encapsulating, even and stable pressure around the foot. My aim as a fitter is to help ensure a comfort level which still allows the boot to perform as per its specification.

Step one: Find the right boot model

When you first start in this profession the process appears to be linear. “Anyone can do this!”, you think to yourself when you learn how to measure a customer’s feet and then select a boot which matches what you’ve jotted down in the boot fitting form. You soon learn which boot models the store keeps in stock and which come up “big” or “small”, and can then present the customer with a selection based on “theoretical” figures. The astonishing thing is that this linear process in broad strokes works. The other day I was observing a fairly new employee work through this process. He asked – word for word – the questions written in the form. He took measurements and arrived at the same conclusion as I would have done. This raises the question of what an experienced boot fitter does differently and how experience can contribute to an even better boot.

Step two: Boot modifications

Truth be told, no boot offers a particularly comfortable fit straight off the shelf. As an experienced boot fitter, the value you bring is the ability to see the possibilities in each boot model. The model resulting from the linear process is the starting point of the boot-fitting process. A proficient boot fitter is therefore observant of the details of the skier’s foot shape. Such a fitter is knowledgeable in terms of the anatomy and the skeletal layout of the foot and can draw conclusions about which modifications can achieve the desired result and if it’s even possible. The boot fitter also possesses a deep knowledge of a boot’s construction. Which new and old technologies are used by different brands? What materials have been used to make the boot? In what ways has a model in a particular collection changed since the last season, or even since ten seasons ago? The boot fitter will also be familiar with the modifications possible across different boot models and brands. How much additional width can you push out before the height is affected? Can you achieve sufficient room in the toe box through modifications of the inner boot only, or do you need a different shell? How much material can be ground out from the inside of the shell to accommodate the bone in the big toe? How easy is it to bend or reshape a particular type of plastic? And so on.

Things to note as a customer

An important detail to pay attention to as a skier is if the boot fitter tries to quantify how the boot fits. This can be achieved by frequent measurements, trying to ascertain how much space is available for your feet inside the shells (without the inners), or simply by looking inside the shells. It’s also vital that the fitter asks questions that require specific answers. “Is your toe touching the front of the boot when you extend?” or “Can you lift your heel more than a few millimetres?”. The opposite is questions that allow for subjective answers, like “Does the width feel comfortable?”.

Before a boot fitting

Before you do a boot fit, consider what you intend to use the boots for. Let your kind of skiing and goals guide the kind of boot you select. It can be tempting to let oneself be affected by the marketing and ask for the lightest SkiMo boots, or the beefiest freeride model. The most important thing is to always let the boot fitter do their job. The result is that you, as a customer, get a boot which is genuinely thought through and chosen specifically for you and your skiing. Perhaps also modified for your particular feet and which will let you develop your skiing whilst at the same time letting you forget that you’ve shod your feet in a hard plastic shell.

Remember: A boot should not just be comfortable

With the help of a good boot fitter, you will find a boot which works for you in the long term. This means the boot which best works with your feet and lets you develop as a skier. Such a boot will probably differ from one that is simply “comfortable”. When you’re standing in your boots at the top of some mountain ready to drop in, remember that boot fitting is a process. Chances are that you will need to get back to the store and request further modifications. Make sure you do! Modern boots are remarkably modifiable, and most fit issues can be resolved.


Ski Mountaineering – the new Olympic Sport

Hans-Christer (H-C) Holmberg

Hans-Christer Holmberg is a Professor of Sports Science/Physiotherapy at Luleå Technical University, with affiliations to Karolinska Institutet and the University of British Columbia in Canada. H-C, which he’s often referred to as, is also the Head of R&D for the Swedish Olympic Committee. He’s published more than 200 scientific articles about both wide and narrow skis. H-C lives in Åre, Sweden and is a keen Ski Mountaineering (SkiMo) practitioner three to four times a week.

What is SkiMo?

Ski Mountaineering (SkiMo) is a rapidly growing competitive sport with a unique combination of physical endurance, spectacular scenery and exciting downhill skiing. The interest in SkiMo has increased considerably since the news that SkiMo will debut as an Olympic discipline in Milan-Cortina, 2026. I, in conjunction with some colleagues, recently published an article with the purpose to summarise the research that has been conducted on SkiMo to date. It’s called “Ski Mountaineering: Perspectives on a Novel Sport to Be Introduced at the 2026 Olympic Games” and can be found in the scientific journal “Frontiers in Sport and Active Living”. There is a link to the open-access version of the article below. Some of the content should be of interest also for those that enjoy ski touring without any competitive ambitions.

What stands out about SkiMo as a sport?

Elite SkiMo athletes are characterised partly by a high aerobic capacity (that is a high VO2 max threshold – a high max oxygen volume capacity expressed as ml/kg of body weight), and partly by a good sub-maximal work capacity (in other words, low energy expenditure during uphill travel). Since more than 80% of the competition time is typically taken up by uphill travel, body mass is also a factor for elite-level performance, both in terms of absolute fat weight and body mass fat percentage. In terms of equipment, you can find the key characteristics of SkiMo in the illustration below. Equipment weight, in conjunction with body weight, influences competitive performance. One kilogram of extra weight at the ankles has been estimated to correspond to a 2 to 3% increase in energy when going uphill. This, in conjunction with the stringent demands for stable and safe SkiMo-equipment, has accelerated the pace of development in terms of SkiMo gear.

Uphill performance has the biggest effect on results

The uphill phase in SkiMo involves both upper-, and lower-body musculature, and apart from the fact that the poles improve balance and coordination, other researchers have shown that they also contribute to lower energy consumption and perceived exertion. In the event Vertical Race, the vertical speed can be around 1400 metres per hour for the top athletes. This can be compared with around 400 metres per hour for guided, non-competitive ski touring. Vertical speed is related to both movement frequency (the main factor) and stride length. Stride length matters less in SkiMo than, for example, cross-country due to differences in the mechanical characteristics of the skis (geometry, stiffness, camber), the use of climbing skins (higher friction between ski and snow surface) and overall, a steeper slope angle. An active area of research right now within SkiMo is comparisons in terms of energy expenditure between walking straight, but steeper, or circumventing steeper bits. This relates to both tactics (route choices) and pacing (varying the intensity on different parts of the course). This kind of research is made easier by employing advanced GPS equipment.

