Make the Uphills Easy

Tip from Bela Vadasz

Noah Howell and Chris Davenport approach Victoria Peak     Photo: Jim Harris

Touring with skins can feel a bit awkward at first. But with a few hundred strides and focus on some technique tips, you can make the uphill feel easy.  Practice this skill set often to be efficient and to save energy in your excursions.

Start with good posture:
Practice a nice upright body position, with your back plumb to the slope. Stay tall and relaxed, and keep your hips centered over your feet. Avoid excess bending at the waist and cantilevering with each step.

Make short, diagonal strides:
Move your opposite arm and leg forward. Stay centered and balanced over the middle of your skis. Use your foot, knee, whole leg and hip to move your ski forward. Try to stride without rotating your upper body. Keep your poles and arms in two imaginary slots that remain parallel to your skis.

Pole Grip:
Across a slope, you can choke up on your uphill pole grip. Some touring poles even have an extra traction to give you a better grip. It's ok to grip over the top of the handle of your downhill pole. It gives a little extra power in your skiing grip and stride.

Keep track angles low:
Many put their heel lifters high and attack the slope straight up. Poor form! Lower track angles (about 12°-18° max) tacking up the slope allows for a biomechanically efficient stride that can be well paced, with a cadence you can keep up all day long without tiring.

Know when to roll your knees and ankles out to flatten your skis for maximum grip with your skins and know when to edge your skis to get the bite and hold across certain slopes that you need.

Bela Vadasz has been skiing the Sierra Backcountry for over 50 years. He was one of the first American Guides to receive his IFMGA international license. He began coordinating the AMGA Ski Mountaineering Guide Training program and still helps as co-coordinator of their ski program. Bela remains passionate about his love for Ski Mountaineering and inflicting the spirit to others as well.

Website:  Alpine Skills International

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