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Arnold Lunn - Alpine Ski-ing At All Heights And Seasons
Lunn's earlier book Cross-Country Ski-ing dealt mainly with technique. This book discusses mountain sense and snowcraft. The author offers tips based on three years spent in one of the higher Alpine centers. He tries to convince the "unconverted mountaineer" to consider skiing in the High Alps in spring and summer.


p. v: "Good ski-ing implies something more than nerve, faultless balance and a mastery of the turns; and the sport would lose half its charm if ski-ing did not exact a patient study of those aspects of Nature which are involved in mountain and snowcraft. The ski-runner who uses his head, and who takes an interest in snow, will soon find that he halves his falls, doubles his enjoyment, and reduces to a minimum the risks of his sport."

Chapter 1 - Mid-Alpine Skiing

This chapter describes the problems of skiing below the permanent snow line. The author discusses the importance of developing "snow sense" to find the best skiing.

p. 6: "Many a man is first-class on soft snow, on which his Telemarks are perfect, and not third-class on crust, simply because he shirks difficult snow, and will not practise his stemming turns and jump turns. It is no use specializing on easy snow, for you will break down badly if you venture into the High Alps, or if a spell of thaw crusts your favourite slopes. Ski-ing consists in facing, not in shirking difficulties, and the Telemark fiend is a very one-sided performer."

p. 15: "Skiing by moonlight is the most delightful of all forms of ski-ing. Nobody has really seen the moon until he has seen an Alpine landscape under a January full moon. Every detail of crag and glacier is revealed with distinctness, and with a softness of outline that is a revelation to those who only know the summer moon, or to those who have only seen the moon riding through our misty English skies. It is one thing to admire moonlight scenes from one's bedroom window, and quite another thing to get out into the hills and to absorb the beauty of the radiant snows."

Chapter 2 - Snowcraft

The author discusses different types of snow encountered in alpine skiing and the conditions that cause them. Some of the terms are antiquated--leaf snow, ripplemark, cake powder, skavla, marble crust, perforated crust, telemark crust--but the snow types are all familiar.

Chapter 3 - Spring Ski-ing

The author discusses conditions encountered during each month from March through May.

Chapter 4 - Snow Avalanches

The terms and concepts used to describe avalanches have changed a lot since Lunn's day, when there was little systematic knowledge of the subject. The author divides avalanches into two broad classes, ground (climax) avalanches and superficial (surface) avalanches. He groups them into dry powder avalanches, wet new snow avalanches, snow-slabs, and wet old snow avalanches. He discusses tactics for travelling over avalanche ground.

Chapter 5 - Making the Best Of Bad Conditions

This chapter deals with the problem of Fohn. The author suggests ways to find spring-like skiing in winter.

p. 62: "A determined ski-runner can often obtain good running by the exercise of a little enterprise, and with some knowledge of snowcraft, while less persistent ski-runners have either given up ski-ing, or are getting no value out of it."

Chapter 6 - The High Alps In Winter

The author discusses equipment, food, guides, inspecting the kit, approaches, winter weather and conditions on the high peaks.

Chapter 7 - Glacier Ski-ing: Roped And Unroped

p. 85: "On one point all ski-runners are agreed. The rope must be worn on the level and on the ascent. This is admitted by all in theory, though in practice ski-runners have been much too slack about roping on the ascent, where the temptation to discard the rope is no greater for a man on ski than on foot. The rope must also be worn for the descent of dangerously crevassed ground."

p. 86: "Those ski-runners who are prepared to take the risk of a free descent must be allowed to do so without reproach, and, should an accident befall, their guides must be held absolved from blame. For the majority of ski-runners will always accept the risk... The risk of neglecting the rope on the descent is rather less than that of crossing Paris in a taxi."

p. 87: "There are many who find in the combination of ski-ing and mountaineering the finest of all sports, for whom no ski tour is perfect unless it includes the ascent of some big peak, or traverse of some great glacier pass, and also yields the ski-runner the unfettered joy of a perfect unhampered run down some great glacier. It is not merely ski-ing, it is not merely scenery that draws us to the glaciers on skis. It is rather the knowledge that the ski-ing motion seems to lend a new significance to mountain beauty, so that the impressions gained in some run down a glacier highway are deeper, more vivid and more enduring than those which reward the man on foot."

p. 89: "Seventy-five-foot intervals [between roped skiers] are none too much, though even twenty-five foot intervals may just enable a careful party to check a fall."

p. 90: Photo of two men skiing roped on a glacier (fine).

p. 95: "There is probably no finer ski-ing experience than a fast run down between open crevasses which are not too close together to render quick stickless turns dangerous. The sensation of shooting across snow-bridges, and placing your turns accurately within a yard or two of open crevasses beats any other form of ski-ing, but the snow must be good and must not vary in speed, and you must possess a confident mastery of the turns to enjoy this form of ski-ing."

Chapter 8 - Spring and Summer Ski-ing In the High Alps

The author discusses conditions during each month from March through June.

p. 96: "Winter is not the best period for glacier ski-tours... The actual ski-ing, as apart from mountaineering with the help of skis, is incomparably better and safer in May than in January. Winter is the season for sub-Alpine ski-ing; spring for glacier ski-ing."

p. 99: "Finally the Alps are at their loveliest in May. The contrasts of May ski-ing are full of beauty. You wander for days among the glare of the glaciers, and then suddenly reach a window looking out on the valleys in the incredible beauty of the May green... I have climbed in all the four seasons and lived among the mountains for years on end, and I know that there is no beauty like the beauty of the mountains in May, and no ski-ing to compare with glacier ski-ing in the late spring."


The book includes appendices on the "Lifted Stemming Turn" and "Use And Abuse Of the Stick."

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Last Updated: Fri Feb 28 22:31:13 PST 2003