Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Greg Chapman and PG Distributed
[Transcriber's note: The spelling and punctuation inconsistencies of the
original have been retained in this etext.]
WITH MAP AND FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS FROM PHOTOGRAPHS
So many excellent books have been written about Ski-ing that it is,
perhaps, presumptuous on my part to think that there is room for
Mr. Vivien Caulfeild in his "How to Ski" and "Ski-ing Turns," as well
as Mr. Arnold Lunn in his "Ski-ing for Beginners," "Cross Country
Ski-ing" and "Alpine Ski-ing," have covered all the ground of
the technique discovered up to date. What future discoveries and
inventions may be made, requiring new books, no one knows as yet.
Had it not been for the help and coaching these two exponents of
Ski-ing have given to me personally, I should never have been able to
enjoy the sport to the extent I do now, because I should probably have
been content to continue running across country, falling whenever I
wanted to stop, and using a kick turn at the end of my traverses.
Their enthusiasm and example gave me new ideas of the standard I
wanted to attain, and their unfailing kindness and advice helped me to
get nearer to it than I could otherwise have done.
The standard still lies away up out of reach, as age undoubtedly tells
against the Ski-runner, and the perfect Christiania in deep, soft snow
round trees growing close together on a steep slope must be done in
heaven rather than on earth by people who are nearer fifty than forty.
Much experience of coaching beginners convinces me that there is still
room for a book such as I hope to make this--a book containing only
the simple answers to questions put to me during the last three years,
when I have been responsible for running the Ski-ing in various
centres. The object of such coaching is to raise the standard of
British Ski-ing, and it is satisfactory to realize that other nations,
including the Swiss, already marvel at the fair average of our
runners. This is specially remarkable when it is remembered that most
British runners can only afford a bare fortnight or three weeks'
winter holiday in the Alps, and that they are not always in training
when they arrive. Ski-ing is a sport which exercises every nerve and
muscle as well as lungs, as is soon discovered during the first 100
feet climb or the first fall in deep snow on the Nursery slopes.
In addition to my conviction that there is room for another book
for beginners, my love of the Alps, which have been my home for the
greater part of my life, also induces me to try to show something of
the real objects of Ski-ing; namely getting to the silent places which
can only be reached on skis, realizing something of the strength
and immensity of Nature at her grimmest, profiting by the wonderful
atmosphere of the mountains, to say nothing of the beauty of an Alpine
view on a fine day.
The greatest pity is that most British winter holiday-makers can only
go out for Christmas. This is admittedly the worst time from the
point of view of weather. At low altitudes rain often falls early
in January, turning the snow into slush and reducing the Ski-er to
despair. After the 15th January, the weather is usually better, and in
February the days are longer and finer. The best time of all for an
Alpine holiday is usually February and early March. My advice to
novices, who are not tied by Christmas holidays, is to come out about
the 20th January, when the hotels are less crowded, the days longer,
the snow more certain and all the conditions more favourable. Some of
my own best Ski-ing days have been late in March when the crocuses and
gentians were already opening to the sun on the Southern slopes, and a
soldanella might be found along some tiny stream. Few experiences can
equal a Spring day among the Alps when the wealth of flowers begins
to show in the valleys, while masses of good snow still lie on the
Northern slopes or on the ridges above 6,000 feet.
Early starts are necessary these days as the sun blazes after 11 a.m.,
but nothing can equal the bodily comfort and well-being enjoyed at
midday, lunching at the top of some peak or pass, basking in the blaze
and imagining the run down cool slopes. No Ski-runner, who has not
been out in late February or March, realizes the joy and comfort of
late Ski-ing. The hotels will remain open as long as clients stay to
make it worth while, and all the mid-winter amenities will be kept up
if they are wanted.
In recommending places and equipment, I intend boldly to confine
myself to the places I have been to and to the equipment I have used,
or of which I have had reports from people I trust. This is a somewhat
risky determination as there is great competition among the various
centres and business firms which cater for Ski-runners. My reason is
that the endless advertisements must be extremely confusing to the
novice, who does not know what to believe, and who may sometimes be
let down by a glowing description of some place or gear, which proves
to be quite unsuitable.
The old hands will find nothing new in this book. Not even controversy
about the nomenclature of turns or as to which foot should carry the
weight in a Christiania. My own view of Ski-ing turns is that they
are a means to an end, and not an end in themselves, and that the
Ski-runner, who is content to spend weeks on the Nursery slopes,
perfecting one turn, has wasted almost weeks, when he might be
enjoying what Skis enable one to reach among the mountains above. At
the same time every beginner should be content to devote two or three
of his first days to the Nursery slopes, learning the elements of good
Ski-ing before dashing off on an excursion. As I know from painful
experience, there is much to unlearn in what one has picked up by the
light of Nature. Scrambling down a run, crashing and sitting on one's
Skis, may be great fun the first day, but is tiring and humiliating
as time goes on. It is infinitely preferable to learn the knack of
Ski-ing tidily, and thereby keeping dry and, in a few days, running
well enough thoroughly to enjoy a day out with its slow climb to the
top of some peak or pass, and then the slide down under control.
This is where tests are so valuable. Most people undoubtedly enjoy
competition and, if the passing of the turns is made a necessary
qualification for the timed run of the 3rd class test, most beginners
will determine to learn them and then to try the Run and, having
successfully passed that, wear a Badge. Badge-hunting, like
pot-hunting, may not be a very worthy object in itself, but if it
encourages people to become proficient in a beautiful sport, let us
give our weakness of character free play and achieve the results it
leads to. The tests of the Federated Ski Clubs of Great Britain have
done more to raise the standard of our running than anything else
The beginner is wise, who chooses a centre where the Ski-ing is well
organized, and where he can be certain of getting coaching as well as
excursions suited to his standard, as nothing is lonelier than going
to a place where he is dependent on his own initiative; neither is
anything more irksome to the good runner than to be asked to admit a
stranger to his party, who may keep him back and spoil his run. This
will be further alluded to in the Chapter on Etiquette, and if a
beginner wishes to be popular, I advise him strongly to adhere to
the "Law." A strict code has been adopted, mainly as a result of the
suffering from pertinacious runners, who put their standard higher
than is admitted by others.
Where the Ski-ing is organized, tests sort different individuals into
their different standards and Runs are planned accordingly, so that
the novice is not over-strained and the experienced runner is not
hindered by too big a party.
The beginner should also choose a centre where there is a railway to
help him. A great deal of precious time and energy may be wasted in a
short holiday when all climbing has to be done on skis. The first runs
are tiring enough without the additional fatigue of climbing, and
going up in a funicular or railway opens up numbers of runs which
would be far too energetic for most people who are not in training.
HISTORY OF SKI-ING
COST OF A SKI-ING HOLIDAY IN WINTER
CARE OF EQUIPMENT
THE ELEMENTS OF SKI-ING
SNOW AND LIGHT
GUIDES AND SKI INSTRUCTORS
MAPS AND FINDING THE WAY
THE ATTRACTIONS OF SKI-ING
APPENDIX: REGULATIONS OF THE BRITISH SKI TESTS
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
From photographs by E. Gyger, Adelboden, Switzerland
MAP OF SWITZERLAND
THE UPHILL TRACK
HISTORY OF SKI-ING
Very little is known of the early history of Ski-ing. Doctor Henry
Hoek in his book "Der Schi" gives a very interesting chapter tracing
the use of Skis back to the earliest records. He thinks that Skis were
used by Central Asian races thousands of years B.C. and long before
they were used in Europe. According to his book the word "Schi" is
derived from the Gothic "Skaidan," the German "Scheiden," Latin
"Scindere," and so on. All these words mean split or divide, and might
be used to describe the split wood of which Skis are made or their
action in dividing or separating the snow through which they pass.
Doctor Hoek further says that early records show how Ski-ing was a
sport practised by knights, and he quotes Rognwald of Orkney (1159
A.D.) who states that he could run on Skis.
The Swedish Bishop Magnus writes in 1533 of the way in which the
Norwegians used Skis for traversing country when hunting.
During the Swedish and Norwegian war in 1808 the Norwegian Army
included 2,000 Ski runners, but the use of Skis does not seem to have
come into warfare again until the Great War of 1914-1918, when the
Swiss, Austrians and Italians all used them on the Alpine frontiers.
The modern and fully recorded use of Skis began about 1843 when the
sport became really popular in Norway and a Ski race was run at
Tromso. In 1861 a Ski Club was founded, and in 1863 an exhibition was
The Swedes also took up Ski-ing as a sport at about this time but Skis
do not seem to have penetrated into Central Europe until after 1870
when a French doctor tried them at Chamounix in 1871.
The first introduction of Skis into Switzerland, which I have been
able to trace, was by the monks of St. Bernard, who obtained some
pairs from Norway in 1883, thinking that they might be useful in their
work of mercy, rescuing pedestrians who were in difficulties on the
Pass. About 1887 Colonel Napier came to Davos bringing with him a
Norwegian man-servant and a pair of Skis. Mythical tales were told of
the way this man slid down the slopes from chalet to hotel, carrying a
tea tray on his shoulder. I have only a vague recollection of seeing
him perform, but when Colonel Napier left Davos the same year, he gave
the Skis to me to play with. They were very similar to modern Skis but
had a rigid binding made of sealskin with no means of tightening or
loosening it. Not knowing better, I used to try to run in gouties or
rubber snow-boots which slipped about inside the binding so that I had
absolutely no control. This did not make much difference, as I knew
nothing of the art and only used the Skis as a freak on days off from
tobogganing. I knew nothing of wax, and when the Skis stuck, they
stuck, and I thought it a poor game. When they slid I sat down and
I thought it a poorer game. It never entered my head that I could
traverse across any slope and so I always went straight down and only
by a fluke did I ever stand. Then Tobias Branger, who was a great
sportsman and kept a sports shop at Davos, imported several pairs of
Skis and practised the art himself.
