Anna Keeling, our Canterbury mountain guide and local guru checks in to help you prepare for you first course.
You’ve signed up – now what?
Being in decent shape for the course will hugely enhance your fun factor. What can you expect in a day ski touring?
Before heading outside we’ll grab a coffee and have a chat about weather and avalanche conditions. Your guide will show you how best to pack your pack and will check it fits comfortably. We’ll generally take a one-ride to the top of the chosen ski area. The guides will lead you into the first run and, depending on location, will teach a lesson in companion avalanche rescue. You’ll learn to use your transceiver, shovel and probe and effect some basic first aid.
After a snack, we’ll climb for two hours or so (with breaks and coaching) back to the top. There may be time for a second run. Your guide will show you how best to use your touring equipment – how to dress, fit your pack most comfortably, put on and remove your skins, release your heels and climb efficiently.
On day 2, we’ll head out for a full day tour. The Criaigies offer plenty of terrain from beginner to advanced – so there’s something for everyone. You can expect to climb up to 1000 metres on that day over the course of 2-3 runs. It may sound somewhat strenuous (yet firming) and the views are always a superb reward for your effort.
How do you prepare for a course like this?
You need to ski/ride a lot. If your skiing is not versatile (ie you are good on blue groomers and corn snow but you get tripped up or lose confidence once you hit anything steeper, cruddy, powder or icy) then you need to put in some solid miles on the ski area. A few lessons with an instructor (tell them what you are aiming for) will pay dividends on your backcountry enjoyment. Practice skiing with your pack on to work out your balance. We also highly recommend skiing on your touring gear at least once to better familiarize yourself with it’s nuances.
Having some survival skills for bad snow are a real plus in New Zealand – a kick turn in both directions and the ability to side-slip like a falling leaf, are great tricks to have and can be practiced on steeper slopes in the ski area.
Secondly, you need the fitness to enjoy yourself. In the four-six weeks before the class, get out hiking with your pack a couple of times a week. Take ski poles if you want. Bike hills if that is your thing. Build up your endurance. Maintain a talking pace – but not an easy talking pace! Aim to be able to hike or ride comfortably uphill for an hour or more. Good tracks in Christchurch are the Rapaki area and various tracks from Victoria or Barnett Parks. If weather and time preclude outdoor trips then some solid work on an inclined treadmill or on the stair climber (45 minute-one hour session) will work fine. Cycle spin classes also have a nasty power-endurance component to them. It hurts so good!
Although Mission WOW offers ski touring for beginner tourers, backcountry skiing is not for the faint-hearted skier. Once we leave the ski area boundary, we are on our own and must be able to handle changing conditions as a team. Having the fitness and ski/riding mileage behind you will make it way more fun. You’ll be able to cope with changes with confidence and finesse.