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Fred BUTTARD

Winter start: to do list!

The first big snowfall has just arrived on some parts of the Alps and it’s time to get ready for skiing.

Here are some tricks to make your first day of this season as smooth as possible!

Glide:

img_0020If you’re a good student, you should have waxed yours skis last spring. Don’t forget to scrape off this extra wax, otherwise it will stick to your skins…bad luck!
If not, then it’s definitely not too late to wax them. At this time of the year, cold snow sticks easily on our skis when dropping from a nice sunny summit to a cold powder gully. It will  be better with wax but only if you scrape and brush it all away.

Take this chance to put a plastic scraper (and a piece of wax) in your backpack for the season. It will avoid you to tell your banker that his credit card is too fragile…

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Bindings:

Always as a good student, you’ve been loosening the springs of your bindings at the end of the season, so same thing: don’t forget to tighten them again! Or you can imagine what will happened dropping in your powder gully… Not to mention that combined with a possible lack of glide it might come as a big disappointment !

Check also that the length is correct for your shoes. Between 3 and 5 mm for pin bindings, depending of the brand. It is also the good time to choose a  good screwdriver, and not your Leathermann. And put it also in your car for the season, if not in your backpack!

Beeper/Probe/Shovel:

img_0026Most of the time, december is not the best time of the year to ski in the wild, wild mountains but we have to be ready for the rest of winter.img_0022

Beeper: as good students you took the batteries out last spring, so now you have to put brand new ones. Better put Alcaline ones and avoid rechargeable batteries Their unload curve is very bad for that use.

Check also if you have to send it for service, most of the time a sticker in the batteries compartment tells you when. And take a chance to remember how does it work: on/off, sending mode, search mode, group test… and make an exercise outside!

Probe: assemble it several times with gloves and take the opportunity to throw away the little bag which will cost some time in case of trouble. Most of the backpacks have their own probe pocket.

Shovel: same exercise to remind you how it does work and stop putting the handle in the probe’s pocket… all of this have to be always fast accessible!

Where to go?

Gear is ready but we have to decide where to go. Generally speaking, it’s not the good period to shred the line that you’ve been dreaming about those last 5 years… Take a deep breath and realx, winter is just starting!

-If you don’t really know, choose a closed ski resort but WATCH OUT: people are working there and everything is possible.

To get the slopes ready, a preventive triggering is possible even during the day, look for informations.

Motor vehicles can also be dangerous because they think that they are all alone. Always skin up on the side of the slope and watch out for the snow canon bumps. Be also aware of the possible presence of the grooming machines and their (very!) long cables: it can be in the snow under your feet! ( more informations here)

Snow dome due to snow canon can also be painful. Despite the fact that they are high, the snow can also be very wet and will stop you immediately… ouch!

-If you want to go away a bit further, watch out during downhill. The snowpack is not thick and dense, the rocks and the tree stump are not far under your skis. The informations in the avalanche bulletins are scaled down because only some ski resorts are open, so they don’t have a lot of informations from the mountains.

Finally, think that in December, the days are short. So, despite the sun have not too much effect on snow, leave early in the morning will guarantee you a good light for skiing and some hours left before night in case of trouble.

This is for sure a non-exhaustive list but it will help you to have a good start of winter. And please share your own tips here in the comments !

Have a good time on skis,

Victor

20th/22nd of January : just another Snow and Avalanche Awareness course ?

Yes, yet another one…

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But don’t panic, I can almost read your mind : you think about the long hours sitting in a classroom, fighting against the sleep, the hypnotic Power Points one after the other and all the scientific mumbo-jumbo intoxicating your brain cells that are just craving for some pure, fresh mountain air !

We’ve decided to re-think the way to do it.
Breathe.
Important : even though Victor and I are french, we don’t pretend to make a revolution. No.

Here’s the deal : every single year, unfortunately, there are avalanche accidents, and significantly often it involves people who have some kind of snow and avalanche education. So there might be something wrong in the way we teach it, right ? We thought it was time to get rid of our certitudes and come up with something new !

To be fair, we’ve had some teachers during our guide education who were walking this path, and there is no doubt that they are the ones who planted the seed in our minds.

To be even more fair, we have to say that meeting Bjørn Michaelsen has been the start of the whole thing.

Bjørn is Norwegian, Geographer of education, and teaches mountain skiing, cycling and outdoor activities in one of those fairy tales institutions you only find in Scandinavia. A school where young adults are living the dream of getting better at what they like the most during 6 months to a year. As a recognized professional, he also supports the

Norwegian Avalanche Warning Program, the road avalanche safety in his region (if you’ve ever been driving close to the 70th parallel in winter you know what it means), and he is now a central figure in the development of a Norwegian Avalanche Center in Tromsø.