About this time Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Dobson
took up the game and we spent many hours practising on the slopes
behind Davos Dorf.
The Richardson brothers, who had been to Norway, came to Davos about
1893 bringing with them knowledge of the sport and soon gathered round
them a keen lot of disciples. The Davos English Ski Club was formed
and from now on Ski-ing spread rapidly throughout Switzerland.
In the meantime, Ski Clubs were also being formed in the Black Forest
and other parts of Germany, as well as in Austria.
Doctor Nansen, in his book about Greenland, described the use of Skis
for Arctic exploration and his accounts fired a great many more people
to try the game.
I advise anyone who wishes to know more of the development of Ski
running to read Doctor Hoek's book "Der Schi," published in 1922, as
he gives a long account of the first forming of Clubs as well as the
gradual adoption of Skis as a means to winter climbing, and, further,
a useful list of the literature on the subject.
After the first beginnings in 1899, the Swiss became energetic and
enthusiastic runners. The children could be seen on barrel staves with
a pair of old boots nailed to the centre into which they slipped their
feet with their own boots on. It was not a particularly graceful game
in those days. Runners armed themselves with poles some 8 feet long on
which they leant heavily when running downhill. This school soon gave
way to the more modern school, which proved that the carrying of two
sticks was better than one only. A great many books on the technique
of Ski-ing followed each other fast and furiously--Zdarsky and
Lilienfeld, Caulfeild and Lunn, Roget Hoeg and others all contributing
to the controversy on technique.
Now there are innumerable Ski Clubs with their own year-books, and the
sport is so well launched, not only in Europe, but also in Australia,
New Zealand, East Africa and America and elsewhere, throughout the
world, that there is but little chance of its ever again dying out.
The British Ski Clubs include the Ski Club of Great Britain, the
British Ski Association, the Alpine Ski Club and the Ladies' Ski Club.
These are federated in one Council and work harmoniously together for
the furtherance of British Ski-ing.
This is a very incomplete history, but I feel that it is better
to limit it to a few dates and to await the publishing of a more
extensive history of Ski-ing in English than now exists.
COST OF A SKI-ING HOLIDAY IN WINTER
The expenses of a winter holiday differ according to the place chosen,
the hotel and the organization to whose care you commit yourself, if
any. Any figures I quote are approximate and are subject to change
owing to fluctuations in exchanges, etc.
If you go to a large hotel, with all its luxuries, you will pay
anything from L1 a day upwards, and this may not include sports tax,
etc. The smaller hotels will probably make arrangements for pension at
about 16 francs, or even 14 francs, or less, per day, but may not
be very comfortable, and comfort is important in winter. It is
particularly necessary that the hotel should be well heated, as the
drying of Ski-ing clothes is a very important point.
As I said in my Preface, the beginner will be wise who chooses a
centre where the sports are highly organized, and where he will be
certain to find coaching and arrangements made for tests and runs, as
well as a railway or funicular to help with uphill work. Only in such
a place can he learn enough Ski-ing in a short time to enable him to
begin to enjoy touring before he returns home, panting to come out
again and continue the experience. One joy of Ski-ing is that you
usually begin again where you left off, and have not to relearn what
you learnt the winter before.
Having lived in the Alps off and on for forty-six years, and having
seen all sorts of different ways of running things, I realized at
Muerren, where I first learnt to ski properly four years ago, how much
the beginner profits by going to such a centre. Otherwise he may
waste infinite time in Ski-ing without skill and with only half the
enjoyment. It is not only at Muerren that the coaching is given,
though Mr. Arnold Lunn's system of helping everyone originated there.
Pontresina provides it also, and Klosters and other places as well,
but it seems to me that Muerren is the mother of up-to-date British
The cost of a fortnight at a good hotel comes to about L15, including
sports tax, afternoon tea and heating. The journey about L7 return
2nd-class or L9 1st-class, in addition. This can be reduced by
travelling 3rd class in England and Switzerland, where at any rate it
is quite possible to travel 3rd class on any mountain railway.
In addition to the expense of Pension at an hotel and of the journey,
at least L5 will probably be required for local railway fares,
subscription to entertainment fund, baths, gratuities, hire of Skis,
lessons, guides, etc. L30 ought to cover a fortnight, and L35 three
weeks, and a good deal less can be reckoned if a smaller hotel be
Most of the Sports Hotels will now quote an inclusive price per day,
to which at least 10 per cent. should be added to the estimate
for gratuities to servants. This is the recognized scale at which
gratuities are given by most people, though they might often amount to
more when any special service has been rendered.
Local railway fares on mountain railways are high, because of the
great expense of keeping them open, but most of these railways offer
special sports tickets, either for a definite period as a season
ticket, or for a certain number of journeys. For instance, on the
Muottas Muraigl Funicular Railway above Pontresina 24 tickets single
journey can be obtained for the sum of Frs. 50, while the ordinary
single fare is Frs. 4.75, or more than twice the reduced fare.
The cost of equipment must be added to the estimate, but this need not
be very great as Ski-ing boots and gloves are the only items which
cannot usually be used at home by men--trousers or breeches being an
additional cost for women.
People sometimes complain that a Swiss winter holiday is very costly,
but I believe it can compare favourably with a golfing holiday at
home. Ski-ing is the cheapest possible sport, if runners are content
to foot it uphill instead of using railways or sledges. During the
months of February and March, special low terms can probably be
obtained in the hotels, as they are anxious to prolong their season,
and will do anything they can afford to induce British sportsmen to
come out then. February and the first half of March are the best time
from every point of view, so that no one who can take his holiday
then, and who does not want all the gaiety of the social side, will
regret going during these months. In old days before the war this was
fully appreciated and the season used to last three months, instead of
a short six weeks as it does now.
In this chapter I propose only to describe such of the larger Swiss
places as I know personally, or by reputation. There are a great many
smaller places where equally good, or even better, Ski-ing may be
found, but, as my book is meant mainly for beginners, it seems
preferable to adhere to the advice given in the preface, and for me to
mention only such centres as provide comfort in the hotels and good
coaching and organization of tours, as well as facilities for playing
other games. Most people when they go to the Alps for their first
winter visit wish to try all the different sports in order to see
which they like best, and there seems to me to be no question but that
the all-round sportsman gets the most out of his holiday.
There may be days when Ski-ing is not possible or when a few hours on
the rink or toboggan run offer a relief to a stale Ski runner. It is
usually only the really keen enthusiast of some years' standing who
can spend the whole day waxing or oiling his Skis, or poring over a
map planning future runs.
When choosing a place the first objective is a good supply of snow.
This does not seem to depend entirely on height, though there is more
likelihood of finding it above 4,000 feet than below that height.
Above 5,000 feet there is less chance of thaw and rain--the bugbears
of all Winter sportsmen, who can only go out for the Christmas
I have known a Winter when snow has lain in one district at 5,000 feet
and not at 6,000 feet in another, but this was exceptional. The higher
you go, the more hope you have of snow as a rule and also of frost,
which is so necessary to keep the snow in good condition.
The centres I recommend are mainly arranged in groups geographically,
taking the Canton of Graubunden, or the Grisons first, because it is
the country I love best, having spent most of my early life there. The
heights are taken from Murray's Handbook.
KLOSTERS, 3,970 feet above the sea. This seems to me to be one of the
very best Winter Sports centres. It is a small village with two large
and a few small hotels. It usually has good snow and is protected from
wind. There is plenty of sun, but North slopes provide good runs near
the village as well as on the Parsenn.
The Rhaetische Railway helps runners to get the maximum of downhill
running for the minimum of climb, especially opening up the whole
Parsenn district to those who want a long day's tour with only some
1-1/2 hours' climb.
The Nursery slopes are good, and there is plenty of open ground near
the hotels for practice. The Ski-ing is well organized by the local
club, and there are 1st-class Ski Instructors, as well as Certificated
The rinks are well kept and the Klosters run of old renown is
maintained in good condition for tobogganing or bobbing.
There is quite a good Ski map to be obtained locally, but the Ordnance
Map should be used as well.
Skis can be hired locally.
DAVOS, 5,015 feet above the sea, was one of the first places at which
Winter sports began, and it still offers almost everything desired by
the Ski runner. The fact that Davos is much visited by invalids deters
a great many people from going there, for fear of infection. As a
matter of fact they are probably a good deal safer there than in some
other places where there may be a few invalids, but where the same
precautions regarding disinfection may not be taken.
Two or three hotels are kept open for sports people only, and at these
the life is just the same as in all the other well-known centres.
Davos is within very easy reach by the Rhaetische Railway of all the
Parsenn runs. The side valleys, Fluela, Dischma and Sertig, all offer
innumerable good runs to the energetic runner who does not object to
climbing, and there are endless Nursery slopes. It is one of the
few places whence tours can still be planned over almost unlimited
snow-fields when a track is a rare sight except on the few ordinary
short runs or on the Parsenn.
The local club organizes the Ski-ing, and good Ski Instructors and
Guides are available.