Downhill affects the results to a lesser degree

The downhill phase, provided you remain upright, generally has a lesser effect on the result in SkiMo (as a lower percentage of the total competition time). Varying surfaces and conditions, with everything from snow and ice to terrain obstacles, demand sophisticated technical skills. Compared with Alpine skiing, SkiMo practitioners tend to use the deep tuck position to a lesser degree.

How do elite SkiMo athletes train?

Elite athletes in SkiMo tend to train between 700 to 900 hours per year, which corresponds to the volumes trained by the best athletes in other endurance disciplines. Endurance training is usually done at several intensities (1-3 sessions with a higher intensity per week), with a focus on uphill, and involving both legs and upper body. 45% of the annual training will be on snow (equalling around 300 000 vertical metres per year). The remaining endurance training is typically done as running, running with poles, various kinds of ski-walking or roller skis (ideally in the classic style), or to some degree, cycling (primarily in the Alpine nations). In general terms, SkiMo places lower demands on the upper body capacity, speed and strength compared with cross-country skiing. Upper body capacity is a small part of the total training volume, the contents of which tend to differ a bit between athletes.

Exciting future ahead

Development is pushed forward through increasingly sophisticated equipment, improved climbing skins for uphill travel, and technically advanced boots and bindings which allow both for effective uphill and demanding downhill. SkiMo, together with ski touring, are close to the original skiing ideal: to be able to travel on snow from one point to another in the wild, regardless of obstacles. The rising interest, and SkiMo’s inclusion in the Olympic programme 2026, will inevitably drive research and development forward, improve elite performance levels, enhance equipment and surface new analytic tools for training and competition. This will also benefit those that prefer ski touring without an overt competitive element.

Training tips

  • Two to three endurance sessions in hilly terrain with an elevated heart rate per week as running or roller skis with or without poles. Perform each session as 5×4 minutes intervals work to 3 minutes rest at 85 to 90% of your maximum heart rate
  • Two to five longer sessions per week at between 1.5 to 3 hours with poles in the shape of cross-country skiing, pole walking in hilly terrain or roller skis during the pre-season.
  • One to two strength sessions in the gym at 30 to 40 minutes per week, with two-three exercises for the whole body, and additional two-three exercises specifically for the core, and one specifically for the triceps.
  • Do a lot of skiing. If possible, train regularly on snow from November to May. A couple of weeks in the spring is ideal to develop capacity, improve technique and lay the foundations for the next season.
  • Practise downhill skiing in a variety of snow conditions and terrains.
  • Do a couple of technical sessions with frequent transitions between the uphill and downhill settings of your equipment. This can save time in a competition.


Important aspects of the equipment used in SkiMo competitions. Safety equipment and clothing designed to protect against cold conditions should be worn. Specific events may require extra equipment or clothing, depending on the aspects of the course or weather conditions. All equipment must be carried for the duration of the race and is liable for inspection at any time. (From the article “Ski Mountaineering: Perspectives on a Novel Sport to Be Introduced at the 2026 Olympic Games” in the scientific journal “Frontiers in Sport and Active Living”, 2021).

Link to article



Training for Ski Touring

Mikael Mattsson

Mikael Mattson is a scientist, author, lecturer, coach and active athlete. He holds a doctorate in physiology from Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and holds research positions at RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden) and Stanford University, Ca. Mikael’s research is focused on individualisation of physical training, specifically the individual adaptation for cardio-vascular fitness training, the effect of genetic foundations plus computational models and algorithms.

Training for Ski Touring

Ski touring can be seen as a combination of cross country skiing and alpine skiing. Fundamentally, these two forms place very different physical demands on the body, where cross country skiing requires mainly cardiovascular conditioning and alpine skiing requires muscular strength and lactic acid tolerance. If you come at this with a “whatever, I can bomb up and down all day at the ski hill, it’s no problem” attitude, you’ve missed the point that ski touring is materially different. The difference is of course that you have to make it to the summit by your own steam before you get to ski down. The fatigue this inevitably induces will worsen your downhill skiing capability. In other words, the better your fitness, the more power, energy and capability you’ll have left for the downhill.

What should you train?

The first thing you need to be aware of are the requirements. For example, on Pure Ski Touring’s trips, you’ll typically be expected to cover 600-1,700 vertical meters of ascent per day. As a reference, that’s roughly equivalent to 20 laps of Stockholm’s Hammarbybacken, or 16 laps of Yxbacken in Norrköping, 5 laps of Tärnaby, or just over 3 laps valley floor to summit in Sälenfjällen. The first step should always be to pick a trip with a load that’s suitable for you, and secondly, ensure that you’re sufficiently fit in order to be able to enjoy the downhills.

Local and central fitness

Fitness can be split into local and central levels. When we talk about the local level we refer to, amongst other things, the muscles and blood vessels at work in a specific movement. The central level is the heart, lungs and blood volume only available centrally, and so used for any activity. Local adaptation is specific solely to the muscles working, meaning that you improve what you work, so it follows that the best training for ski touring is doing more ski touring. Hence, in terms of fitness training, we want to ensure that we mimic as closely as possible the demands that ski touring places on the body. Even if your local ski hill is a tiny bump it will prove valuable to walk up and down it as soon as the snow cannons have sprayed it white. A more positive aspect is that central level training effects are transferable, meaning that if you’ve spent the time working your cardiovascular fitness through running, cycling or on a rowing machine on your local trails or in your garage you will reap the benefits on your ski tours, too. In order to make the training effective you need to work your heart properly, which means activating a large total muscle mass (corresponding to at least both legs working, as for example, when cycling), and that the training intensity is sufficient, meaning that the heart is worked, your heart rate is elevated and you’re properly out of breath.

Sprints and distance

Regardless of your fitness level, training variation is vital to ensure development. You need three different types of fitness training in your plan. The first is sprint or explosivity (max effort, 10-60s) for improving strength and speed (this also improves the strength and lactic acid tolerance you need for the downhill). The second is interval training (2-3 reps of 8-10 mins each) for improving your oxygen-transporting systems (central level, VO2-max and threshold). The third is distance or endurance training (steady effort for extended time periods) to get the body conditioned to heavy loads for long stretches (local factors), perhaps in the form of whole days of hill walking, ideally carrying a pack.

