Assignment 3: Winter Mountain Ski Touring Trip

Winter Mountain Ski Touring Trip
Hovden – 22/03-26/03

Four days of skiing and touring in the norwegian mountains:

Day 1/Monday: half day trip with Len, learned about frozen lakes and cracks and how to pass them

After a 3.5h bus ride to Bjaen nearby Hovden we arrived at our cabin, sorting out our gear and went of for some hours in the snow to get used to snow and skis again. It was the first time using klister on the skis – and it worked out perfectly for the wet and old snow conditions. Compared to our self- organized trip I could already feel the difference in grip after the first few meters. I was able to walk without my skis slipping away the whole time and even the uphill parts were manageable without doing side steps or a V-shape steps. Our group consisting off 12 people and Len as a guide went to the nearby lake Breivatn. Where we walked along the crack of the ice but on the mainland. Whenever we had to cross the crack line it was important to cross it in a 90° degree angle with our skis, in case it breaks again. We saw and experienced how the ice can crack and sink down by weight. When we reached the end and the narrower part of the lake we felt safe to cross it. We split up and kept a wider distance (minimum of 5m) to each other to spread our weight. At the same time we had to look out that we won’t pass it to close to the end of the lake though because most of the time there will always be water supply f.ex. a creek/river where the water comes from and on the other side an outflow where the water goes. This means the water is flowing and moving underneath the ice and makes it more unstable.
After we returned to our cabin we spent the rest of the afternoon playing on the next by hill. I think this was a great idea because everyone had fun playing but at the same time got used to be on skiers again. For myself I could really feel after just half a day back on skis, some touring and some downhill runs and jumps how I already felt really safe to be back on skis again.

Day 2/Tuesday: day trip with Tim, avalanches, weather

Next day we went out for a nice day trip with the goal to climb a peak. This time Tim was leading our group and we had maps and compasses with us, to orientate ourselves. Tim choose to climb the hill from the north shadowy side so we had some hours in the morning where the snow was not caught by the sun yet and we managed to tour just with an additional layer off blue wax on top of the klister from the day before. His plan worked out perfectly! No problems with slipping a way for most off the time. At the beginning he led us through an apple no off course birch tree plantation. The benefit of walking through trees was that the ground and the snow was more stable do too the roots and structure. At some parts of our tour we stopped we guessed the steepness of the hill and learned how to get a better estimate by arranging our poles in a 90° degree angle. Normally you would do that to make sure you are not in an avalanche risk but because it was only old snow and no new layer we were safe.

The last high meters before we peaked the highest point of our daytrip I was in the front leading the group in zig zag up the hill. I realized that when I can already see the top I prefer going uphill fast without lots of breaks. Up there it was pretty windy, so for our last break before heading back to the cabin we looked for a wind shield spot right a few meters underneath the peak. Going downhill gave us the most beautiful views over the area and the too lakes Breivatn and Sessvatnet.

Day 3/Wednesday: skiing with heavy bag packs, building snowholes

This day we started with big backpacks filled with everything to survive a night outside in the snow. Because of our or my previous experience to ski with a heavy backpack on our self-organized ski trip I was a little bit concerned but the big game changer was klister on the skis and better weather conditions. Due to not too wet snow and the klister the skis were actually working quite good and it was easy to move forward without slipping. But still you could feel the weight on your bag and I had to get used to not be as flexible anymore.
After a few kilometres we stopped and check the snow depth. We found a suited place with enough snow behind a small mountain where the wind had collected some snow. We split up into 4 groups of six people and started to build or own snow home for the night.