The rinks are excellent and the Schatzalp and Klosters runs are
maintained for bobbing and tobogganing.
There is a good Ski map showing all the runs round Davos, but the
Ordnance Map should be used as well.
Skis can be hired locally.
AROSA, 5,643 feet above the sea, is said to be excellent for Ski-ing,
but I do not know it well. There is no railway to help runners much.
Invalids go there as well as to Davos, but the same precautions are
taken as at Davos.
There are rinks and a very good run for bobbing and tobogganing.
LENZERHEIDE, about 4,500 feet above the sea, has a fine reputation for
easy Ski-ing. There is no railway to help it and all uphill work has
to be done on Skis. I have never been there in Winter-time, but know
that a great many runners speak well of Lenzerheide. The Ski-ing is
organized, and good Instructors and Guides are available.
There is probably a good rink, but of this I have no personal
In the Engadine valley, which is also part of Graubunden, the
following centres can be recommended.
PONTRESINA, 5,916 feet above the sea. The Nursery slopes are very
extensive and offer short runs to the beginner. The Muottas Muraigl
funicular conveys runners up some 2,000 feet, when after an easy climb
of one hour a really good run may be obtained back to Pontresina.
The Rhaetische and Bernina Railways open up a large number of good
runs in the Engadine valley and also up the Bernina and Morteratsch
Open wood-running as well as glacier-running under safe conditions can
be enjoyed near home, and Pontresina is undoubtedly one of the best
places for people who want to perfect their cross-country running
under different conditions.
There are no short afternoon runs ending in the village, but the
railways enable people to enjoy all the tours of the Upper Engadine.
The longer tours, such as those over the Kesch Glacier to Berguen or
Davos, are unequalled so far as I know.
Having spent two Winters at Pontresina, I can recommend it from
intimate knowledge, but only for the real beginner or for the expert
who wants amusing running. It is not the place for Ski-ers who only
want a short run between lunch and tea.
First-class Guides and good Instructors are available. The Ski-ing is
organized and plenty of coaching is given to members of the Public
Schools Alpine Sports Club.
Excellent rinks and short bobbing and tobogganing runs are maintained.
A useful guide describing all the runs in the Upper Engadine can be
Skis can be hired locally.
ST. MORITZ, 6,037 feet above the sea.
CELERINA, 5,750 " " " "
SAMADEN, 5,669 " " " "
are all served by the Rhaetische and Bernina Railway, and have the
same Ski-ing facilities as Pontresina.
Their rinks and toboggan runs are well maintained, those at St. Moritz
being, of course, among the best in Switzerland.
Good Guides and Ski Instructors are available, but, so far as I know,
Ski-ing is not in any way organized for beginners in these places.
Skis can be hired locally.
ZUOZ, 5,617 feet above the sea, is also a good Ski-ing centre further
down the Inn Valley. There are only two or three hotels, and the
village is quite unspoilt. It provides the most wonderful open South
slopes for Ski-ing and North slopes are also within reach across the
Zuoz lies almost at the foot of the climb for the Kesch runs and also
taps the country further down the Inn valley behind Schuls.
So far as I know the Ski-ing is not organized in any way, but Guides
There are rinks, but, Zuoz being still one of the old-fashioned
places, life would be quiet there.
CAMPFER, about 5,850 feet above the sea, and
SILS-MARIA and SILVAPLANA, about 5,950 feet above the sea, lie
further up the Inn valley beyond St. Moritz. No railway exists to
help Ski runners, and the slopes are somewhat steep and apt to be
precipitous except in the Fex Thal, south of Sils-Maria, which has
Campfer and Silvaplana tap the country lying behind the Julier Pass,
but, as no railway helps here, the tours entail a lot of climbing and
a drive on the way home.
MALOJA, 5,935 feet above the sea, lies at the upper end of the Inn
Never having been there in Winter, I cannot describe it during that
It is a beautiful place in Summer, and may open up a good deal of
country which is not much tracked, as there is no village and only one
large and two small hotels.
The post road runs zigzagging down into Italy and is said to provide a
very fine bob or toboggan run. A Rink is kept open. Now that Maloja is
being opened as a Winter centre, every amenity for a Winter holiday
will probably be offered.
The Bernese Oberland is also one of the best Ski-ing districts in
Mr. A. Lunn has produced a very helpful guide to all the Ski-ing tours
and also, with the help of Herr Gurtner, a first-class Ski-ing map,
using the Ordnance Map as its basis, so that only one map need be
MUeRREN, 5,368 feet above the sea, seems to me to be one of the very
best centres for beginners as they receive so much help, and there are
numbers of short runs aided by the Allmendhubel funicular which runs
up some 700 feet above the village. From the top of this several short
runs end in the village or on the Berner Oberland Railway, which
brings the tired novice home without much effort.
The Berner Oberland and the Wengern Alp Railways also enable people to
get the best of the Scheidegg runs down to Wengen or Grindelwald.
The Ski-ing is very highly organized at Muerren and beginners receive a
great deal of help and encouragement.
There are Guides and Instructors.
The Rinks and bob run are admittedly among the best in Switzerland.
Skis can be hired locally.
WENGEN, 4,187 feet above the sea, is a lovely place, with the most
beautiful view of the Jungfrau. It faces south, but provides two or
three nice home runs, which remain in good condition except for the
tracks of innumerable runners.
The Wengern Alp Railway is usually open to the Scheidegg, though after
a very heavy snow-fall it may take a few days to clear. This enables
people to enjoy all the runs down to Grindelwald, returning to Wengen
The Ski-ing is organized and there are good Guides and Instructors.
Rinks and a most amusing toboggan run provide for off-days.
Skis can be hired locally.
GRINDELWALD, 3,468 feet above the sea, is too well-known as a Summer
resort to need much description here.
Its main fault in Winter is that the sun disappears behind a mountain
for about an hour and a half in the middle of the day. This ensures
perfect ice on the rinks and does not much affect the Ski runner, who
can climb beyond the shadow for lunch. I cannot resist mentioning my
good friend Frau Wolther's tea-shop as one of the great attractions at
Grindelwald, drawing many a Ski runner over the Scheidegg from Muerren
and Wengen! Frau Wolther's unfailing welcome and hospitality are a
great joy at the end of a hot, wet run, and the fact that a change of
clothes can be sent round by train to her care is a great comfort to
those coming from afar.
There are plenty of short Ski runs above Grindelwald, and the
Scheidegg railway is kept open as far as Alpiglen to help with the
climb on a long day's tour.
There are good Guides to be had, some of whom are probably Ski
The Rinks are first-class and both bob and toboggan runs are kept up.
Skis can be hired locally.
LAUTERBRUNNEN, about 3,000 feet above the sea. People who know
Switzerland well may wonder why I include Lauterbrunnen in my list,
but I have often wondered equally why no one makes it a centre for
Ski-ing. Though the sun may not shine there for long hours, the fact
that it lies at the junction of the Berner Oberland Railway, the
Muerren Funicular and the Wengern Alp Railway seems to me to make it a
very possible Ski-ing centre.
There are good hotels, and the Herr Gurtners, whose home Lauterbrunnen
is, may be depended upon as two of the best Ski runners in Switzerland
and two of the most active pushers of Ski-ing, to do their utmost to
help any British runners who decide to try Lauterbrunnen.
All the Muerren, Wengen and Grindelwald runs are within easy reach of
Lauterbrunnen, and if the railways will sell special tickets, the cost
of the journeys should not be prohibitive.
To my mind, the fact that one could stop at Lauterbrunnen after a day
over the Scheidegg would be a great comfort, as the last journey up
to Muerren or Wengen is apt to be tiresome after a long run, if often
In any case it seems to me that runners might do worse than write to
Herr Gurtner at Lauterbrunnen and ask for particulars, at any rate for
the Christmas holidays, when most of the popular villages are very
full and the hotel rates are high.
Good Guides are available at Lauterbrunnen.
KANDERSTEG, 3,835 feet above the sea. I have never been there except
in Summer when I know it well.
One great attraction about Kandersteg is that it can be reached by a
through train from Calais or Boulogne.
From the Ski-ing point of view, I think Kandersteg might be
disappointing to the runner who hopes for short runs. There are
excellent Nursery slopes, and the Loetschberg Railway probably opens
up quite a lot of country.
Guides are obtainable.
Rinks and toboggan runs are maintained.
ADELBODEN, 4,450 feet above the sea, is said to be an excellent
Ski-ing centre, but I do not know it personally, having only just been
up there in Summer time.
There is no railway to help, so that all climbing has to be done on
Skis. It is within reach of very good tours throughout the lower
The British Championship was held there in 1923, which shows that the
Ski-ing is organized, and good Guides are, no doubt, obtainable.
Adelboden, being a well-known Winter Sports Centre, the rink and
toboggan runs are probably excellent, but, never having seen them, I
cannot vouch for them.
Skis can be hired locally.
SAANENMOSER, 4,209 feet above the sea, lies at the top of the low
pass between the Simmen Valley above Zweizimme and the Sarine Valley
running down to Gstaad and Chateau d'Oex.
There is only the one Sports Hotel and no village. It is a most
charming place within reach of Ski-ing in all directions among the
lower Bernese mountains.
The Montreux Oberland Railway running down both sides of the
Pass helps a little by carrying Ski runners home after some long
excursions, but all uphill work has to be done on Skis. The slopes
are gradual and the Saanenmoser runs are perfect for people who have
learnt the elements of Ski-ing in some active place, and who then want
to gain confidence by free running over easy country.
