Ski touring has been gaining popularity recently, undoubtedly influenced by the pandemic and the associated restrictions.
Snow sports enthusiasts, looking to compensate for closed ski resorts, have fallen in love with ski touring. How to start skiing on touring skis and where to find interesting ski touring routes in Wisła?
Skitouring – what is it?
What is ski touring, or in the Polish version, skituring? It's nothing more than a combination of winter mountain tourism and skiing, the best way to move around snowy mountains. Ski touring involves hiking, climbing, and downhill skiing - all under your own power, without lifts, cable cars, or tow ropes.
As a result, the equipment you need is quite different from what we are familiar with in cross-country or downhill skiing. Ski touring can be done practically anywhere, although as we know, Polish mountains offer unforgettable experiences.
How do skis differ from cross-country and downhill skis?
"Ski touring is something between cross-country skis and downhill skis," says Jakub Glajcar, an instructor of downhill and ski touring. "Cross-country skis have very low edges because they are used to cover long distances. These skis won't grip well on the snow when attempting turns. Ski touring skis are a bit wider, and that's because cross-country skis are usually used on specially prepared trails. When you go ski touring, you go into wild terrain. Nobody has groomed it with a snow groomer before us, so these skis need to be a bit wider so they don't sink into the snow," explains the instructor.
Ski touring skis are also lighter than downhill skis, making it easier to climb uphill.
What does ski touring gear look like and how much does it cost?
An essential part of this sport is skins, which are special coverings for skis. They are flexible straps of material that are put on or glued to the skis. Without skins, you won't be able to climb steep slopes because the skis will slide on the snow. To descend, you usually need to remove the skins unless you're dealing with varied terrain where ascents and descents alternate frequently. In that case, it's worth choosing skins with the right amount of friction, so you don't have to put them on and take them off each time, as it can be quite cumbersome.
Why do we call these pieces of material "skins"? Well, the precursors of ski touring were the Eskimos, and they noticed that seal fur behaves differently when stroked with the grain and against the grain. Seal skin attached to skis served as a brake.
Another important element of ski touring equipment is boots. They are something between cross-country and downhill ski boots. In ski touring boots, ankle mobility is necessary to facilitate climbing. However, the boots must also be stiff enough to provide good support during descents.
Of course, the most important aspect of ski touring is the skis. Beginners who are starting their adventure with this sport usually choose heavier skis that provide better control. Those participating in ski touring competitions use thinner and lighter skis. In their case, maneuverability is worse, but speed is essential.
"Professional ski touring is a rather expensive sport. For amateurs, you can buy equipment at a reasonable price. Used boots on OLX cost around 2,000 PLN. The price of skis starts at 800 PLN. A reasonable pair of skins can be purchased for around 400 PLN. When getting poles, you can choose adjustable ones or ones specifically tailored to your height for around 100-300 PLN," calculates Jakub Glajcar.
Bindings are crucial; you can choose frame bindings, where you clip in regular ski boots – but this is not a very convenient solution. Much better options are pin bindings, for which you need typical ski touring boots. For descents, you clip the heel and lock it, while for ascents, the ski moves freely, similar to cross-country skis.
Of course, more advanced ski touring enthusiasts can purchase additional ski touring equipment: probes and an avalanche backpack, an ice axe, crampons, a harness, or a rope.
What to wear for ski touring?
Another important element of ski touring, and at the same time a significant challenge, is clothing because you need to dress appropriately for the ski touring route. On the one hand, your body overheats when climbing, while during descents on windy days, it rapidly cools down.
"You need to choose clothing in such a way that it is relatively loose. It shouldn't be something super thick. Clothing needs to protect against the cold during descents. Unfortunately, such clothing is expensive, and it's hard to buy something good in popular sports stores," says the instructor.
Ski touring course in Wisła
People often ask if ski tours are for everyone and how to start with this sport? It turns out that even beginners who have never had skis on their feet can manage on the route. However, the most important thing is ski touring training on the trail. "Sometimes, I have people with no significant experience in winter sports on my courses. However, that's not a problem. The most important thing is to choose the right techniques and terrain where even amateurs can handle themselves. Trying to figure things out on your own often leads to mistakes, and there's no one to correct us, which can be tiring. Therefore, it's a good idea to start with a ski touring course," says Jakub Glajcar.
The basic course lasts from 4 to 6 hours and is planned so that participants can rest in a mountain hut during it. With more advanced groups, Mr. Jakub travels to the Tatras and the Alps. Those interested can contact him via the Skiturowa Wisła Facebook profile or by phone: 664-163-663.
Ski touring routes in Wisła
You can practice ski touring almost anywhere. But, as it happens, a good starting point for ski touring trips is the Vestina Hotel in Wisła. "You can head to Cieńków and from there continue towards the cabin on Wyśnia. It's a nice place because we're still circling around the valley, but we can quickly descend and get to the town. You can also go from Vestina through Klepki and from there get to the top of Czupel, a very interesting place, although with a steep ascent," says the instructor.
When looking for ski touring routes, you can also use Traseo by entering the keyword "ski touring routes Wisła."
Hotel near ski touring routes
People who would like to start their adventure with ski tours but don't want to start with expensive purchases can use the ski touring rental, which is located in the "Cieńków" ski resort. The Vestina Hotel is only 500 meters away.
Of course, the hotel is prepared for ski touring enthusiasts. It has a professional ski room, ski racks, and a boot dryer that hotel guests can use for free. Next to the property is the Chata Grillowa, where you can sit by the large fireplace, eat, and enjoy hot tea or mulled wine.
Check out the current hotel packages!