Strength conditioning

In addition to the strength effects from the explosivity training mentioned above, your strength should ideally be adapted to your specific needs. If you feel that your legs aren’t sufficiently strong, traditional strength training in the form of deep squats or similar might be appropriate. As you will be carrying around 10kgs on your back, plus ski gear on a ski tour, the demands on core stability and upper body strength are higher when ski touring compared with alpine skiing. Depending on your status, you may need to find exercises targeting specific muscle groups, but in general, look to exercises that improve full-body stability, like circuit training, crossfit or any other set-up that works for you.

Lactic acid

When it comes to downhill skiing and lactic acid tolerance, the training effect is specific, meaning that we want the training to match as closely as possible the required situations. You can of course sit in a 90-degree squat for as long as possible until your thighs are quivering in pain, but it’s more effective simply to go skiing. The more ski days you can accrue in the piste prior to your ski touring, the better your ability and experience will be.


If you want to get more out of your ski touring experience, and the fitness to tick off more summits, ensure that you lay the foundations with your pre-season training at home. Ensure you cover all physical aspects, such as cardiovascular fitness, strength and lactic acid tolerance. Cardiovascular fitness is the least specific and can be improved with just about any activity, provided that a large part of the body’s muscle mass is activated and that the intensity is high enough to raise your heart rate appropriately. Strength is more specific and should be adapted for your needs. If you think your legs are weaker, place extra focus on improvements there. Similarly, you can prioritise other exercises if you have a problem carrying a rucksack for extended time periods. The ability to handle downhill skiing and tolerate lactic acid requires the most specific training. This means that you’ll benefit from scheduling piste skiing days prior to your ski touring trips.

Reading tips

“Kondition & Uthållighet” by Mikael Mattsson & Filip Larsen. Published 2013 by SISU Idrottsböcker
“Träningsplanering” by Mikael Mattsson. Published 2014 by SISU Idrottsböcker
“Uthållighet – De tänjbara gränserna för din fysiska förmåga” by Alex Hutchinson. Published 2019 by Natur & Kultur
“Training for the Uphill Athlete” by Steve House, Scott Johnston & Kilian Jornet. Published 2019 by Patagonia

”Det räcker med Skäcker” is both a hashtag and a philosophy of life

Mattias Skantz

Mattias is a die-hard ski mountaineer. He skis at every level, both in theory and practice, but detests camping. Mattias has completed a multitude of impressive projects, including the ascent of 365 summits in a year, and in 2017 Mattias together with Henrik Westling completed the Stora Sarek traverse in the record time 21 hours. Here Mattias will introduce a personal favourite area for ski touring, Skäckerfjällen.

Skäckerfjällen, complete wilderness

Skäckerfjällen consists of 16 summits in a small, self-contained region. For Sweden, the summits are in unusually close vicinity of each other. All of them are situated in complete wilderness where the annual precipitation is an impressive 1,500mm. This makes Skäckerfjällen a peerless destination for ski touring. As the summits are close together, you can minimise unnecessary skiing on the flat. Each long run finishes right at the foot of the next ascent. You simply pick the next summit after the conditions and what type of skiing you’re looking for. As you come back to the car, suddenly you realise you’ve clocked up 2,500m of vertical ascent. And this without really noticing, as you were focused on simply enjoying the mountains and getting a few fun runs in.

Lots of snow and a long season

The annual snowfall here in the north-western Jämtland is enormous. Skäckerfjällen’s problem, if that’s what you want to call it, is that snow falls five out of every seven days. And given that there are no trees and all rocks snowed over there are absolutely no terrain references in bad weather. Total whiteout, in other words, so only travel here if the weather forecast is promising sun and good visibility. The area tends to be skiable from October to June, obviously with the best period March to May. Mid-May is perfect for long days or multi-day excursions in the area. The summits are around 1,200 m asl, so unfortunately the snow goes quickly when the summer heat really sets in around June compared with other high-alpine areas, like for example Sylarna where arguably June is the best month for skiing.

Start from Anjan or Kolåsen

Here is something for every taste bar those looking for trees. All summits have runs in at least four different directions. You’ll find everything from steep couloirs to extreme skiing via gentler runs in forgiving terrain to long slopes. Most ascents start where the winter path comes up from the road towards the village Anjan. A few others start from the village of Kolåsen. From the start at Anjan, the first summit will be Lill-Anjeskutan (1,152m asl) which gives 700m of vertical in fairly low-angled terrain. As you reach the summit you have a choice of directions. Towards Anjeskutan (1,201 m asl), maybe to Aahkantjahke or why not Mehkentjahke (1,208m asl)? Once within the area, most runs give around 500m of vertical.

Best summits

If you prefer forgiving terrain, pick either the south-east face of Lill-Anjeskutan (1,152m asl), or the north-east face of Aahkantjahke. If long, flowy runs are your thing, aim for the north face of Sandfjället, all the way down to the valley floor at Rutsdalen. The south-west face of Mehkentjahkes (1,208m asl) down towards Strydalen is another such suggestion, as is the south-east face of Opmedtjahke (1,197m asl). For steep couloirs and extreme skiing, head for the south and south-west faces of Aahkantjahke with hairraising couloirs down precipices. Another steep run is the Opmedstjahke-couloiur (1,197m asl) which is found directly above Sockertoppen’s wind shelter. Skier’s left of the couloir there are good practice areas for those in training for the World Freeride Tour and others who enjoy steep skiing amongst cliffs and sheer drops. And a final bonus tip, the north face of Sockertoppen (1,210m asl) gives sustained, steep skiing, often with good powder.

Will we be forced to stop skiing for the sake of the climate?

Olle Torpman

Olle holds a Phd in practical philosophy, is a researcher and author of the book “Miljöetik: från problem till lösning” (Environmental ethics: from problems to solutions). He’s an associate of Stockholm University, and the think tank Institute for Future Studies. Olle’s primary research interest is how climate change and our moral obligations interconnect.

No matter what we do, our actions have impacts on the climate. This is true for skiing, too. The skiing itself is largely unproblematic, but the connected activities often create a climatic imprint, not least in the cases where we fly or drive a petrol-fuelled car to our destination. With this said one can ponder if those of us who ski ought to feel “ski shame” along the lines of the talk of those that fly ought to feel “flight shame”, and that those that have children ought to feel “child shame”. Perhaps we must stop skiing completely for the sake of the climate?