The Ski-ing was not organized when I was at Saanenmoser in 1921, and
neither Guides nor Ski Instructors were obtainable. There was only a
tiny rink and no toboggan or bob runs.
Skis can be hired at Gstaad.
GSTAAD, about 3,800 feet above the sea, lies below Saanenmoser, and is
a large village with numbers of hotels. The Ski-ing is very much the
same as at Saanenmoser and the Railway serves the same purpose, only
helping runners a little.
I have never stayed at Gstaad, but have heard it well spoken of as a
Winter Sports centre offering all the usual attractions.
Skis can be hired locally, I believe, and Guides are obtainable.
* * * * *
The Rhone Valley offers a few centres which I do not know in Winter.
Among those I have heard most about, the following are outstanding.
VILLARS, 4,000 feet above the sea, is reached by a railway from Bex.
It lies on slopes facing South, and I gather that the Ski-ing there is
The rinks are said to be good and the usual Winter attractions are
MONTANA, 5,000 feet above the sea, is reached by a funicular railway
from Sierre. Like Villars it also lies on slopes, facing almost south,
but there seems to be good Ski-ing among the mountains behind.
MORGINS. In addition to the above, I would mention Morgins, which I do
not know personally, but of which I have heard a good deal. Morgins
is 4,406 feet above the sea, and is particularly well-known for its
rinks, which seem to be first-class. The Ski-ing is said to be good
but not extensive. There is no railway.
DIABLERETS, 3,849 feet above the sea, in a valley going from Aigle
among the mountains to the East, might be a good centre for Ski-ing,
but I only know it in Summer. So far as I have heard it offers the
usual attractions in Winter, but there is no railway to help much.
In other districts of Switzerland the following places should be
mentioned, although I have never been to them in Winter time.
ENGELBERG, 3,343 feet above the sea, in the Stans valley near Luzern,
is often well spoken of as a Winter centre, though it is liable to
thaw and shortage of snow. From what I know of it in Summer time I
should think that most of the surrounding slopes are too steep and
precipitous to allow of much free running, but the Titlis group
probably provides some open country and there is a short funicular
above the village.
There are excellent hotels, and all the usual attractions are offered.
ANDERMATT, 4,738 feet above the sea, lies in the Gothard Valley above
the Tunnel, and is easily reached in Winter by express trains stopping
at Goeschinen, whence a short mountain railway runs up to Andermatt.
I have only been there in Summer, and from what I saw should imagine
that Andermatt was subject to a great deal of wind. The slopes all
look somewhat steep and are bare of forest, so that they might be
somewhat dangerous on account of avalanches.
There is no railway to help Ski runners, but Andermatt might offer
quite a lot of good runs to experienced people.
I know nothing of the other attractions for the all-round Winter
sportsman, but have little doubt that Andermatt, which is a go-ahead
place, does all it can to satisfy them.
There are, of course, innumerable other places which may be good
Ski-ing centres, not only in Switzerland, but also in Germany,
Austria, and the Italian Tyrol.
The Jura mountains and places, such as Splugen and Schuls in
Graubunden, might open up new districts. There is much new country to
explore, and I have only picked out for notice the few places to which
I have been myself, or of which I have heard from people I trust.
My description may not always be appreciated by people who have
special affection for any one centre, but I have only tried to put
forward my own impressions for the guidance of any beginner who may
feel in a quandary as to what place to choose.
So much depends on weather conditions: if there is plenty of snow and
if the sun shines, almost every place is delightful. If, on the
other hand, a thaw settles in or fog descends on the mountains, or
a blizzard blows the snow about, or, worst of all, if rain falls,
reducing the snow to slush, nobody will be satisfied anywhere. Luckily
for Ski runners, even a few inches of wet snow will provide practice,
so that they suffer less than other Winter sportsmen when the weather
One thing can invariably be depended upon in Switzerland, namely a
warm welcome from the hotels, and every endeavour made to ensure the
comfort and enjoyment of their clients.
No country in the world lays itself out more for the satisfaction of
its visitors, and no holiday can beat a Winter holiday among the Alps
when the conditions are favourable and the sportsmen determined to
[Footnote 1: There is apt to be a certain amount of wind in the whole
Engadine but its height counterbalances this by usually ensuring that
there is not a thaw, even at Christmas time.]
Clothing should be light, smooth, warm, loose and, when buttoned up,
it should leave no gaps. It is better to wear several thin, warm
garments than one thick one, for the simple reason that going uphill
one wants to peel to the minimum; sitting on top of a mountain or
ridge in a wind, one wants to pile on everything one possesses, and
going downhill one wants a medium amount, all of which will button up
so that the snow cannot penetrate inside. Ordinary country clothes
will usually suffice for the first season, especially if they are of
smooth material which will shake off the snow.
Men usually wear smooth wool or cotton gaberdene coats, and trousers,
and a peaked "Guide's" cap. Their trousers either tuck inside the
uppers of their boots and should be sufficiently long to do so without
pulling out in a strained turn or fall, or they may be buttoned round
outside the boots or folded and tied on with Norwegian puttees or
swanks. Breeches and stockings may be worn, but long puttees should be
avoided as they constrict the muscles and stop the circulation, thus
tending to frost-bite, which is a serious danger at high altitudes.
Sweaters, unless worn under a coat when practising or running
downhill, are quite unsuitable as the snow gets into the stitches and
then melts, and the sweater becomes a sponge and often stretches till
it is more like a woman's coat-frock than anything it was before! A
Ski-ing suit should be well provided with pockets, all of which should
have flaps to button over and keep the snow out. Also to keep the
contents in. Money and other things carried loose are apt to fall out
in a downhill fall. Once this winter, when getting up from a fall, I
saw what looked like a useful leather boot-lace lying in the snow.
I picked it up and found it was the bootlace attached to two
stop-watches, which I had been using for a test. As one cannot tie
one's money up with a boot-lace, it is wise to carry it safely, and
cheat the goatherds, who may surely make a profitable living out of
the various treasures lost by Ski-ers, which appear on the slopes
after the snow melts.
Women need very much the same sort of clothing as men. Either trousers
or breeches, whichever they prefer. These should be made to measure in
order to fit well and be worn with braces to pull them up. Thick boys'
stockings should be worn to pull up over the breeches. If women would
only realize how sloppy their nether garments sometimes look and how
really horrid breeches look hanging loose over silk stockings indoors,
they would surely be more careful to study and copy a man's neat legs
before they venture into man's apparel.
One sometimes sees women's coats made with innumerable fancy buttons
or tabs as decoration. These only add to the weight which no one would
want to carry, and also look out of place. So does fur trimming.
Ski-ing clothes cannot be too simple. Elaboration is easily obtained
by bright-coloured gloves, scarves or swanks.
Coats should be made with a belt, which can be buckled tight before
the descent. A sitting fall in soft snow is apt to provide the runner
with a good dose of snow inside the coat. For the same reason breeches
and trousers should be cut somewhat high above the waist.
Women need just as many pockets as men, and I strongly advise two
large side pockets and two smaller breast pockets outside the coat, as
well as two inside breast pockets--all with flaps to button over.
A felt hat is now usually worn by women Ski runners, who find the brim
a comfort on sunny days, while it also protects the eyes when Ski-ing
through a blizzard. Incidentally it helps to prevent snow from going
down the neck in a head-first fall. A chin-strap may be required for
Boots are, perhaps, the most important part of a Ski runner's outfit.
They must be water-proof and large enough to hold two pairs of socks
in addition to stockings. The soles must be so stout that they will
not buckle or bend under the instep when the Ski binding is tight.
Heels must be low and should be slightly grooved at the back to hold
the binding. I have no hesitation in saying that most of the Ski-ing
boots sold in England prove to be unsatisfactory. Such firms as
Lillywhite and Fortnum & Mason, which make a study of suitable
equipment, may be trusted, and almost every Swiss bootmaker now sells
trustworthy boots for Ski-ing. I always buy my own boots from Och,
who has shops at Geneva, Montreux, Zuerich and St. Moritz. They can be
relied on for at least two or three long seasons, if one is careful to
oil the uppers with boot oil occasionally, and never to oil the soles
except with linseed oil, which is said to harden them. On the whole,
however, the soles are safest left untouched. Boots should never be
dried on a radiator or by a fire. Personally I like hooks, rather than
eyelets, and I find that leather boot-laces last longer than others.
There is much discussion as to whether Ski boots should have nails in
the soles or not. They tend to wear away the aluminium or linoleum
plates fixed to the Skis under the foot, but on the other hand they
are almost indispensable when Skis are carried across a hard, steep
slope, or down an icy path. It seems to me that it is positively
dangerous to go any real Ski tour with unnailed boots unless crampons
or spikes to fit on to the heels be carried. New plates can easily be
fitted to the Skis when nails have worn through them, but nothing can
help the Ski-er down a steep, icy path or across a hard frozen slope
on smooth soles, unless he carries special contrivances to fix to his
People are now trying crepe rubber soles, but they are not solid
enough to bear the strain of tight bindings unless fixed to the usual
thick leather sole, when the whole becomes too thick for comfort. My
experience for several winters with beginners is that the soles of
most English boots buckle as soon as they are subjected to the tight
pull of a leather binding.
Few things are more irritating to a beginner than to find that his
binding will not hold on his boot. Over and over again in a run down
his Ski comes off and he delays his party by having to stop and put
it on again. Still it will not hold even though he ties it on with
string. Then he realizes that his boot is buckling. The sole arches up
under the instep and the binding, becoming loose, slips off the heel.
