At the (relatively) advanced age of 54 I've decided that I need to learn to ski. I'm not too interested in the downhill aspect of it, more cross-country with maybe progressing to some higher level ski-touring in due course. I'm wondering if I would need to do the downhill bit first in any case or can I skip that?
Skiing advice please
Big fan of that video.
Ski touring requires pretty advanced alpine ski skills, its not much like cross country skiing. You're out and about off the marked trails and need to know the mountain conditions well to spot avalanche risks (or be guided) and will be skiing down off piste back country slopes, which can be far more challenging than any resort black run. Alpine (downhill skiing) is great fun and not just about clattering downhill as fast as your balls will allow. It can be just as pleasing cruising some nicely groomed blues Down to a mountain hut for a wee nip of something. I love it. Anyway at your age don't be put off learning. My dad picked it up at around your age and at 6 yrs on he's a very good skier.
If you want to get into high-altitude touring, you will need very good downhill skiing skills.
For cross country, not so much. Not that there isn't skill involved, but it can be learned along the way and doesn't necessarily have that much in common with alpine skiing.
We're in the middle of the hottest spell we've had for years and all you can think about is sking.
I live in Canada and I have 5 pairs of skis..... they can be a bit like bikes in that sense but to give you a feel for the disciplines:
Nordic skiing - This is on groomed trails so very cross country. Very good for fitness; it's not as easy as it looks though and actually I personally find the downhills worse than any other discipline just because the skis are so flexy. It is cheap to pick-up compared to other disciplines and you can make it as easy or as hard as you like. This type of skiing is further split into Classic and Skate.
Nordic touring - As above but on un-groomed trails. Still low lying in general but the skis are a bit wider and have metal edges so you can venture of the groomed stuff.
Alpine skiing - In a resort. The typical image of skiing using lifts and the like. I enjoy it but prefer back country skiing...
Back country skiing or ski touring - This means using dedicated skis to climb up a mountain and ski back down. It needs a fair amount of fitness to do and you also need to be able to ski down again on any surface be it powder or breakable windcrust As already mentioned you do need quite good downhill skills and this should be combined with either a guide or a good knowledge of avalanches and backcountry terrain.
If you're looking for touring I would certainly plan on learning a bit in resort first. Nordic is a bit easier to get into especially if you got to the Scandinavian countries but even then a few lessons will help you get the most out of it.
I'm not sure I agree with all of the above. I agree that the most important thing is to develop mountain and winter skills, of which I guess (by the username) you may have some if you spend time in Scottish hills in winter. But very little of this necessitates that you to are a good skier/ snowboarder, more about reading conditions, terrain, snow and so on, being able to plan, navigate, adapt to circumstances etc.
As sweaman summarises neatly there is a massive range of skiing that the OP might be imagining, ranging from touring with alpine kit through to xc on tracks and a whole variety in between - plenty of people ski over and around the hills with virtually no ski ability whatsoever (and I'm not just speaking about climbers here ). It's perfectly possible to do good tours in the "backcountry" like this - but it depends the type of routes you're wanting to do and what you hope to get out of it.
So OP, I guess it depends a little on what you hope to do (and that will in turn influence what kit you use and then what skills that requires...). For tours up on the rolling plateaus of the Cairngorms (or Drumochter tops, Monadhliaths tpe stuff, lower forests etc. etc.) then you could learn the ski skills as you go (IF you have some winter skills/ experience and know your limits). Especially if you were on nordic kit where alpine technique or thinking isn't massively useful IMO (and there's few ways to learn nordic techniques other than by getting out there). If you were thinking of routes more suited to a telemark or AT setup then I'd suggest being able to ski downhill safely in a variety of conditions is pretty useful as a base unless you're feeling particularly reckless. You could though learn the basics on the lifts or at a dryslope when conditions are more marginal.
For Scottish stuff, if you're not too fussed about the downhills, then a reasonably robust nordic setup wouldn't be a stupid place to start. Lightweight alpine setups are massively popular nowadays too and if you get into things more are about as versatile as you can get for our hills (especially as you will change your mind about the appeal of the downhills). Or if you think you are up to it then maybe jump straight in at the deep end and telemark (probably most versatile of all, almost certainly toughest to learn physically and technically). Whatever you choose to start with (nordic, tele, AT...) being on the hills often requires quite different skills to those you might use on the track or a piste. Basically, what I'm getting at is that you can be a competent and safe hillgoer and a crap skier who has many great days out, just as you can be a great technical skier/ snowboarder who is useless at adapting and moving safely or quickly in "varied" conditions.
[shameless profiteering] Oh, and if you're after some very cheap old-skool rottafella tele bindings, a set of fritschi touring bindings, or any battered skis then I have some that I was planning to get rid of at the start of the next season [/ shameless profiteering]
I'm level 3 CSIA and top level uk instructor and it comes down to practice. I spent 2 years skiing 8 hours a day and I am far better than people who have been skiing 18 years etc. might sound big headed but my qualifications match it.