The short answer to this is: no. Firstly, generally speaking, it’s very dubious if shaming is an effective tool in order to create a more sustainable world. There are better methods available to us if the aim is to get people to live more climate sustainable lives. Secondly — and the point I’m focusing on here — it’s perfectly possible to make your skiing more sustainable. Naturally, this isn’t about changing the stance on your skis, but to consider more carefully how we plan our ski trips.

To give a few examples, clearly it’s better to take longer, but fewer ski trips, than more, shorter ones. In other words, a continuous two-week trip is better than several long weekends over the season. Additionally, taking the train to the destination is better than flying, and to favour destinations closer to you, rather than more remote. Hence, a train journey to Åre or the Alps is better than a flight to Canada or Iceland. It’s of course also more sustainable to purchase small amounts of second-hand equipment than to get large amounts of new stuff. These points may appear self-evident. The question remains how far you need to take this. Is it sufficient for me to adhere to some of these suggestions? How can you make climate-smart decisions around your skiing?

According to calculations done by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Earth’s atmosphere can absorb around 11 billion tons of greenhouse gasses annually. This is the amount we can generate without jeopardising the Earth’s climate. This means that we can generate between 1 and 2 tons of greenhouse gasses per person per year. We can reasonably assert that it’s up to each and one of us exactly how we choose to spend our personal carbon dioxide budget. The climate won’t care how you release your greenhouse gasses or how they’re generated. In terms of the climate, the only thing that matters is that we stay within the boundaries defined by what volumes can be absorbed naturally by the system. This means that we can counteract the extra volumes generated by our ski trips by reducing volumes generated by other activities. Those that reduce their flying generally, reduce their meat consumption, have fewer children, refrain from driving a petrol or Diesel car (or refrain from driving a car completely), or simply consume less, in a more sustainable way, will be able to spend more of their personal carbon dioxide budget on activities they find interesting.

Those familiar with the climate figures will likely still feel downbeat by this line of reasoning. Unfortunately it’s very difficult to stay within the carbon dioxide budget that our Earth dictates. Even those that stop eating meat, stop flying and stop driving etc will most likely still exceed their allocated quota. Simply living in a welfare state, in an industrialised nation implies considerable emissions. However, there is a small light at the end of this tunnel. It is still the case that those that make an effort to curb their emissions in general will exceed their carbon quota less than those that don’t. Perhaps you wonder how this is at all relevant. Why does it matter if I reduce my emissions if in the end I will still exceed my carbon budget more than what morals allow? There are two simple responses to this question. Firstly, it’s more morally defensible to do less wrong than more wrong. This is simply a matter of the wrong acts having different consequences in terms of suffering and damage. This holds true also for climate issues. By doing our best to reduce our climate impact we contribute to pushing the climate change effects forward in time. Hopefully this can buy us time to innovate or research techniques and solutions to both capture already emitted carbon volumes, and to ensure that we no longer need to emit carbon into the atmosphere in the first place. It can also give us time to adapt to living with the climate change we have already caused.

Secondly, thankfully it’s possible to compensate for our emissions in a more traditional manner. Through various methods it’s possible to absorb some of the unavoidable carbon emissions. Examples of this are through the planting of trees and through technology transfer. When it comes to tree planting, this is less about you being out planting seedlings yourself, and more about engaging established professional outfits that can do this on a more industrial scale. When it comes to technology transfer, this is about replacing for example coal-, wood- or oil-fired power and heat generation with greener alternatives such as solar or wind.

Climate compensation as an industry has had to face strong criticism lately, and it’s certainly true that it’s not entirely unproblematic. If not done correctly it can create injustices and even miss out on the climate advantages which was its primary objective. But the criticism isn’t always that relevant. Just because climate compensation becomes problematic if the Swedish state (or Swedish corporations) buy up land for tree planting in Uganda, it doesn’t follow that it’s therefore also problematic if we do the same in our own backyard. We have ample space available for national reforestation. And even if tree planting abroad can be problematic, it doesn’t follow that technology transfer abroad is problematic in the same way. Donating photovoltaic facilities to villages in Africa, for example, means that families there no longer have to be out collecting firewood in order to be able to cook, and will also provide evening time illumination. This, in turn, makes it easier for children to do their homework in the evenings. Such forms of climate compensation are anything but problematic.

All in all it’s therefore not an impossibility to stay within the carbon emission budget. It still requires us all to reduce our climate unfriendly activities, and that we climate compensate for the emissions we cannot avoid. Those that do so can carry on skiing without shame.

Don’t take ski touring pictures, create them

Fredrik Schenholm

Fredrik is an award-winning adventure photographer and qualified geologist. He photographs both commercially and editorially, and teaches photography, too. Fredrik’s pictures have been published all over the world by companies and publications such as National Geographic, Outside Magazine, Bergans of Norway, Subaru Cars and Fjällräven. He’s worked on six continents, from 7,000m of altitude in the Himalayas to 120m below the surface in an Icelandic magma chamber. Fredrik is also the founder of Snösä and Detvildagö and lives with his wife and two children in Gothenburg.

Photography is a love affair with the mountains

There are several aspects that contribute to making ski touring something extraordinary. Nature, the challenge and the sense of freedom are some of them. Shadows traipsing across beautiful mountain faces. Clouds creating drama in the big sky. The winds injecting dynamism into the otherwise placid landscape. These are experiences that few get to enjoy, yet as ski tourers, we’re right in their midst. We don’t have a choice – we have to experience them. The interplay between wind, clouds and shadows. We’re outside during long days where nature’s characteristics are in constant flux. To capture these as images is a grand challenge. But with a bit of will and a modicum of thought it can work well. It’s up to you and me to mediate, because nature will always play her part.

The photographer makes the picture, not the camera

Mobile phone, compact camera, hybrid camera or system camera? Call it what you will. How are you supposed to navigate this particular equipment jungle? When it comes down to it, the equipment is less important than what you do with it. Today we’re spoilt by beautiful photographs on Instagram and Facebook. Many of these are shot with high-quality mobile phone cameras. It’s both quick and convenient to capture photographs with your mobile phone. Hower, this is also its Achilles’ heel. Sometimes it’s just too quick and easy. No love is spent during the photography act.

