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Peter Cliff - Ski Mountaineering
This book, by a British author, is divided into two parts. The first is largely technical and the second describes recommended tours around the world. The technical information is appropriate for ski mountaineering in the Alps.


p. 8: "By using a combination of mountaineering and skiing skills, the ski mountaineer is able to travel among mountains at a time when it would be, normally, difficult if not impossible, due to the great depth of unconsolidated snow. For the mountaineer there is the great satisfaction of solving mountaineering problems, be it assessing a change in weather pattern, navigating in bad weather, or choosing a route through a heavily crevassed section of glacier. For the skier there is the indescribable thrill of sweeping down deserted snowfields, using different turns and techniques as the conditions require."

Chapter 1 - The History of Skiing

p. 10: This short history (4 pages) is based on Arnold Lunn's History of Skiing (lunn-1927) and a few other sources. The author discusses pre-history, medieval history in Scandinavia, introduction of skis to the Alps, and twentieth century developments. On p. 152 is a two-page chronology from 2500 B.C. to the extreme skiing descents of 1977.

Chapter 2 - General Skills

p. 15: "A good skier will enjoy the downhill sections and will be much safer on them. [...] The skier, however, must realize that ski mountaineering is a part of mountaineering; and that, as such, it is physically demanding. [...] Conversely, the good mountaineer who is a poor skier will have a much rougher time on the whole. [...] On balance, his mountaineering skills are outweighed a thousandfold by his lack of skill. Ask any guide: who would you rather take, a good skier or a good mountaineer? The answer will always be 'the skier'."

Chapter 3 - Techniques

p. 16: Includes uphill techniques on ski and on foot, including the use of ropes and belays, and downhill techniques including roped glacier skiing and rappelling. The book also includes chapters on clothing, avalanches, glaciers and crevasse rescue, and navigation.

Chapter 5 - Equipment

p. 33: Alpine touring equipment is described (no Nordic gear). All the bindings illustrated are plate bindings (Silvretta, Emery, Marker M-Tour, Petzl, and Tyrolia).

Chapter 9 - Ski Extreme by Anselme Baud

p. 82: The chapter lists 18 ski descents by Anselme Baud, with first descents indicated. Baud describes his 1973 descent of the Couturier Couloir on the North Face of Aiguille Verte with Patrick Vallencant, just three days after the route was skied by Serge Cachat-Rosset, who was deposited on the summit by a helicopter. He also describes his 1977 first ski descent, again with Vallencant, of the Arete De Peuterey from the summit of Mont Blanc. In the photo section following p. 48 are two color photos of Baud skiing the Gervasutti Couloir on Mont Blanc du Tacul.

p. 84: "In early 1977, ski extreme was developing quickly but in different directions. The new enthusiasts were not satisfied any more with skiing down extremely steep and exposed slopes, but were also skiing down Alpine climbing routes with copious use of the rope in order to abseil down non-skiable sections. There was certainly a lack of ethics here (but this is open to discussion) and yet an irreversible step had been taken."

p. 87: The author describes his technique for the steeps. (It seems to be the pedal-jump turn, but the description is not crystal clear.) He says that the two-footed jump turn is "not suitable for use on very steep slopes." He adds: "Always climb the couloir before skiing down it. It enables you to have a look at the slope, at the condition of the snow, at the exact route. It lets you warm up before having to ski down, and, above all, it lets you get accustomed to the slope."

Recommended Tours

p. 140: Lito Tejada-Flores discusses ski mountaineering in the United States and the importance of Nordic equipment and the telemark turn. Of the Far West he writes: "While California skiers talk fondly of their terrible 'Sierra cement', I must say that snow in Washington is probably the wettest, mushiest stuff in the world." His recommended tour is the Aspen to Crested Butte route in Colorado.

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Last Updated: Mon Aug 15 14:52:40 PDT 2005