There is no cure for this, and the only solution is to use a toe
binding, such as the new B.B., or a solid binding such as the Ellessen
or Lilienfeld, instead of a heel binding. As most hired Skis have the
Huitfeldt heel binding it is essential to ensure that boots are of the
Gloves are another very important item of clothing. They should be
waterproof. This is easy to say but very difficult to obtain. The
rub of the stick on the palm of the hand tends to sodden almost any
material. Snow also gets inside during a fall and then, of course,
even the waterproof glove comes home wet. The best gloves are paws
made of thick horse-hide and lined with wool. They should have long
gauntlets wide enough to pull up over the sleeves and they should be
joined by a string going round behind the neck, under the coat collar,
long enough to allow of free use of the hands, and this string should
have another string joining it across the chest. It is often necessary
to slip off a glove and if they are not safely hung round the neck
they fall in the snow, which promptly runs inside, or they may be
dropped and lost.
Socks are a matter for individual choice. Some people like goat's-hair
socks, which have many of the qualities or disqualities of a hair
shirt. They are prickly and, therefore, perfect as a counter-irritant
under very cold conditions, but far too irritating for ordinary wear.
I was much amused in a London shop last winter when I heard a Ski-ing
expert advising a lady not to buy "those repulsive goat's-hair socks."
When she had bought what he advised I said I had come especially to
buy "a repulsive pair of socks." He immediately explained that he had
advised the lady not to get them because they only had two pairs left,
and he did not want to sell them. He let me have a pair, and the
only time I wore them I thought with amusement of his advice and
explanation. The lady was undoubtedly well out of them, and I hope
never to use them again. Some people swear by them, so all tastes must
be allowed for.
It seems to me better to wear two thin pairs of socks in addition to
stockings, rather than one pair of thick socks. If these seem to fill
the toes of the boot too much, the toe part of one pair of socks can
be cut off, the remainder being worn as an anklet.
Swanks, or Norwegian puttees, may be used to tie the socks above
or over the boot so as to prevent the snow from getting inside. Or
shooting anklets may also be used, granted that they are large enough
to go over the wide uppers of a Ski boot as well as the socks.
Footgear for Ski-ing is not elegant, but as every one wears the same,
nobody need feel shy. It is another reason for buying in Switzerland.
Ski boots of the right size bought in a London shop look so Gargantuan
that people will often insist on having a smaller pair than is really
useful when the time comes to wear them.
Spare clothing should invariably be carried on any run beyond the
nursery slopes as, in case of an accident and delay in fetching help,
a runner who is hurt may be badly frost-bitten. This, of course, only
applies to high places during the months of December, January and
early February, when the thermometer may often register 32 deg. of frost
or more after the sun goes down.
When choosing equipment it is wise, therefore, to remember spare
clothing, which should include a Cardigan or Jersey, a dry pair of
woollen gloves, a dry pair of socks or stockings, a warm cap of some
sort to cover the ears and a scarf. All these should be chosen for
a combination of warmth and lightness. A wind-jacket is often
recommended. Some people carry a thin silk, or oil silk, or even
chamois leather, or paper waistcoat, to put on under their coats
when a wind blows. This is not necessary for any but long tours in
midwinter. A very useful "sail-cloth coat" specially made for Ski-ing
can be bought in most Swiss sports-shops and is excellent.
The great thing to remember about clothing for Ski-ing is that
climbing uphill you will probably get very hot and perspire freely.
To stop in a biting wind in this condition without putting on spare
clothing is obviously risky. It is difficult to ski freely in heavy
thick clothes, so that everything should be warm and loose and made of
wool except, perhaps, the wind-jacket or the Swiss coat, which can be
worn over a sweater.
Cotton or linen underclothing will probably soon be discarded, but
this is a personal matter, and need not be dealt with here.
The minimum amount of equipment should be purchased before going out.
The Swiss shops are just as well provided with Ski-ing necessities as
the British and it is expensive to take out heavy luggage. Most Swiss
hotels will gladly store Skis or gear of any kind through the Summer,
and these can be posted or forwarded by rail to any place the runner
chooses for the following season.
Clothing has been dealt with in a former chapter. Here I propose to
describe the equipment which I know, from experience, to be useful.
Skis can be bought in England or in Switzerland. One or two English
firms, such as Lillywhite, which really take pains to obtain the best
possible quality of goods, may be trusted to provide Norwegian Skis,
but there are also several makers of good Skis in Switzerland. Skis
should be made either of hickory or ash. Other woods such as birch and
walnut have been tried but these do not appear to make as satisfactory
Skis as hickory or ash. Hickory is heavy so that the beginner will
do well to get ash Skis in the first instance. Their average length
should be the height of the Runner with his arm extended above his
head, the tip of the Ski when standing upright being in the palm of
his hand and his fingers just able to bend over it. When the novice
becomes more proficient, he may like to try longer or shorter Skis,
but the average length is best to begin with.
Good makers, such as Bjornsted in Bern or Staub at Zurich, may be
trusted to make their Skis right proportionately, and the buyer need
not worry about their width or depth so long as the length is right.
There is a great deal of difference in the line of a Ski, as there is
in a boat. Flat ones are ugly compared with those which hump along
the centre, but they are also lighter. It seems to me wise for the
beginner to hire his first Skis, rather than to buy them. Most of the
sports shops in the different centres are very obliging and will allow
their clients to try two or three pairs of Skis in order to experience
the difference between them.
They should not curve up too abruptly in front and they should be
about one inch apart in the centre when laid flat one against the
other. This spring adds greatly to the comfort of running and should
be maintained by the Ski having a block of wood between them when put
away for the Summer or even when laid by for two or three days.
The question of binding is a very serious one. Broadly there are three
(1) Toe bindings, by which only the toe of the
boot is attached to the Ski.
(2) Solid binding with a sole attached to the
(3) Leather heel bindings.
(1) I have tried two forms of toe bindings--the B.B. and the B.B.B.
and gave them up for the following reasons. Firstly, I think it a
dangerous binding. There is practically no give at all so that in a
bad fall when the foot is twisted under one, if the Ski does not move
the leg has to give way and may be broken. I think surgeons agree that
there are more accidents as a result of wearing a B.B. binding than
any other--so that it seems to me much better to start with another
type of binding and then go into the B.B. later if preferred. Another
drawback is that as the whole pivotal pressure in a turn is borne by
the toe iron, when a B.B. binding is worn, the toe irons are always
being forced open. Not only that, but the spring on the Ski which
holds the hook on the boot is so strong that it tends to pull the boot
through the toe irons, so that gradually the boot gets longer and more
pointed and the spring no longer holds.
All this criticism may be due to prejudice on my part, but I have
tried the B.B. with enthusiasm and only gave it up because I was
convinced that a heel binding was more satisfactory. Since I tried it,
two or three new forms of toe binding have been put on the market, the
simplest of which seems to me to be the Davos form, which is merely a
strap fixed to the Ski with an iron loop at the end to fit into the
hook on the boot and an ordinary Huitfeldt spring buckle to fix it
(2) Solid bindings. The commonest forms of these are the Ellesen,
Lilienfeld and Bilgeri, but as I have never tried any of them, I can
say nothing about them.
(3) Heel bindings. There are two main forms of these--the Lap thong
and the Huitfeldt. The Lap thong is merely a long strap of raw hide or
leather. A loop is drawn through the hole under the toe iron, the long
end is taken round the heel and through the loop, then back round the
heel and through a slit in the other or short end. The long end is
then carried under the foot and round the instep and finally tied off
with a knot. This has been improved upon by a ring and buckle being
added to save slitting the leather or knotting the ends.
The Huitfeldt binding is a thick double-leather strap, which buckles
round the whole foot and has a strong spring to pull it taut when the
binding has been slipped on to the heel. This is the usual binding on
I have tried both these bindings, and now wear a Scheer binding, which
is a combination of the two--the long Lap thong with buckles and also
a spring similar to the one tightening a Huitfeldt binding. The chief
drawback to a Lap binding was that it took time to put on so that
fingers got very cold and clumsy when fitting it before a run down
from a height. The trouble about a Huitfeldt binding is that it is
thick and clumsy and the buckles stick out so that they catch in the
snow when running.
The Scheer binding avoids these drawbacks. It is put on just as easily
as a Huitfeldt and the thin thong lies so closely along the boot that
there is nothing to catch in the snow. It is very easily lengthened or
shortened when the leather contracts or stretches and this is also
a great comfort. This binding being new, may not yet be obtainable
everywhere, but it is well worth trying to get. The Huitfeldt and
Scheer bindings both tend to give a little in a strained fall, so that
the foot slips round and the leg is usually saved.
Toe irons pass through the Ski under the toes and come up either side
to hold the foot in place. They should be carefully fitted and, with a
view to this, the boots should be left overnight with the sports shop
and the Skis fetched next day. The boot should lie quite straight
along the Ski. If the toe irons do not fit properly, the boot will be
cock-eye on the Ski, and too much free play may take place. I have
often seen beginners take advantage of this to stick their heels out
and off the Ski into the snow to help them uphill, or to act as a
brake downhill. They will rue it downhill, however, as the foot should
be firmly held on the Ski or control will be impossible.