Give it a go and get some weeks booked in Andorra etc. cheap and great terrain.
The most important thing is getting fitted comfortable boots z
Once you have those then enjoy the snow.
The problem is that when you're a half decent skiier you soon forget what its like to be a complete novice. You can't get away with the fact that for anything you have to get the basics down first and for skiing the basics are...well...skiing. Its not rocket science. So I would say that whatever the discipline you decide to persue, get some ski lessons in. It is absolutely no fun whatsoever as a novice perched at the top of a slope looking down and literally fearing for your life. To a novice peering down a blue run can feel like that. I've been skiing for 20yrs now, but am now getting my wife and kids into it, and can now see the fear and intimidation that i've forgotten I must have felt when I was a novice. That is how injurys happen and people are put off the sport altogether. It is a real pain learning how to ski, but persevere and very quickly you'll pick up the basics and you'll be off.
Telling someone to just get some skiis and give it a go, is like telling a novice MTBer to go get a big hitting down-hill rig and hurl youself down some knarly bumpy downhill run with drops, jumps, berms etc. It aint going to help.
My advice would be to get some ski lessons, get onto some cross country skis, be a bit patient, and in between do some exercises to strengthen your legs and you'll discover a whole new world and kick yourself for not doing it sooner.
Book a trip to Oslo and you can do lots of x country skiing around there.
As above, you really need to learn to ski the piste to a reasonable level before you tackle the off-piste. To ski off piste you don't need to be a hotshot skier, you simply need to be able to ski defensively and use techniques like snow-ploughing, side-slipping to lose height, kick-turns to change direction when running out of snow and be reasonably confident on all kinds of snow ranging from the very lightest powder to the heaviest slushy spring stuff. Ski touring is all about stooging around the mountains in the hope of finding great, rewarding snow and the quality of the snow can vary enormously according to altitude, aspect of slope and weather. Skiing down from a col to the bottom of a valley you can traverse several different zones of very different snow types.
The good news is that Alpine skis have never been more user-friendly; there are loads of all-mountain skis out there, which will turn in cruddy or heavy snow incredibly easily.
If you're already a cyclist, better still a road cyclist, you will have strong legs and good cardio-vascular fitness.
@scotroutes - go for it, id I had to choose between winter and summer holidays I'd pick the mountains in winter every time.
A couple of comments from me, whilst many resorts do both XC and DH not many do both well. Given your interest I would focus on an xc resort and also take a lesson or two to be shown the techniques. It's much simpler to get started on xc than DH. You can have a go at DH whilst on holiday but IMO its a whole week of DH lessons before you make much progress. The mainstream holiday companies don't focus on xc particularly, so you need to find a specialist. You might like to try snow shoeing too. As per @stevomcd (who runs a ski / mountain bike company btw) ski touring requires quite high level skiing skills.
On resorts have a look at Arosa, it's one of the better resorts with DH and XC readily accessible and you can take train/mountain railway from Zurich airport. There are many small French and Austrain resorts which specialise in XC.
I injured my knee in December so this season my winter fix may have to be xc. Search out the Ski and Snowboard 2013/14 thread on here - you'll get more advice there
I posted this and then went off cycling
First of all, thanks to everyone for their advice. I'm fairly competent as a walker/mountaineer in Scotland so I already have some of the "back country" experience I might require.
My reason for thinking about this now is that I reckon there's no better time of year to be buying kit and I'd rather not splurge on something that turns out to be of little use to me. So far, I'm thinking XC-type stuff around the Cairngorms and the occasional Drumochter/Monadliath jaunt. It sounds like it's going to be a good idea to get some standard DH/Alpine-type ski equipment and build up some time on the pistes before heading off there. However, some Nordic stuff too for the lower lying tracks.
This isn't going to be cheap, is it?
Ski touring requires pretty advanced alpine ski skills, its not much like cross country skiing. You're out and about off the marked trails and need to know the mountain conditions well to spot avalanche risks (or be guided) and will be skiing down off piste back country slopes, which can be far more challenging than any resort black run
Not IME - I've done some fairly challenging tours in Norway up and over mountain passes, and nothing anywhere near as technically difficult as any black run I've done (given all the willy waving on here, I've done most of the hardest in Europe on alpine skis and have also been down blacks on both a board and tele planks). That is talking about nordic touring - I presume some who are commenting on here have only done alpine style skiing and not nordic - news for you, you can do some pretty adventurous stuff on nordic kit and there's a whole world you're missing out there. Nordic touring is very much like XC skiing.
If you're just interested in getting out and about rather than doing epic descents, then there's a lot to be said for just learning XC skiing. I've met plenty of people XC skiing who've never done DH and who are perfectly competent - you pick up the downhilling skills you need as you go along.
Various companies doing introductory XC ski trips in Scandanavia or Europe - I learnt and did higher mountain stuff with Waymark - though haven't been with them for many years, not sure if it's the same since they were taken over by Exodus. There is also http://www.xcuk.com/ and http://rollerski.co.uk/ - though the latter is more aimed at racing.
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