[joke on]
The only medal he’s missing is the one guides are wearing, but after a day skiing with him in the mountains you’ll forget that detail.
[joke off]

Well, a guy that you can trust.
Since 1992 he’s been teaching professionally ski, snow and avalanche awareness,
in varied courses, from a week end to a whole year. He created the program called “Ski

og Skred”, the International Ski & Avalanche Course in 2002 and started the Ski and Avalanche Workshops (Norway 2002, and internationally in Davos since 2010).
During those years he hasn’t had any fatal avalanche accidents together with his students. Pure luck ?

He might, by modesty, give that explanation, and of course we all know that luck has a big part to play in our activities. Nature = Chaos, that’s a fact

But the method is good, making a lot of sense. Therefore, we’ve decided to join Ski og Skred and Ski Touring Academy, so that we can introduce to the French Alps, in Val Cenis , a concept that has changed peoples approach to the the mountains in Norway and Davos,Switzerland,where there is a similar collaboration between the Swiss Alpine Club and a local Mountain Guide).

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But let’s come back to our proposition !

Usually, theory is THE foundation, this common and recognized language that allows us to estimate the situation and make our plans.

And when I say “theory” I mean everything that has to do with our subject : snow, avalanches, weather, human factors (i.e psychology) and so on…
We start usually with this because we like to speak the same language, we think this is necessary.

And we are right to think this way, it’s our academic tradition.
But true avalanche understanding is a life long process that is quite hard to force into someone’s head, specially during just a few days.
Our experience, our travels and the people we’ve met gave us three certitudes about the way we think mountain skiing and the associated risk, this language :
-there are many different languages.
-learning a new one might take some time..
-Terrain is the best place to do that.

guide-sejour-stage-ski-de-rando-montagne-ski-touring-academy

The concept of this week end will push you out of your comfort zone and make you feel weird for a while, but no worries, it won’t last for long !

We will not guide you but follow you on the tours that you will have planned with your group (with a bit of our supervision…). The goal won’t be a peak whatever it costs, but finding good snow, talking, exchanging ideas on the way, observing and talking again, so that every step has a meaning.This is what we call “transparent guiding” : the leader explain his choices, and initiates the discussion, if no one else does it in the group. On those days, our job will be to get you to talk more and explain your decisions, as well as pointing out important details you might have missed, of course!

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Back to the « classroom » in the evening, we’ll meet the other groups to compare our experiences and make new, and better plans for next day’s tour.
The shared observations and experiences will take the discussions to interesting subjects,no doubt. This more theoretical approach, being linked to the reality of what happened during the day will be clearer, more understandable.

This way, you will experience an interactive way to make good decisions what ever level you’re at. A great way to keep going towards autonomy with greater safety !

In Norway and Switzerland many participants attend year after year.
Why ?
Because it’s not a normal course, the conditions are never the same and you learn new things every year, always looking for the best snow, as safe as possible.

We’re waiting for you in Val Cenis, 20th/22nd January 2017

>>>Sign up here<<<

(All right, there ’is some french, some english, some norwegian but we’ll make sure that everybody communicates !)

In the meantime we’re fine tuning our Power Points and warming up the projector.

Why Ski Touring Academy ?

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Yes that’s right, why are we willing to pass on our tricks and knowledge on how to find the best snow while being safe and independent on the mountains instead of just keeping those skills for ourselves…?
Well, those who have already been out skiing with Victor and me know that we’re not such guides (if such guides exist), and that we never miss an occasion to share our observations and thoughts.
So I would say that it starts with our background.
Victor, before becoming a guide, was a member of a french team, gathering young alpinists, trained by some very inspiring teachers that have certainly been planting the seed of pedagogy in their students minds. Actually, after many years involved in snow and safety as a patroller he started to work as a mountain teacher in a local high school.
briefing-carte-ski-de-rando-montagne-groupe-formation-guide-securite-stage-ski-touring-academy-nivologie
As for me, I’ve worked eight years in Chamonix in a military school, teaching winter and summer the soldiers from the french alpine troops how to climb, ski and survive in the mountains. But my most significant experience has been to become a teacher in a Norwegian school for a 6 month program called Ski Og Skred, Snow And Avalanches. Those lucky young skiers spend a half year travelling in Europe and Canada to improve their experience, knowledge and skills in ski touring, to make it short. They browse the whole subject : snow science, theory, terrain, orientation, group management, decision making, winter trips in full autonomy, and so on. At the end of their education, on top of being better skiers, they are real mountain skiers, able to make plans to have fun, find the good snow in a safe way. They understand the mountains better.
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So the thought hit me : why isn’t such a great concept accessible to more people ?
What can you do if you’re not 20 years old anymore ?
If you cannot have 6 month free from work and / or family so easily ?
Ski Touring Academy was born with this thoughts, and with Victor we have developed our own concept : the possibility for anybody, starting from zero, to progress step by step towards autonomy and become a mountain skier.
We want to give you the opportunity to build your knowledge and your experience how you want it, when you want it.
On this page, you’ll find our different courses, but as well this blog where we will post articles about technique, gear, our secret spots (maybe…) and a forum to help you organise groups with or without us.
Because our goal is to see you stand on your own two feet.
Welcome !

 

Fred/