It’s the thought that counts

Unless you also have a thought behind your shot, neither a novel composition, nor attractive lighting will result in a good picture. Neither will the use of a compact camera or system camera. But sometimes it can be an advantage to carry a larger, more cumbersome camera on a ski tour. Partly because in doing so you put a degree of pressure on yourself to actually take some pictures, and partly because such cameras do offer greater flexibility and picture quality. The important thing is to obtain the equipment that suits you. But even more important is to actually pull the camera out and capture some images.

There are no shortcuts

It’s a challenge to capture that perfect and beautiful ski touring picture. I’m always counting on additional physical exertions beyond those required by the ski tour itself. Something I always do is to take myself off from the group in order to capture the small people in the grand and beautiful environment. This means that I eventually have to get myself back to the group, which then by all accounts will have moved on from me a fair bit. It often also means extra time. Both the time taken to divert from the fastest route to the summit, but also time taken away from the mental meditation that is part of what ski touring offers. Since I always watch and think about nature’s interplay, I rarely get into that relaxing meditative groove. But the challenge to find the different angles and beautiful light is a strong driver.

Distance from the group gives closeness to nature

There are a few golden tricks to ensure your pictures stand out. The one I use the most is to put distance between myself and the group in order to capture small people against striking surroundings. It’s not a mountain guide’s dream scenario to let participants strike out on their own, but if you demonstrate an interest in photography and have a dialog, guides can often find safe segments of the tour where this is possible. Where you need to remain in the group you can find amusing angles for your shots. Between the legs, through your goggles, or why not along the skis. That way you can include unusual elements in the picture which help capture the attention of the viewer.

Frilägg det lilla och komponera mera

Friläggning är ett annat trix som kan göra bilder väldigt rena och vackra. Ett exempel är när någon går på en kam och är placerad rent och fint mot himlen i bakgrunden. Då framhävs det viktiga. Personen i bilden. Eller som tidigare nämnts, den lilla människan i den mäktiga miljön. Och sist men inte minst. Komposition. Tänk på att alltid lägga horisontlinjen i övre eller under tredjedelen av bilden. Det enkla knepet skiljer verkligen agnarna från vetet. Men det kanske bästa rådet för att fotografera bättre är att hitta glädjen med att ta bilder.

Photography is great but pictures in your computer is better

I struggle to enjoy a ski tour without my camera equipment. Nature’s always at play with the light, and when that magic opportunity presents itself, I want to capture it. Photography is for me both a blessing and a curse. My obsession has made it more difficult for me to truly enjoy and experience nature. But the reward comes from the hunting and seeking. That I constantly during the ski tour seek unique compositions and light conditions to capture that perfect picture. And when suddenly everything falls into place, the combination of the person, the light and nature, the high is incredible. Then I know that if I’ve had a good day on the mountain with the camera the real photographic reward awaits once I’ve uploaded the pictures onto the computer. Try it, I promise it’s worth it!

Reach your summits easier and in safety with a mountain guide

Mikael Amlert

Mikael Amlert has been a certified mountain guide since 2003. He was previously part of the mountain rescue team in Kiruna/Kebnekaise. Since 2013 he’s been the chair of the Swedish Mountain Guide Association (Svenska Bergsguideorganisationen, SBO). Mikael works in all the diverse competency fields of the mountain guide, ranging from polar expeditions to complex ropework at height and below ground. He also works as an advisor and consultant to companies and organisations with missions in complex environments and as a lecturer.

Mountain Guide is a certified profession

A certified mountain guide’s competencies and fields of expertise can be found within all disciplines of alpinism and mountaineering. Mountain guides lead, educate and coach their clients, and examples of engagements can involve trekking, mountaineering, glaciated travel, ice climbing, rock climbing, off-piste skiing, ski touring, avalanche training, expeditions at high altitude, or to the polar regions. A certified mountain guide will display their badge whilst working, and will also carry their professional ID. Certified mountain guides also hold the so called European Professional Card (EPC) which is an electronic work permit valid within the EU. EPC is a recognition of the status of the profession and makes possible the freedom of movement over national borders typical of a mountain guide’s work.

SBO educates mountain guides

Svenska Bergsguideorganisationen (SBO) is one of 25 member nations in the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA) which is a global professional organisation representing close to 6,000 certified mountain guides world-wide. Since 1990, the SBO has educated certified mountain guides for work in Sweden, Scandinavia and across the world.  Under SBO’s auspices, since the start in 1990, around 60 mountain guides have completed the course and qualified to become internationally certified IFMGA mountain guides. Apart from educating and certifying mountain guides, SBO also works to improve mountain safety generally, and specifically for an increase in  sustainable and responsible leadership professions in mountains and outdoor pursuits. Questions regarding clarity in responsibility and authority within risk sports are important areas for SBO.

Anyone can hire a mountain guide

Guides don’t just work for private individuals and travel agencies. The mountain guide’s competencies and expertise are requirements when it comes to many tasks within rescue, avalanche safety, risk management and expeditions for authorities and organisations.  Guides work with all kinds of people based on their respective experiences. A mountain guide’s customers will include everyone from complete beginners who seek a safe and effective introduction to a new activity, to groups of experienced skiers who want professional set-ups with complex objectives and clear development paths. Many countries have for a long time had strict laws and regulations in place mandating responsibility and authority for leaders in risk activities. Also in Sweden there is an increased awareness within government, organisations and the general public for strict demands on leadership roles within risk activity in mountain and outdoor pursuits, regardless if these are happening in a commercial or not for profit setting. In some places in the world you’re not allowed to travel in certain terrain unless accompanied by a certified mountain guide.

The mountain guide is your personal risk manager

Skiing and climbing can never be completely risk-free, as the activities themselves have inherent risks. But with a mountain guide, participants get an experienced, professional and certified risk manager for all more or less risk-filled goals in the mountains they have set out to accomplish either as an individual or as part of a group, which of course includes ski touring. One of the clearest arguments for hiring a certified mountain guide is that the guide always has safety as the primary priority. But safety for skiers and climbers means more than simply finding the right route in the right way. Safety is more complex than that, especially in a group with others.

