Article en anglais...
Backcountry skiing is often seen as the ugly stepsister of the more glamorous alpine skiing. But you’d be wrong to think that this glass ski boot won’t be a perfect fit.
At least once a week Gilbert Moukheiber, founder of the alternative tourism group 33 North, is out on the slopes working his glutes and leg muscles. ‘Technically it’s known as ski-touring, but generally you call it backcountry skiing,’ says Moukheiber. How very wild.
What to take
Equipment needed for a day out in the ‘backcountry’ isn’t much different from that needed for regular skiing, however, there are extras. ‘You’ll always need a backpack with some essentials, and your leader or guide will have even more stuff.’ These essentials include dry fruit, bottles of water, a first aid kit, a Thermos with tea or hot chocolate (nothing worse than being stuck in a snow storm without hot chocolate) and extra socks. There are of course the usual clothing requirements: fleece, hat, gloves, goggles for wet weather and sunglasses to look cool (not really, they’re to protect your eyes against sun reflecting off the snow). ‘And wrap everything in a plastic bag before putting it in your backpack,’ adds Moukheiber.
So far, so alpine. ‘The equipment is pretty different, but the boots are similar,’ Moukheiber informs. ‘They’re the same shape but lighter, and you are able to walk in them. As for the skis, they’re also lighter and you add a skin to them in order to climb.’ As a means of transport across the snow this is ideal. You can climb as much as your little legs can take you, plus you don’t need a ski station or lifts, so you’re instantly saving on the dollar. This is of course counteracted if you buy the equipment needed – in Lebanon it usually retails between $1,000 and $4,000. Ouch. There is of course a hiring option – Pic Blanc in Mayrouba – where you can hire the skis and boots for LL45,000 a day. Not bad.
Where to rondonnée
The whole point of backcountry skiing is that it’s done away from the hustle and bustle of your standard slope. No children whizzing past you at 100km/h or learners loosing control: you’re off the beaten track. ‘I love this type of skiing because you’re
out in the wilderness,’ muses Moukheiber. ‘We go to Hermel, the Mt Lebanon mountains, Tannourine, the Cedars, Akha, anywhere that doesn’t have ‘snow
infrastructure’. In these placesthere’s no one else, just you andthe Cedar and Juniper trees.’ To be fooled into thinking that this was a walk in a park would be dangerous. It’s a very strenuous day in the snow. ‘You need to be a fit person,’ says Moukheiber, ‘and you need to be a good skier. I always recommend that you train in alpine before going into the wild. You can sometimes see white rabbits, hyenas. I saw a wolf once. You do spend most of your time climbing and skiing straight but the end is fantastic
- so rewarding.’ So those who only like to ski lift up and sail on down probably shouldn’t apply.