Why Ski Mountaineering?

Why ski mountaineering?

In the past several years I have been more and more drawn to ski mountaineering. I haven’t really noticed the transition personally, and the few times it has come to my attention, I am unable to put my finger on the driving force. First of all, what is ski mountaineering? It’s a skiing discipline that involves climbing mountains either on skis or carrying them, depending on the steepness of the ascent, and then descending on skis. 

Many people are familiar with backpacking, and the skiing industry takes $3billion from us annually. I like these activities too and I love the beauty of snow capped mountains. That sounds simple enough, but when one steps back to imagine that, it seems a bit unconventional. 

It’s not unusual that I’m drawn to non-traditional sports. For example, I know that completing Ironman triathlons is down right mad, but I somehow get enjoyment out of it and keep going back. Ski mountaineering is the same way. I’ve been introduced as “that guy I told you about that climbs up huge mountains and skis off of them.”  The question that follows is always, “Why?” What would compel a person to slog up long hikes, carrying a bunch of gear, just to ski back down?

You know they make lifts for that?

There are quick answers to each of these questions. Short explanations to each individual query which can be answered from a very pragmatic view point. I could say that it’s a simple amalgam of both material attachment to the gear and the lure of the experiences. As with any trade or hobby, there is a specific and often coveted pile of tools one wishes to acquired in order to perform the desired activity. At the same time, in the use of such goods and skills there is the experience that we take away from it which adds to the allure. Gather a couple of hunters, photographers, or otherwise together, and what is the conversational outcome? Tales of the past and discussions about the tools utilized to do it. I have a “gear room” filled to the brim with packs, skis, posters and memorabilia. It is specifically devoted to these tools and tales not unlike another guys man cave or my mother-in-law’s sewing room. 


But I continue to come back to the premier question of what the overall motivation behind it all is. Having looked deeply at the path that has lead me to this point, what it has entailed, and my desires for the route ahead I have come to a conclusion. Ski mountaineering is the execution and culmination of all the other backcountry skills wrapped into one discipline. It can comprise the enjoyment of backpacking, camping, rock and ice climbing, mountaineering and skiing all in one. 

I should impress here again that this has been a journey. As I stated earlier, there has been an evolution to this point. This is a combination of skills learned throughout the experiences of backpacking, skiing and climbing that has brought me to be able to embrace ski mountaineering.  

So it’s natural that we compile these goods and memories in relation to a path we are devoted to. And it makes sense that it would be a path that is the culmination of each of our various pursuits. But again I ask, why ski mountaineering? Well, for me, it’s the deepest, fullest embodiment of the outdoors. It is the heart of playing outside and it brings me back to being a kid again. 

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