Accomplish your goals whilst saving both time and effort

The more planning and preparations that a participant or customer can delegate to their guide, the more time the participants get to relax and enjoy the activity in an optimal way. The guide creates an open and positive climate in the group, and everyone is encouraged to take part in discussions about ambitions and goals. For both established groups of friends and more temporary groupings it’s beneficial to have a competent leader established in advance. This is the single most important factor for a successful and safe mountain adventure. Regardless of if the guide’s assignment is a single day’s worth of activity or several months’ worth of expedition to one of the remote ranges, they will always ensure they get the best possible conditions for the group to achieve its ambitions in as safe as possible way and that the individual ambitions and abilities are matched against the overall requirements and conditions. Part of the guide’s responsibility is also to always have a backup plan in the case that something goes wrong.

Let the mountain guide be responsible for the difficult decisions

The guide is your dedicated leader, and you don’t hire the guide just for their local knowledge and ability to, for example, find the best snow conditions, but also for goal setting, coordination of ambitions and to be the final authority in making the decisions that concern the group’s joint safety and comfort. The guide manages this by amongst other things creating an understanding of your or the group’s capabilities and to set goals and boundaries matching the current conditions. The way that guides make their judgements are quality assured, and guides are specialists in group management in exposed and complex mountain terrain. An important component of this is the ability to describe and communicate risk and to ensure that participants can challenge themselves in a positive manner.

Exploit the many competencies of the guide

Mountain guides are pedagogues and experts in their domains and are more than happy to share advice and tips on how you can develop your skiing or climbing. View your mountain guide as your private ski or climbing instructor, but also as someone with whom you can discuss clothing or equipment choices. If you mainly take part in activities as an individual, your guide can match you with others of a similar ability and as such create the best possible opportunities for many successful and exciting tours in the future. The guide is always happy to share information about local culture and if you wish you can at the same time learn about the local nature in all its diverse forms. The guide can also help with ensuring that your next adventure is achieved in the most environmentally sustainable way possible.

The role of the mountain guide when arranging ski tours

The role of the mountain guide in arranged ski tours (for example Pure Ski Touring) is to free the organiser from questions surrounding the activity itself. That leaves time and energy for the organiser to focus on leading effectively the event and to offer the guests the best possible service and care. The guides ensure that all participants regardless of ability or previous experience end up in the right place and get the same positive experience irrespective of level. From  the guides’ perspective, it’s convenient to be able to focus fully on their craft of preparing their guests for the next day’s adventure and be able to leave the logistics to someone else to handle. In the unlikely event that a participant should require evacuation off the mountain, the guides will ensure the fastest, most effective rescue possible.

Safer ski touring, fewer avalanches

Stefan Mårtensson

Stefan has worked professionally with avalanches for more than twenty years. Apart from his day job as an avalanche consultant, Stefan is also a researcher at Luleå University of Technology, working towards his doctorate on the topic. “The more I know, the less I understand” is Stefan’s own, humble relationship to avalanches. This is why his favourite season is summer and that avalanches look best on YouTube.

How dangerous is off-piste skiing, really?

With off-piste skiing we can refer to both lift-served off-piste runs and proper ski tours. We don’t know for sure how dangerous an activity this is as we don’t have reliable data on how many skiers actually ski off-piste. However, a good estimate of the risk is the number of deaths: 18.6 per million ski days. This is equivalent to around two deaths per 100,000 ski days, which is a similar level to participating in the Vasaloppet cross country ski race. We do know more about the reasons for the deaths, and avalanches are by far the most common cause of death.

What makes avalanches dangerous?

Out of those swept away by an avalanche, approximately one in every four/five will die, making it more risky than Russian roulette. Russian roulette is “played” with a revolver with a live round in one of its six chambers, the cylinder is spun, and the revolver fired against the side of your own head. As such, Russian roulette implies a deadly outcome in one of six cases, a risk that is still preferable to that of being swept away by an avalanche. If your head and chest is buried, the death rate increases by a staggering 2-3% per minute. Avoiding getting caught by avalanches is therefore by far the single most important issue. If you do get caught, the most important point is to avoid getting buried. Failing that, the last resort is to ensure that you can be found and dug out as quickly as possible.

Avoiding avalanches 1 – become knowledgeable

Almost all avalanche accidents are caused by the skier or someone in their group. In other words, your own behaviour is central when it comes to avalanche avoidance. Fortunately, it seems that even a modest amount of knowledge improves your chances. Examples of such knowledge are the ability to understand an avalanche forecast and being able to correctly judge the angle of a slope. For us ski tourers this is of extra importance, as statistics show that we are more likely to trigger larger avalanches with more burials. To add insult to injury, our decision making and route finding is impaired when it comes to avalanche avoidance during the ascent.

Avoiding avalanches 2 – avalanche problem management

Roughly speaking, an avalanche forecast is made up of two main parts. The first part concerns the current avalanche risk as the more general danger across a larger region. The second part describes the “personality” of the presumed avalanches, such as size, probability, and most likely aspect (altitudes and facing directions). The latter is referred to as “avalanche problems”    and consists of two main types, the first being simple and transient, and the second being difficult and persistent avalanche problems.

An example of a simple avalanche problem is wind slabs. They are easy to spot, they tell you if they are unstable, and various tests work effectively when assessing them. A wind slab usually breaks in close vicinity to the skier, and a resulting avalanche is usually limited in size. In practical terms you can manage wind slabs by being observant for cracks and visible slabs, employing various tests and keeping your slope steepness below 35 degrees.

An example of a difficult avalanche problem is persistent slabs. They’re invisible, usually dead in terms of feedback, and there are no reliable test techniques to spot them. Persistent slabs can be triggered remotely and will usually be large. Persistent slabs are managed by consistently sticking to slopes below 25 degrees.

Avoiding avalanches 3 – understand your brain

A significant contributing factor in avalanche accidents is our brain’s tendency to be lazy and sometimes take short cuts. Six rough rules of thumb to be aware of are contained in the acronym FACETS:

Familiarity: we tend to believe that a given behaviour is correct as we’ve done it before.
Acceptance: we want to be accepted by our peer group
Commitment: we press on in the face of signs telling us this isn’t correct
Expert Halo: we tend to judge expertise on vague grounds, such as age, training, looks and charisma.
Tracks: where we perceive there is a shortage of something, we naturally tend to compete for it.
Social Proof: if someone else has done something, this justifies us doing it, too.

Ensure you’re not fully buried

No off-piste skier should be without an avalanche backpack. Correctly deployed, an avalanche backpack reduces the death rate by half (to one in nine or ten). By tugging on a handle it inflates one or two big balloons with a volume of 150l or more. The skier then becomes a much larger particle and the snow’s motion will tend to push larger particles towards the top of the avalanche. By ending up closer to the surface it is more likely that your airways are still clear, or at least not buried as deep once the avalanche halts.