How to build a SIG-igloo:

  1. Check the area with a pole to find a spot with an approximately depth of 1.5m.
  2. Mark a circle around the pole with a diameter of a meter and dig it out.
  3. At the same time the entrance can be dug from one side of the circular hole 2 maters away. It is important not to dig to much snow from the ceiling so that it is still stable and won’t collapse.
  4. The roof can be made by blocks of snow cut out with a snow saw. Another way to build the roof which we tried out all together with one snowhole is by five people standing in a circle in the whole, shoulder to shoulder, heads down and covered with an bivouac sack. The rest of the group outside starts to dig snow on top of them. This can be a fast method if there are loads of people. I was one of the people standing in the hole while people were digging snow on top of us and it was an interesting experience. You should be not afraid of panicking in a small space and by the weight you feel on your back and head.
    We did not close our roof fully immediately because see no. 5 …
  5. The cavity/hollow can be dig out from the inside of the cylindrical hole with snow shovels or by sawing out blocks of snow. We placed a tarp inside so the snow can be shovelled on the tarp and be dragged out. Through the little hole we left in the roof the people inside could give the sawed out blocks of snow to someone on top outside.
  6. When the cavity was close to be big enough we closed the roof with the last to blocks of snow and started to shovel more snow on top until the layer was at least 50cm. This gave the roof a greater stability because the weight of the snow made the snow stick together better. From the inside we could see where too much sunlight was still shining through so we had to shovel more snow.

After 6 hours we had a snow whole big enough to fit 6 people and bag packs.
We cooked outside and had a cosy and warm night in the snow.

Day 4/Thursday: short touring, walking up to a peak, windy, drying stuff in cabin, building shelters, bonfire in the snow

Next day we peaked another mountain before returning to the cabin in the afternoon to have some hours to dry our gear and pack again. This time out for a night in an emergency snow shelter.

We chose a rather hard spot to build a shelter because we only had a rock wall and two bushes/trees. But with some tricks and tips from Len and Tim we were able to find solutions to build a shelter for the night. For example skis dug into the snow for at least half a meter, angled away from the middle and tied together by a rope can be a good and stable anchor for holding the tarp. Ski poles can be attached horizontally between two trees to make an entrance.

In the end we had a good shelter which was big enough to fit the three of us and kept us warm, dry and safe during the night.



Questions to ask myself:

Do you recognize any benefits from learning to ski in the wilderness?

Because I have mostly been downhill skiing back home and never really touring – skiing in the “wilderness” was the first time here in Norway. Downhill skiing has got nothing to do with wilderness – except the mountain and the snow. But the rest – the slopes and the lifts – are all build by men and trees, bushes or lakes are more or less in the way. But when you go touring all of this can help you. A tree with roots just makes the ground and snow more stable underneath without the need of a snow groomer. A lake is not in the way because if it is cold enough and the water is frozen you can just cross the lake and your area of skiing is widened.

For me – as I learned skiing already as a little child in the alps – it was not new to stand on skis and find balance. But I can imagine for children or beginners it is nice to learn skiing in the wilderness and not on a downhill slope because you first learn to move forward with the skis on in a flat area without having to face a rather steep mountain downhill. So if there is enough snow, already the field or forest behind the house can be perfect for learning to ski.

What have you observed within the group (group dynamics)?

Within our group of 6 when building the snowhole I experienced a good group dynamic. With some of the people I already spent a lot of time with others not – so it was a good mixture. The group size was perfect because there was always enough work for 4 or 5 people and the rest could take a break. At the beginning it might felt a little weird to just stood or sit next to the others having a break while they were working hard. But because none of us was social loafing and we all spread the work equally you just had to enjoy a short break.

The night we spent in our emergency shelters our group started to collect firewood and made a bonfire big enough for more people to join. What I experienced there was that some people who joined us got more wood to contribute to the fire naturally.



How can you use these experiences in your future carrier, club and recreation time?

Me for myself and in my free time, I know that after this I will definitely start more touring instead of downhill skiing and will also try to get more of my friends into it. I feel safe now to survive a night in the snow – no matter whether I have a tent or only a tarp.

By now I’ve only led groups of children in the spring and summer time and played and explored nature. But I can also imagine to teach children now to f.ex. create shelters now in the snow or show them how to ski.