Toe irons are sometimes made of very soft metal. These are usually
attached to Skis hired out by the sports shops in order that they may
be easily fitted to the many different shaped feet of the hirers. When
getting toe irons fitted to one's own Skis, it is wise to ask for
strong ones, as the soft irons give too freely to the pivotal action
of the feet in turns and tend to be constantly opening and becoming
Cast-iron toe irons are often used in conjunction with toe bindings in
order to avoid the difficulty of the irons being forced open by the
boot being pulled through by the spring. These irons have one great
fault. They have to be screwed on to the Ski and are very cold under
the foot. This may be considered imagination, but I believe it to be
true, in which case it may be prejudice.
The toe irons are joined over the toes by a leather toe-strap pulled
through and buckled. The irons should be so high that this strap does
not press at all on the boot, or restrict the free play of the toes.
The whole binding should be so fitted that it is possible to kneel
down on one's Skis.
Foot plates are nailed on the Ski under the foot. These are usually
made of linoleum or aluminium. I prefer a thick plain aluminium plate,
and find that the snow does not stick to it.
When the Skis have been chosen, sticks have to be provided. A pair
of sticks should be used, one being carried in each hand. They are
usually made of hazel or bamboo. The latter are light, but tend to
split. I always use hazel, which are cheaper and very satisfactory.
Sticks should be so long that they reach to just above the waist and
should not be very heavy though strong sticks are necessary for all
real touring. They should have padded leather knobs at the tops,
as these prevent the stick from slipping out of the hand and being
dropped during a run, as well as saving the hand from blisters when
the stick is much used in practising lifted stem or jump turns. Wooden
knobs are often used but these tend to get coated with ice, which wets
the glove and is uncomfortable.
A leather or webbing thong is passed through the stick or nailed under
the knob as a loop to hang them up by, but should never be put round
the wrist except for uphill work as the wrist might easily be broken
in a bad fall, if the stick be attached to it. My great idea is to get
rid of my sticks in a fall, as I once impaled my leg on the spike of
my stick in a somersault. I was thankful that the spike was a short
one and not one of the newfangled aluminium spikes which would have
penetrated much further and might easily have done damage to the bone.
Only a short spike is necessary--just long enough to go into crusted
snow and hold.
The discs round the bottom of sticks should be large, about seven
inches in diameter, and they should be loose so that they will lie
flat with the Ski when packed. I prefer them put on with a thong which
passes through the stick and is crossed backwards and forwards across
the disc, allowing of plenty of free play in the disc. By this means,
the thong does not cut where it passes through the stick. Discs are
often made almost solid and then fixed to the stick with an iron hasp,
which is apt to snap or to split the stick.
Sticks hired out with Skis usually have small discs and no knobs, and
most beginners will soon wish to possess their own pair, which only
cost about twelve francs. A word of advice here. Keep your sticks
in your bedroom. Even in the best Ski-ing circles sticks sometimes
disappear--and once your own sticks go, you are tempted to take
anybody else's and so the mischief goes on!
The Rucksack is a very important item of equipment It should be
waterproof and large, even if you do not intend to carry much. Nothing
is more uncomfortable than a small full Rucksack, perching like a
football on one's back. By the time a packed lunch and a cardigan
as well as some spare gear is stuffed into the sack, it swells. Two
outside pockets and one large inside division are indispensable. Keep
wax, scraper, string, etc., in one outside pocket ready to hand. Map
in the other.
Leather shoulder straps are the best as they do not cut the shoulder
in the same way as webbing. I once hunted a great many London shops in
vain for a Rucksack with leather shoulder straps. They all had thin
webbing, which soon turns into a wisp and hurts the muscles of the
shoulder. The leather straps should finish on a ring at the top which
should be attached to the top of the Rucksack by a leather tab firmly
sewn on. This is a much safer system than running the string, which
pulls up the top of the sack, through the shoulder straps at the back,
because the pull on the string chafes it and gradually cuts through
it. Some experienced runners prefer the Bergans Rucksack on an
aluminium frame. It is unquestionably heavier than the ordinary sack,
but the frame resting on the hips helps to distribute the weight and
it is said to be less tiring to carry. Another joy about it is that
the frame keeps the sack off the back, so that there is an air space,
and the usual poultice effect of an ordinary Rucksack is avoided.
There are many different types of Rucksack to be had in Switzerland.
They should be waterproof and as the waterproof material is very
expensive now, a good serviceable sack costs at least Frs. 17.00 to
25.00. The better Rucksacks have straps fixed outside for carrying
one's coat or possibly sealskins. (Sohms skins should be carried
inside the sack.) I advise people to carry the various contents of
their sacks in different bags, or tied up in handkerchiefs. This may
sound old-maidish, but it is a trick I learnt from Swiss climbers and
I am very thankful. Anyone who has hurriedly searched his sack for
some particular bit of gear knows the sort of haystack which results,
while if first-aid equipment, sealskins, spare bindings, emergency
rations, mending outfit, etc., are all carried in separate,
differently coloured bundles inside the sack, endless time is saved.
This is particularly worth considering in a blizzard, when fingers are
cold and nothing can be found.
Skins are used for climbing uphill on tour. They consist of long
strips of sealskin, which are attached to the running surface of the
Skis. The hairs lying towards the back of the Ski catch in the snow
and prevent the Skis from slipping backwards, which is a great help
and saving of energy. The Skis can be kept in good slipping condition
with oil or wax, and when the skins are taken off at the top of a run,
very little further preparation is necessary.
There are two forms of sealskins:
(1) Sohms skins, which are attached to the Skis with wax.
(2) Those made up on canvas with straps to fix them to the Skis.
The latter can usually be hired by the day for about Frs. 3.00 from
the local sports shop, and cost about Frs. 20.00 to buy. Most runners
now use the Sohms skins, the great gain being that one can run
downhill almost as well when they are still on, so that on a tour with
one or two short descents _en route_, the Skis may be left on.
Waxes are of many kinds, and some runners, not content with what they
buy, prefer to mix their own.
The waxes most used in Switzerland are Skiolin, both hard and soft,
Sohms' with red, yellow or green label, and Parafine.
I have found that hard Skiolin ironed into the running surface of
the Ski with a hot iron, provides a good surface. Sohms' wax being a
climbing wax is apt to stick to some kinds of snow and if Sohms' skins
have been used, it is wise to scrape all this wax off before the run
down and to polish the Ski with Parafine wax if it needs a finish. On
hard snow this is not necessary.
Some waxes are used as climbing wax instead of skins, but as different
sorts are needed for different types of snow, they complicate life
almost more than is worth while.
A very good permanent surface on Skis is obtained by oiling them
repeatedly with linseed oil, allowing them to dry thoroughly between
each coat of oil. This is a somewhat lengthy process and an impossible
one if the Skis are in daily use, but it is much the best method at
the beginning or end of the season.
The best Sohms' skins are dark grey or black and they cost about Frs.
25. The leather surface should be carefully waxed with green label
Sohms' wax before starting on an expedition. The wax should be
very thinly spread, and it is wise to get this job done at leisure
overnight and to lay the skins together with their waxed surfaces
touching, and to keep them in a warm room, but not near a heater or
When starting on an excursion wear the skins wound round your body
under your coat so that they remain warm and supple until required.
Then wax the running surfaces of the Skis with yellow label Sohms' wax
as sparingly as possible. It should be spread smoothly and without
lumps. When putting on the skins lay them along the Skis from the tip
towards the back and run your thumb down the line of the centre groove
in the Ski, while you press the skin on evenly over the whole Ski.
New skins are apt to shrink after use, so it is better not to cut the
strap, which slips over the tip of the Ski. The best plan is to make
a second slit in this strap and slip it on, and then if the skin is
still too long turn the end part up over the Ski at the back, sticking
it on with wax. Then, when the skins have been used for two or three
days, it is easier to decide what length the strap should be.
Having put your skins on, lay the Skis flat on the snow so that the
skins will freeze on.
Sealskins must never be dried by a heater or stove as the heat
shrivels them and they are ruined.
When not in use, they can be kept rolled up in a bag and should be
carried in the Rucksack rather than hanging on outside. Frozen skins
are very difficult to attach.
A scraper should invariably be carried when Ski-ing, even on the
Nursery slopes. These are made of aluminium and the best type has a
groove which will fit into the groove of the Ski and scrape this as
well as the flat surface, as ice is apt to adhere there also. Some
runners carry, attached to their belt, a Norwegian hunting knife in
its case. This is excellent for scraping the Skis and for any purpose
for which a strong knife may be wanted, but it always seems to me that
it would be a nasty thing to fall on.
A strong ordinary knife should invariably be carried. The Swiss
military knife is the best possible as it seems to include practically
everything necessary. A really good one costs about Frs. 12.00 or Frs.
14.00, though inferior steel may be had for a great deal less. It
should have a ring and be attached to the belt.
Dark spectacles or goggles should be included in equipment.
A mending outfit is often needed, and at least one member of every
party going on tour should carry something with which to mend broken
Skis. There are many patterns of spare Ski tip on the market, all of
which may be useful in certain circumstances, but I have no doubt that
the wooden Ski tip is the best. It is just an ordinary front part of a
Ski, about two feet long and planed off, so that it will lie close to
the broken Ski. This is fixed on by metal clamps, which are made on
purpose and can be bought in most winter sports shops. Holes, at
different intervals fitting the clamps which should be put on
lengthwise, may be bored beforehand in the Ski tip, in order to save
time when the tip may be needed on tour. The gimlet supplied with the
clamps is usually a poor one, and I always carry a spare gimlet, a
little larger than is necessary, as it is difficult to make the holes
in exactly the right place in a broken Ski. Cold and clumsy hands have
always to be reckoned with when Ski-ing.