Enable fast excavation

If all the above points have failed, and someone has ended up fully buried in an avalanche the situation is serious. We have to firstly locate our buried comrade (or comrades), and secondly, excavate them. To locate someone, you need a transceiver and probe. In its default setting, a transceiver works as a transmitter, which can be switched to receiver mode in the case of an accident. Transceiver search is tricky, and needs to be thoroughly practiced both before and during the season. But even so, locating someone is still the easy part. What takes up the most time is excavating someone. To dig someone out fast and efficiently  requires a good shovel, a good methodology and plenty of practice. Prior to any ski tour, all group members should train both search and excavation, to master not just the transceiver but also the probe and shovel before they’re needed.

The idea with transceiver, probe and shovel is predicated on ensuring that the rest of the group aren’t also dragged along by the avalanche. Safe off-piste skiing is therefore a solitary sport where a single skier at a time skis an exposed slope. Downhill, this is usually not particularly problematic: as one person skis, the rest of the group waits in a safe location, either at the top or the bottom of the run. But during the ascent phase of a ski tour it’s much trickier, as the group must maintain distances both horizontally and vertically. As you turn, it’s often the case that you end up in a straight line above or below someone else on the same slope.


The most significant danger when ski touring is avalanches. To be swept away by an avalanche is more dangerous than Russian roulette. In terms of avalanche avoidance it’s vital to understand the avalanche forecast, and being able to judge the aspect and steepness of a slope. It pays to understand your own behaviour as part of a group and to always carry an avalanche backpack. Practice diligently and frequently your use of the safety equipment. Maintain your fitness, too. The fitter you are, the better your decision making becomes, the faster you can run with a transceiver, and the quicker you can dig with your shovel.

Choosing touring boots

Gustav Corin

Gustav is a trained ski racer, although he’s abandoned that path for a while. He’s now a top level freeskier, and tours as much as he can. He’s worked in a ski rental shop for many years. Apart from skiing at every opportunity, he also works as a freelance journalist for Freeride.

There has been something of a ski boot revolution over the last four-five seasons. Almost every available freeride-oriented boot today comes with a walk mode and tech inserts. One major contributing factor for this is the rando trend. There is no longer any reason to compromise on your boots, and given the wide selection available, a test was in order.

Who am I?

I’m a trained ski racer, but have abandoned this in favour of free riding at a high level. I ski tour as much as I can. As a shop worker (I’ve worked in a ski rental shop for many years), it’s vital for me that boots are easy to repair. It should be easy to replace buckles and fix walk mode mechanisms. Ideally with basic tools and without having to pull fingers out of joint. I take a size 25.5, stand about 180cm tall in my socks and weigh in at 65-70kg.

How did I test?

I’ve skied every boot model both up and down hill. At least a full day in each pair. Other equipment and snow conditions have varied, but I’ve strived to keep everything as level as possible. As a reference, I have narrow feet and prefer a tight fit with a stiff, but not dead flex and a good walk mode. By good walk mode I mean that I can take normal strides without the boot limiting me. A good, all-round boot should function well both on lighter skis and bindings and more sturdy freeride guns.

Not every boot works for every skier

A male skier of 90kgs could in theory get on with most of the boots I’ve written about here. He’d without doubt be able to ski the Dalbello Lupo Factory Carbon, as they’re the stiffest. But not every boot will work for every skier, that’s just a fact. It’s up to you how much you choose to prioritise the ski boot weight. If you weigh 90kgs and ski fast and forcefully, more or less every sub-1,500g pair will be too weak, but it’s up to the individual skier to decide how important this is. It’s still possible to ski, but perhaps not at the highest level. On the other hand, lightweight touring skis and bindings will also limit a forceful, 90kg skier, so in that context perhaps the boots matter less? Regardless of philosophy, the most important aspect is that the boot fits your feet well, which should always be the number one priority.

The flex number isn’t everything

To pick a boot with as high a high flex number (harder/stiffer) as possible is meaningless on its own. This is based on the fact that touring boots have traditionally been flexier than what’s required for forceful free riding and so skiers have tended to look for stiffer boots that are tourable. But ski boots shouldn’t be stiff as a post and dead, they need to be able to bend and flex. How stiff you want your boots is a very personal preference, and what works well for one skier will not necessarily work for the next. The flex of a boot isn’t just its stiffness, but also more specifically how it flexes. Two-piece and three-piece boots have completely different feels, and neither one is better than the other.

Don’t just choose your boot, but also your skis, to suit your riding

To choose your boot to fit your ski, or your ski to fit your boot, that is the question. However, it’s not as simple as stiffer boots are always better, or that stiffer boots only work with stiff skis. A boot pair with flex 130 should most likely work with most freeride-oriented skis on the market today, unless they’re extraordinarily heavy (there are examples of this). A lightweight, soft boot on a pair of stiff, heavy skis will make turning more difficult and the skis feel heavier than they are. But in saying that, stiff boots will work on all skis, lightweight and heavy, soft or stiff. There, instead the problem is that the skier carts around too much weight on their feet, and perhaps is tempted to push harder than appropriate. A stiff, well-fitting boot inspires confidence,  but if you combine them with a lightweight ski with a lightweight binding you might not be able to deal with all kinds of skiing. I don’t believe in picking a ski to match your boots, but rather that you need to choose both skis and boots together with the type of skiing you intend to do in mind. What this means isn’t crystal clear, so I’m looking to write a guide on the topic for Åka Skidor magazine (probably autumn 2019). It will show examples of combinations of boot-binding-ski that work well together.

Custom cast insoles are required

Custom insoles change much for the positive. Indeed, they can actually solve many problems with a bit of luck. In other cases they should at least improve boot comfort. I will however state in no uncertain terms that as a serious skier (or guide), custom insoles are a hard requirement. There are two main brands, BootDoc and Sidas. I can’t say that one is any better than the other. There are different types of insoles, too, full custom and part custom. In most cases, full custom are better, but part custom are definitely better than the stock insoles that came with your boot inners. In my experience no one specific insole is best for every use case. To ensure the best outcome, it’s important to choose a store with very experienced fitting staff. Also important to remember is to remove your insoles when drying your boots.

