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  • Ian Mckellar

Ski Touring and Split Boarding in Avoriaz

Here at the Avoriaz Alpine Ski School, we love the off-piste and backcountry skiing and snowboarding in our local area. We offer off piste lessons and guiding in skiing and snowboarding, as well as avalanche awareness and mountain safety coaching and introductory sessions to ski touring and split boarding. Here's a guest blog from our friends at More Mountain on the arts and joys of back country skiing and snowboarding adventures, as well as an insight on their experience taking one of our mountain safety courses with an intro to touring.

Words by Tom Fortune

We are huge fans of splitboarding at More Mountain. A splitboard is a snowboard that splits in to two skis that allow you to hike up to the top of a mountain. To stop yourself sliding back down the mountain, you stick climbing skins to the base of your skis. We have really got in to this over the years, but we decided that it would be a good idea to get some official instruction to expand our knowledge.

Therefore, we booked ourselves on to Avoriaz Alpine Ski School’s introduction course to ski touring and splitboarding. We started off the course in their hut with our instructor Keith. He talked us and some friends through route planning, map reading and navigation. With this knowledge, we could plan our routes better and search for places we had never been before. It was also really interesting, especially when Keith gave us tips on finding the best routes to take.

Pointe De Chesery

Our planned destination was Point de Chesery, found just to the right of the Chaux Fleurie chair lift in Lindarets. We had been up Chesery before, but this was a good place to get some instruction. On the day we took the course, it was cold and snowing heavily with strong winds at higher altitudes. Not the best conditions, but we were up for an adventure. Therefore Keith suggested that we configure our kit in to “touring mode” at the bottom of the lift.

A small crowd gathered around us while we dismantled our splitboards and fitted our skins. After many questions from bystanders and banter from Keith, we made our way to the chair lift. As snowboarders, the prospect of getting off a chair lift with big fat skis and floppy bindings prompted visions of a “You’ve Been Framed” moment. Luckily we all managed to dismount with only minor swear words and some loud ungraceful stomping.

Heavy Going

Our ascent was slow in the very deep snow, in places it was thigh deep even with our skis on. Our progress was also slowed by me falling over. With my head pointing downhill and my legs and skis buried in snow, it took me a while to dig my way back out and get upright again.

With the delays, time was against us, so, we didn’t get as far as we wanted to before we needed to head back down. This was fine by us as the weather was getting worse and visibility was down to only a few meters. So a blast down to the nearest bar for a warming vin chaud was a welcomed prospect.

Even though the conditions were not perfect, we had a great time and learned a lot. The ride back down to Lindarets was fantastic but challenging due to the weather. We all took a lot away from the experience and have been on a few different courses with Avoriaz Alpine Ski School since. We try to do a course every winter to top up our avalanche knowledge and to find new places to ride.

Worth The Effort

The effort of skinning up to the top of the mountain is well worth it. If the conditions are good, you are treated to epic views of the mountains. But, the highlight is obviously the ride down. This is especially the case if you are the first people there. Untouched powder is the holy grail and touring skis and splitboards are the best way to get to it and they are a lot cheaper than hiring a helicopter.

From The Lifts

You don’t have to hike off in to the backcountry to enjoy epic powder. There are areas accessible from the ski lift system. You will be surprised at what is easy to get to. However, hiring a guide or instructor is the best way of finding these places, as some are not quite as friendly as they first appear.

Why You Should Do It

From what we have learned with Avoriaz Alpine Ski School, we have more knowledge of the area and how to manage the risk. When the planets align and we have good snow and good visibility on a day off, we love nothing more than skinning off in to the backcountry to find fresh powder with our friends. This is something you can do as a holiday maker, but make sure you have the correct equipment and knowledge to do so.

The Portes Du Soleil has a great reputation for being ideal for beginners, however there is a huge amount of off piste available. By going on a backcountry course, you can learn how to access this amazing terrain safely. Safety is a huge element of off piste skiing and snowboarding. There are dangers, but with the right knowledge, you can manage the risk and create memories that will last a life time. If you want to enjoy skiing and snowboarding in its purest form, touring is the way to do it. It is great exercise and you are rewarded for your efforts.

It’s always worth checking out the More Mountain Special Offers Page as there are usually lots of deals to be had in January and March – the best time for a split boarding adventure!

More Mountain also have a number of smaller apartments, great if there are only a few of you that fancy coming to Morzine and experiencing an adventure. These work out super cost effective between 3 or 4 of you and are also right in the centre of town so really easy for lift access to get you up there, but more importantly once you are down – nice and close to the action for apres and yummy food!

By Tom Fortune

Photos: George Treble, Nick Beck, Tom Fortune, Avoriaz Alpine Ski School

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