The clamps being somewhat roughly made are apt to break so that one
should carry at least five pairs. In putting them on, take care not to
drop the little square nut off the bolt into powder snow as it sinks
at once and may be irretrievably lost.
Other makes of spare Ski tips include one made of cast aluminium
produced by Lillywhite, who will probably improve upon it, as at
present it seems to me to be too flat. The method of fixing it is,
however, a good one.
The Swiss sports shops also keep light tips made of tin and copper,
which are affixed by various methods, but they are usually too short
and thin to be more than a makeshift.
If a Ski is broken near the front, the wooden Ski tip, when properly
adjusted enables one to run any distance quite comfortably and even
permits of turns. It is clumsy to carry except in a Bergans Rucksack.
A long, narrow pocket might be sewn diagonally across the back of an
ordinary Rucksack in which to carry it, but I am afraid it would be
uncomfortable. I tried such a pocket vertically and found it quite
intolerable and even dangerous in some falls.
Mending outfit must also include a spare binding and a toe strap,
as well as some string and cord, wire, and two or three leather
boot-laces. The best spare binding to carry is a Lap thong, as it is
easier to push through than a Huitfeldt, unless a thin single strap is
carried for the front part of the latter. In any case a bit of wire
facilitates the pulling through of the thong or strap.
An inexperienced runner, who has not used a Lap thong, should try
fitting one at home before depending on it in emergency, as it is a
little tricky to put on at first.
Runners going any distance on tour should carry some sort of first-aid
equipment. It need not be elaborate, but should include bandages, a
clean dressing (a first field dressing is the best and most compact),
iodine and adhesive plaster, and some vaseline or boracic ointment.
Even a scratch will go on bleeding on a cold day and be very tiresome.
Accidents are miraculously few and far between in Ski-ing, considering
the falls and the large number of people who ski. But they happen
occasionally, and it is as well to be prepared.
The list of gear could be prolonged to any extent, as "What to carry
in my Rucksack" becomes an enthralling hobby. Everyone will eventually
decide what he thinks he ought to have, in order to come home with a
free conscience after any eventuality. Another runner has suggested
my adding a pair of small pincers, a pocket tool outfit, matches or
fusees, an electric torch, scissors.
Weight has to be considered, as the more the Ski runner carries the
greater the effort, but there is undoubtedly great satisfaction
in feeling that one has everything which might be helpful in any
emergency. If three or four runners are going together the whole gear
can be distributed among them, but this makes it more necessary than
ever for the party to keep together as a spare Ski tip or similar
luxury is no use at the bottom of a run when the accident is near the
Even if one does not need all the gear oneself, it seems better to be
prepared to help other people who are in difficulties.
The following lists show firstly what I think every runner going
several miles beyond home ought to carry; and secondly what a great
many runners carry in addition:
(1) A strong knife with corkscrew, leather punch, tin opener, etc.
(2) A Ski tip, gimlet and mending outfit.
(4) String and cord.
(5) Spare binding and toe strap.
(6) Dark yellow glasses (Triplex are safest).
(7) Siren or strong whistle.
(8) Emergency ration of some sort, such as chocolate, raisins, dates.
(9) Spare clothing including cardigan or sweater, dry gloves, dry
socks, scarf, cap to cover ears.
(10) First-aid equipment.
(12) Wax and scraper.
Some runners carry all these things and the following besides:
Matches, lantern (folding), or electric torch, aneroid, compass,
pincers, hammer, brandy, thermos with some hot drink.
A great many people will laugh at me for suggesting all this gear, but
I do so out of experience. When one has ski-ed some years with a good
many people, one looks back with amusement to the number of times when
one has been asked to provide any of the above.
People go out without spare clothing, food, first-aid equipment,
repair outfit. Something happens, and they at once look round to see
where they can borrow. Now borrowing is not part of the game and every
runner should be independent. It is easy when going on tour, to divide
up the gear so that every member of the party carries his share; it is
not necessary for each member to carry the whole of what I have shown.
Let each carry enough to feel self-reliant, and let the party carry
enough not only for their own needs, but also for any other runner in
distress whom they may come across. Ski-ing should be an unselfish
At a certain centre one Winter, word was brought in at about 3.30 p.m.
by a member of a party of three that one of his companions was lying
in the forest about a mile away with a badly broken leg. Three runners
dashed off from the Nursery slopes with the man who brought the news,
to show them the way. I posted a friend to watch where they entered
the wood, while two other strong runners fetched clothing and hot
drinks in a thermos. Somebody else called up the Rettung chef and the
doctor. All this help was mobilized within an hour.
Meanwhile the man was lying in the snow in the wood with a badly
broken lower leg. The sun had set and the temperature very low.
Not one of the party had any spare clothing or gear of any sort. A
sensible man, who had been one of the first three to go off from the
slopes told me afterwards that if hot drink and clothing had not come
soon, he was convinced that the man would have died. As it was he was
nearly unconscious and his pulse had nearly stopped.
Dark came on and the doctor and the ambulance sledge did not arrive.
Instead of going the way the others had disappeared, they tried a
route they thought easier and took too high a line in the forest.
The trees muffled sound, and though both parties were shouting and
whistling, they heard nothing till at about 6.30 p.m. one of the
watchers heard a runner near and went off after him in the dark and
luckily found him. This man was scouting for the doctor and sledge and
finally brought them to the scene of the accident at 7 p.m.
By this time some one or two of the watchers had gone home nearly
frozen, leaving all possible clothing on the injured man. Three others
stayed and rubbed him without intermission, which probably saved his
life and limbs. The doctor had brought a splint which he put on by
light of an electric torch and the man was taken to the station and
sent off at once to the hospital.
Now, all this happened within a mile of home where help was handy.
Such accidents happening several miles from home may have far more
serious consequences, and every Ski runner, who scoffs at the
precautions of people more fussy than themselves, may very likely have
the life or limb of someone else on their mind when, had they been a
little more fussy, they might have saved it.
Not only that, the selfish runner, who travels light, may well be a
serious burden to others and risk their safety and comfort through his
Ski-ing is a game which sorts people out, and where the character of
people like sailors, who know what it is to face the elements, shows
up well against the civilian, whose greatest risk in life at home is
crossing a street at a busy hour.
People may ski for years without getting hurt, and the experienced
runner probably hurts himself less than the beginner. Yet it is the
experienced runner who carries the gear, the beginner it is who
usually scoffs and takes risks, not only to himself, but to the people
who have to go out to look for him when he is benighted or hurt.
CARE OF EQUIPMENT
Skis call for a good deal of attention if one takes the game
seriously. People who only come out for a fortnight and who hire any
pair of Skis, which they treat as they would the floor of an omnibus,
have no appreciation of how much attention Skis need, if they are to
be really dependable in all sorts of snow.
New Skis should be well-oiled with two or three coats of Linseed oil,
which should dry between each coat. I think hickory needs the oil just
as much as ash, but some people disagree with this. The oil hardly
goes beyond the surface of the wood and soon rubs off on hard snow,
but it preserves the wood as well as giving a slipping surface so
long as it lasts. Newly oiled Skis when dry need very little further
attention for a few days, as they will run well over all sorts of
When there is no time to oil, because the Skis are in daily use, wax
can be ironed in. Most good sports hotels now provide a bench with
an electric iron in a special heated and lighted room where the
Ski-runner can work happily after tea, or on a snowy day. If no such
room be provided, it should be clamoured for, because the waxing of
Skis is a much more difficult job without it. The patent iron "Para"
is helpful where no electric iron is provided. "Para" is an oblong
perforated metal box with a handle which screws in. A lump of Meta
(solid spirit fuel) is lighted and put inside and the iron becomes hot
and is rubbed up and down the Ski, while wax is pressed against it and
dribbled on to the wood.
Almost any wax can be ironed in, but I think the hard black "Skiolin"
is best for the purpose. Be careful to wax the groove as well as the
flat surface of the Ski.
When Skis are put away for the summer, the upper as well as the
running surfaces should be oiled or re-varnished in order to preserve
Leather bindings may be well oiled with special boot oil to keep them
Skis should never be kept in a hot place, as they are apt to warp, but
they should be kept dry when put away.
Boots should never be dried by a fire or on a heater, but should be
stored in a cool place. They need occasional oiling of the uppers with
some sort of boot oil. Dubbin may also be used and is good for filling
places, such as between the sole and the upper. The soles should never
be oiled, except perhaps with Linseed oil, which hardens the leather.
I think the wisest plan is to leave the soles dry, but if snow balls
on them they can be waxed with Ski wax. This is often specially
necessary on the heel. If boots be put outside the bedroom every
night, the porter will oil them automatically, in most good hotels.