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

Train uphill and you’ll have more fun downhill

Erik Wickström

Erik Wickström is the managing editor of the “Vasalöparen” magazine and also works as a lecturer, cross-country ski instructor, personal trainer, writer and photographer. He has authored the books “Längdskidåkning för dig” and “Smart konditionsträning”. Erik’s specialist area is training optimisation for non-professional athletes and he’s a sought-after coach and lecturer. On Erik’s list of athletic achievements there is a first place in the Engelbrektsloppet and a 25th place in Vasaloppet itself. He’s represented Sweden in roller ski, duathlon and winter triathlon.

When ski touring, you walk uphill for several hours, only to ski down again in a fraction of that time. It follows that the larger part of your training should involve improving your ability to walk uphill. But how should you best train to prepare for your ski touring winter? Here are some tips!

Train like a cross-country skier

Traditional cross country training can benefit you as a ski tourer. But as you won’t get as  much use of the poling technique, and the fact that a fair few other details are different, don’t simply copy any cross country training program you can find. Arguably, the two main training forms that are relevant to ski tourers are ski walking and the diagonal stride, but with some significant differences:

  • The equipment for ski touring is considerably heavier, which amongst other things places higher demands on the hip flexors (iliopsoas)
  • You don’t lift the skis at the back end of the stride as for cross country, which reduces the demands for balance and weight transfer
  • The poles are shorter, and you don’t generate as much power from them, meaning that your upper body strength isn’t as important
  • The terrain isn’t as varied as a cross country track, meaning that the uphills are longer
  • You carry a backpack, which places stringent demands on your posture

Off-season training is of course not just about ski training. As you’ll see from the training programme below, it’s also vital to strengthen your musculature in order to carry yourself and your equipment uphill. If you are already training in ways you enjoy, don’t stop doing what you’re doing, but don’t forget a few high intensity sessions each week to heighten your heart rate, and a couple of strength sessions for your legs each week.

Walk with poles uphill

“Ski walking” is probably the most relevant training form for the ski tourer. The only equipment you need is a pair of running shoes and normal ski poles, ideally 35cm shorter than body length for those of you that are short, and 40cm shorter for those of you that are taller. There are multiple gains from ski walking. Firstly, it’s a simple way to get worked out: regardless how you do it, walking up a long uphill is tiring. This means that it’s a simple way to collect high intensity training minutes with elevated heart rate. Secondly, it’s a good way to build strength, primarily in the legs, but also in the upper body. Thirdly, the movement pattern mimics that of the uphill element of ski touring. Fourthly, the low impact nature of this training form means that it’s benign on the body, and many athletes with injuries preventing them from running find that they’re fine walking up and down a hill.

Ski walking technique tips

On a ski tour you don’t extend the motions in the same way as you do in cross country skiing. You also don’t have to push so hard with the poles. In order to activate larger muscle groups when ski walking, try to imagine that you have a pair of cross country skis under your feet. Strive to extend forward the lower part of the leg, and work on your hip rotation just like you do in the diagonal stride when cross country skiing. Ensure you put effort in with your arms. Really pull through, and release the pole backwards by opening up your hands behind the body.

Three ski walking variants

  1. To vary the technique you can actually simulate the poling action when ski walking, by pulling the poles in parallel every third stride. For this exercise, “poling ski walk”, it’s better if your poles are slightly longer. It is a great workout for your abs. Your legs still work as for the diagonal stride, so you might need to try it a few times to get the coordination right. 
  2. The “mincing ski walk” is a variant which is best performed with bounce and explosivity in 10-15s intervals followed by at least a minute of rest in between. You “bounce” forward with max effort on a gentle gradient with a technique similar to the diagonal stride. This approach usually generates an inordinate amount of lactic acid which can be a useful reminder for the coming winter’s downhilling. 
  3. The “moosey amble” is a mix between the normal and mincing ski walks. Amble (like a moose) in a ski-like fashion up the hill, which should feel more taxing than the normal ski walk style.

Choose the right hill for your training

Ideally, try to find long hills for your ski walking, so that you can walk uphill for at least three minutes before turning around for the next repetition. If you live in a flat area you can instead use the mincing form, or the moosey amble, or mix in  these forms more in the intervals. If your chosen hill is steep, you can also zig-zag your way up the hill, just like in winter.

Training programme, even weeks

Day 1 – Ski walking
15 mins warm-up, followed by 5x4min intervals (more if your hill is shorter). Alternate between ski walk, poling ski walk and moosey amble. Recover between intervals by walking or a gentle jog down. Carry a backpack weighted with 5-10kg throughout the whole session, except the warm-up and cooldown phases. Finish with a gentle 10min of cooldown. 

Day 2 – Strength conditioning
30 mins of strength training (pushups, deadlifts, squats, situps), followed by 30 mins in a ski-erg/cross trainer/rowing machine in a gentle pace but with heavy resistance. Add in a 10s sprint every 5 mins. 

Day 3 – Running
90 mins of semi-hard cross country run in rolling terrain, carrying poles (or equivalent session on rollerskis).

Training programme, odd weeks

Day 1 – Ski walking
10 mins warm-up followed by short intervals, ambling for 15s and 15s of gentle jogging back down. Carry on with this for 10 mins, followed by 5 minutes of jogging before another 10 mins of 15-15s intervals. Finish with 5 mins gentle jog for your cooldown (with or without poles)

Day 2 – Indoor intervals (erg training)
10 mins warm-up, followed by 10x500m intervals on a ski-erg/cross trainer/rowing machine with heavy resistance and 1 min rest between intervals. Finish with 5 mins cooldown on easy resistance.  

Day 3 – Explosivity
90 mins brisk walk, carrying a backpack weighing 5-10kg and poles in rolling terrain. At the half-way point, stop and perform the following exercises for 20 mins (with a 1 min rest between sets):

  1. 20x one-legged jumps, alternating sets left and right leg
  2. 10x lunges, alternating the leading leg. Let the trailing leg’s knee touch the ground on every repetition
  3. Three consecutive bunny hops. Measure the total distance, and feel free to compete against your own results or those of a training partner
  4. 10x skate jumps. Jump upwards and sidewards with one leg, landing on the other. Remain standing on the landing leg for a few seconds to find the proper balance point. Bend down deeply to start the next jump.