What is ski randonnée?
Basically it means going upwards with your skis with the help of special skins under the skis. To make it easier to walk you must be able to lift only the heel of your foot, so there are special bindings for that- On the way down you put the heel back and ski as usual.
When my parents were young it was only some people who preferred the quiet of nature before the lifts and the well prepared slopes, who practiced the ski randonnée. Besides there were only special skis for this sport that were nearly impossible to use on the pists, but today there are hybrid skis and boots and bindings that you ca use both for randonnée and for pist skiing.
So it is starting to became a bigger sport in the Alps again. It adds a new dimension to skiing, and it is very good exercise!
Eleven am I called one of my oldest friends here in Champoluc to see what he was supposed to do – we will meet another old friend in half an hour at the start of the lift Bettaforca to go for a tour up to Palon de Resy (2676 m, N45 52.521 E7 45.059).
Last days have been very windy and the temperature is high for this time of the year – January. We are used to be in this area and are three good skiers, but it is strongly recommended to have a mountain guide with you if you not really know the place where you are going. Anyway it is extremely important that you have checked the weather, the risk of avalanche and that you have the right equipment with you: A.R.T.V.A (transceiver), shovel and probe.
For our own security we decide to start near the Walser village of Resy, in the woods, where the uphill is steep and tortuous between the trees, but much safer than another way that cuts the mountain with the risk of causing an avalanche. The trail is used also by people with snow shoes, and it is not really good for long skis especially the narrow turns. We walked of straight upwards and peeled off one jacket after another for each hundred meters of fall. The climate has changed so much recently, with strong winds and spring temperature in January!
Above the trees there we stayed on our left and continued to climb uphill very steep for the rest of our tour, for about 600 meters of fall. It was tiring but again much safer than crossing the mountain in a long serpentine, which is typical for the ski randonnée. Each time you come to a point where you must make a turn it is funny, you must lift your inner ski and put it down perpendicular to the other, and then lift the other and put them parallel again. Not an easy technique if you have not trained it many times.
I was tired and wanted to stop for some water, but suddenly I forgot my problems: an ibex was sitting on a rock looking at us without any fear a distance of some hundred meters from where we walked. We tried to be silent and come even more near to take some pictures and saw that the animal was not alone. Some four or five other ibex gathered on the rocks at the edge of the mountain, straight before the abyss of many hundred meters on the other side of the ridge. One of them was an old male with gigantic horns! This made the strenuous climbing worth while. And this is the beauty of the ski randonnée, compared with skiing on pist: you are in the wilderness of the mountains before mechanics and man.
Some good chocolate on the summit and a picture of the typical iron cross, put on top to tell you that you are nearer God up here – but God is in charge and not you however you wish to believe the contrary when you sit in front of your computer. The view from the summit is astounding: on the south the valley of Ayas, with Champoluc in the middle and the dizzy air against the sun, on the other hand the whole chain of the Monte Rosa, with all its more than 20 summits over 4000 meters between the Punta Dufour on the right and the Matterhorn on the left side. It seems like you can touch them with your hand from up here.
Descending we found extremely heavy snow to ski on the way back. Nothing to remember really, it can be powder or firn
, but this time it was only slush and ice. But who cares when you are sitting in your car and remember only the beauty and the laugh of a day in the mountains?