Get tips from the experts on how to begin your ski touring adventure. It's great fun, as long as you know how to stay safe and how to use your equipment.
"Ski touring gives you an amazing feeling. The nature experience, combined with self mastery and a fun ride down the mountain, makes it unique," says Markus Landrø, a ski touring enthusiast who works as an avalanche forecaster in the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE).
Ski touring is really up-and-coming in Norway. You have probably noticed it on social media too – people love to post selfies taken in front of incredible views, such as high peaks and ocean views in the north, the fjords of Fjord Norway or the magical landscape of the Jotunheimen mountains.
Many people long for the satisfying feeling of making it up to the snowy peaks on their own, without the aid of a ski lift, before being rewarded with the long ride down in pristine powder snow afterwards. It might sound hard, but it's actually achievable for most people, as long as you have some experience with skiing and are in good shape.
The most important thing to remember, if you want to try ski touring, is safety. Behind each glossy picture on social media lies plenty of hard work, preparation, and knowledge about avalanches, all of which are critical to ensuring a safe and fun tour.
"It's one thing to be in good shape, but you also have to have knowledge about the equipment and how to use it. The weather in Norway is also a factor — it can change quickly," says Markus.
The danger of avalanches must never be underestimated. Every year, someone dies in an avalanche in the Norwegian mountains.
Watch the series Behind the picture, to get an inside look at how to prepare for ski touring, and how to ensure a safer and fun ride, and scroll below for the expert's best tips.
Each year, avalanches in Norwegian mountains kill an average of five people, most of whom are ski tourers. Foreign visitors make up a disproportionately large share.
Stay safe by following these rules:
1. Take a course to learn more about avalanches, avalanche terrain, and avalanche hazard ratings, even if you are not planning on travel through avalanche terrain.
2. Be aware that you can be caught in an avalanche on flat terrain. An avalanche can run three times the vertical drop from fracture line.
3. We strongly recommend the use of a local ski guide, both for your safety and for assuring a better and more interesting experience.
4. Start planning your trip at the avalanche forecast site varsom.no.
7. Always bring an avalanche transceiver, a probe and a shovel when you are in avalanche terrain.
Ski touring requires some preparation, but it's worth it! Get started with these seven tips for beginners – you might just find yourself a new hobby.
As a beginner, the easiest thing you can do to ensure a safe trip is to go with a local guide. The guides have expert knowledge about the area and the snow and weather conditions in the mountains, and will help you pick a tour suited to your skill level. In addition, they know how to use the equipment needed, and can help you along the way. Look for the UIAGM logo for qualified guides.
"Those with more experience can also great benefit from having a guide when ski touring in new areas," says Markus.
The coastal climate and local variations in Norway make the snow and weather conditions different from other places, such as the Alps. Keep in mind that the weather can change quickly and that the conditions may differ from place to place – all depending on where in Norway you go ski touring.
The avalanche warning website in Norway is called Varsom.no. Remember to always check the website before going ski touring. It contains up to date information on avalanche risk in a variety of locations. You can also download their app, Varsom, from App store or Android store, to have the avalanche forecast right in your pocket! The app displays avalanche terrain, including where avalanches can break loose and the path the it may take.
There are three rules you should follow:
Although you may have some experience from hiking, or cross-country or downhill skiing, you still need some new skills to go ski touring.
In several places in Norway, you can rent ski touring equipment and get an introduction on how to handle both skis, ski skins, boots, avalanche transceiver, and probes. A good tip is to practice using the equipment before your tour, so you know what to do before you find yourself high up in the mountains.
What about a visit to a mountain resort before your trip? Our resorts are a great place to practice, and some even have dedicated areas where you can practice using an avalanche transceiver.
You don't have to take on the highest peaks your first time around – find an easier, shorter route!
"Shorter trips can also be rewarding. Keep in mind, that you're both going up the mountain and back down," says Markus.
Are you starting to feel the pure joy of ski touring? When you're feeling comfortable with the equipment, and you know you're in good enough shape, you can start planning longer trips.
Having proper clothes, the right equipment, and enough food is essential when ski touring! And you actually need a few things to get going.
In Norway, the weather can change quickly, so you might need everything from a t-shirt to a warm down jacket, and everything in between! Also, keep in mind: the nearest help can be far away when you are up in the mountains. That's why it's important to always make sure you bring what you need with you.
Collapsible lightweight metal shovel with telescope shaft.
At least 240 centimetres long, carbon fibre (lighter than aluminium and less prone to deflection).
With spare batteries. Check for broken antennas. Make sure you know how to use it.
Can help you make noise for hours if you need to be found.
First aid kit
For minor trauma and medical issues.
For comfort during breaks and emergencies.
Sunscreen and lip protection
With a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
Sun glasses/glacier glasses
With 100% UVA/UVB protection and side shields.
Protects your eyes and enhances visibility.
Hat and neck gaiter/buff
Keeps your head and neck warm.
For extra grip when ascending through hard snow conditions.
Can be used when descending or ascending steep and/or icy terrain.
Straight-shaft axe, preferably with steel head and aluminium body.
Strong and lightweight with good ventilation.
Small, lightweight LED version for pre-dawn starts or late exits. Remember to bring spare batteries.
With a fully charged battery and an offline map.
The weather conditions in Norway can change rapidly, so always bring some extra clothing (gloves, hat, and a hooded puffer jacket) packed in a waterproof bag.
Map and compass
For quick and easy field navigation.
A good assistant if bad weather hits and you need to find your way down. Not a replacement for a map and compass.
Enough food, water, and hot drinks for the whole day, plus a little extra in case of emergency.
With hot drinks for hydration and the warmth you need to counter the exhausting climb and cold conditions.
The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) has overall operational responsibility for mountain search and rescue operations.
(+47) 51 51 70 00 – JRCC, Southern Norway
(+47) 75 55 90 00 – JRCC, Northern Norway
Medical emergencies: dial 113
Do you have a higher skill level than your ski touring buddy? In that case, it's important to agree on the goal of the trip. Are you going for the nature experience? Is the goal to learn something new? Or do you want to find the best slopes or viewpoints?
"Having the same expectations for the day will give everyone a better experience," says Markus.
And remember: there's no shame in turning around!
You'll find both introduction courses to ski touring and avalanche courses in several places in Norway. A course will give you a good start, and it will make you feel safer when starting your ski touring journey!
Espen Nordahl is an eager mountain enthusiast. While growing up, his parents and grandparents often took him on adventures in nature.
Espen is the author of the book Trygge toppturer ("Safer Ski Touring in Norway"). He wrote it to both inspire and raise awareness about safety in the snowy mountains.
"My best tip is to use a local, certified guide who knows the area you're travelling to," says Espen.
Here are Espen's tips on easy tours that are suitable for beginners:
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