Sealskins should be wrapped up in newspaper and stored in a cool place
when put away. Moth will ruin them if left open and heat crumples
them, making them useless. A friend told me that when her seal Skis
(webbing ones) were ruined by being put near a fire, she recovered
them by soaking them in salad oil. She was certainly using them quite
THE ELEMENTS OF SKI-ING
This book does not profess to be in any way a textbook of the
technique of Ski-ing. As stated in the preface, my only idea in
writing it is to provide an answer to a good many questions which have
been asked me every year. Anyone who deals with a great many people
knows that there are always some fifty stock questions, which can
quite easily be answered by fifty stock answers. What I say in this
chapter about the first run will be the barest elements of Ski
Beginners should obtain either Arnold Lunn's books, or those of Vivien
Caulfield, and concentrate on the theory of turns. I have known two
or three novices who, though they had never even seen Skis before, by
dint of studying the technique in theory before they came out, were
able immediately to apply it in practice. Most beginners find,
however, that the moment the Skis start sliding, all theory is thrown
to the winds. Instinct of self-preservation prevails and they sit
down. Kind friends looking on say, "That was because you were leaning
backwards. You must lean forwards." Off they start again, carry out
the advice, their Skis stick for some reason and down they go head
foremost--the most difficult fall of all to get up from, and the most
The great thing is not to do too much the first two days after coming
out. The height affects people more than they realize at first, and
great energy, due to the bracing air, is often followed by great
lassitude. Most people are not in training, and Ski-ing tries the
lungs, nerves, and muscles of the fittest as the whole system seems to
be brought into play.
A few hours' practice on the Nursery slopes is usually enough for the
first two or three days, and if, at the end of the week, the beginner
seems to be falling more than when he first began, half or even a
whole day off Skis will produce wonderful results in better balance
and general fitness.
Having chosen Skis, and ensured that the toe irons and binding fit
you, go out to some gentle slope of about 10 deg. with soft snow, if
Set your Skis at right angles to, or across, the fall of the slope
before putting them on, because Skis are quite apt to go off alone if
pointing down, hill. It is as well to realize this from the first and
to adopt the habit of preventing it in the way I suggest, because many
a run has been ruined by a Ski descending alone to the valley below,
leaving its owner to get home as best he can on one leg. Even if it
only goes down some 100 or 200 feet, the friend who goes after it and
brings it back often has a good deal to say, and you are lucky if the
Ski has not struck a rock or tree and got broken in its independent
run. It is no good getting angry on these occasions. I once watched a
boy on a distant slope, who had been obliged to descend some hundreds
of feet after one of his Skis. When he got hold of it in a temper he
started beating it with his stick, and continued doing so till the
stick nearly broke.
While on the subject of runaway Skis, I may as well warn you also
against a runaway Rucksack. I put mine down at my feet on a steep
hard-crusted slope while I took off my coat one day, and the Rucksack
started sliding slowly down below us. The party was made up of
beginners and we had ropes on our Skis instead of skins so that no
one could catch it up till it stopped about 200 feet below us. To add
insult to injury at the same time, somebody dropped a 50-ct. bit at
the same moment and this danced off down into the valley, racing the
Rucksack and beating it hollow.
But to return to the start. The Skis are safely lying across the
slope, and you are going to put them on. Put on the lower one first.
Never forget this, because it will often prevent a runaway Ski. If the
slope is very steep and hard, you should stick the other Ski upright
in the snow above you, in order that it may remain well in hand while
you put on the first. You will probably find it impossible to put on
your Skis with gloves on. If you lay these on the snow, they will
undoubtedly get snow inside them. The safest place to put them is one
on each stick, stuck upright on either side of you, or tuck them into
your belt or pockets.
When you have your Skis and gloves on and everything else is
hermetically sealed, you are ready to start sliding or traversing
slowly across the slope, before going straight down it. This will give
you time to get the feeling of Skis, which are clumsy at first. Slide
one foot forward, then the other, but do not lift them. Now try a kick
turn and come back across the slopes to the top and face straight
downhill. Keep your Skis closely side by side, one foot leading by
about twelve inches and push yourself off with your sticks. Try to
imagine that the Skis are only a moving staircase and that all you
have to do is to stand upright on them and let them do the rest. If
your slope is only 10 deg. and there is nothing steeper below you, the
Skis won't do much. Indeed in deep snow they may refuse to move at
all, in which case try pushing yourself along with your sticks. The
great thing is always to want to run faster than you are going and,
therefore, only to choose slopes where you feel that you can keep up
as fast as the Skis go. It is a mistake to start immediately down such
a steep slope that the Skis run away with you. At the same time it is
also a mistake not to increase the angle of your slope as soon as you
can compete with it.
Stand upright, press the knees together and try to feel that there is
a spring in your knees. Let one or other foot lead so that, if the
Skis stop, the front foot takes your weight and prevents you plunging
forwards and if the Skis suddenly plunge forward, the back foot is
equally ready to take the weight and prevents you from sitting down.
Whatever you do, avoid the hideous doubled-up position of a runner,
who bends at waist and knees, with feet parallel and far apart,
looking like a note of interrogation and leaving what we call
tram-line tracks. By his tracks shall a Ski-er be judged!
Look back and see the line you have left. If your two feet have left
two tracks with more than six inches apart in soft snow, you must not
be contented. In a good track, the two feet should leave one track,
but some bindings make this impossible, so that unless you are wearing
a toe binding you need not worry about a gap of two or three inches
between your feet. This only applies to soft snow running. On hard or
crusty snow, it is almost impossible and also dangerous to keep the
When you have begun to feel at home on Skis, go off to a much steeper
slope and try traversing. Choose a slope which has flattish ground
below so that you have an easy out-run and nothing to make you
Remember for your comfort that if you go across a slope leading
with the upper foot and with most of your weight on the lower
foot--standing upright and, if anything, leaning a little outwards
away from the slope, you can traverse across almost any slope without
difficulty, so long as it is not too steep for the snow to bear your
weight without slipping itself. Nothing is more comforting to a
beginner than to realize this. It takes away the feeling of giddiness
and gives confidence, but it needs learning and should be practised at
The first tendency of Skis on a steepish slope is to point more and
more downhill till, finally having intimidated the beginner into
allowing them to go their own way, they plunge straight down, and the
beginner collapses. To counteract this put more weight on the heel and
less on the toes while traversing.
This will push the back part of the Skis down and the front part
uphill across the slope and, if done sufficiently, the Skis will stop
and you have begun to get some feeling of control when traversing.
Standing upright the inner edge of your Skis will bite into the snow.
Try leaning inwards, as you will do by instinct, and you will find
your feet slipping away down the slope and you will gracefully recline
full length against it. It is exactly the same when walking across
a steep grass slope in Summer. Most of the slips are due to leaning
towards instead of away from the slopes.
As you get more confidence in your running, try lifting one Ski off
the ground as you slide along. Or even take off one Ski and try
running on the other; lifting a Ski will often save a fall. For
instance if the Skis get crossed, just lift the upper one and put it
down beside the other again while running. It is perfectly easy and
yet I have known people who, after weeks of practice, dared not lift a
Ski off the ground while moving, only because they had never tried it
as routine practice.
Whatever you do by way of practice do it first on one foot and then
on the other, or you will become a right or left-footed Ski-er and it
will take ages for you to feel equal confidence in either foot. This
applies especially to turns. Beginners will often go on practising a
turn on the right foot, till they can do it and then have to re-learn
it completely on the left foot.
Straight running downhill is mainly a question of confidence and
balance. As said before, it is better at first to avoid straight
running down a steep slope, because the Skis may go so fast that the
beginner is quite incapable of keeping up with them and a fall at very
high speed is somewhat upsetting and may temporarily shake your nerve.
Choose a low gradient of about 12 deg. or 15 deg. where you can see the
out-run which should be on to level ground or even a gentle rise so
that the Skis gradually pull up of their own accord. Soft snow is the
easiest and confidence may soon be won in this.
Stand upright or bend the knees, but do not bend at the waist. You
should feel as though on springs and you want your weight should be
well forward over your feet so that you can keep up with the Skis.
Standing in tube or bus, facing the way you are going and not holding
on to anything is very good practice at home. You will notice that a
bus conductor usually gives with the movement of the bus, so that he
is prepared for whatever it does. So with Ski-ing. Look ahead and see
what the ground is like, and then suit your balance to what is likely
to occur as the ground rises or falls. This soon becomes automatic but
it needs thinking out at first.
When the snow is hard, practise side slipping, because it will help
you out of many difficulties and once you know the feeling of it, you
will find that it replaces the downhill side-stepping, which is so
On hard snow, it is possible to go down broadside on by merely
standing on one's Skis and turning one's outer or lower ankle outwards
and one's inner or upper ankle towards the other, so that the Skis are
lying flat on the snow, instead of the edges biting into it. Push off
with your stick from the slope above you and weight your heels or your
toes according to whether the Skis are sinking in front or behind.
Have confidence, keep upright, lean away from the slopes and let your
Skis slide and don't blame me if you suddenly slide into a soft patch
of snow, which stops the Skis dead and you fall head downwards. This
is all in the day's work. If the surface of the snow is uniformly hard
you will slip down without difficulty.
Seriously, side slipping is a huge help and should be learned at once.
Mr. Caulfield gives first-class instructions, which are easy to follow
When going uphill never try to climb steeper than is easy. If the Skis
are slipping back, you are going too steep and should turn off and
traverse instead. No time is saved by too steep a climb; the man who
goes easily gets to the top first, while the other clambers up almost
on all fours, gets hot and exhausted and has gained nothing. If I am
leading an elementary run uphill, I can soon pick out the experienced
runners by the line they take and the pace at which they climb. The
puffing, panting, stumbling people, who forge ahead, herring-boning or
turning their ankles over their Skis so as to get a grip with their
boots, are not included in my "experienced runners."
Another hint for uphill work is that when traversing a slope, the
Skis should be edged so that the inner edge of the Ski bites into the
slope. A Ski with its whole surface flattened to the slope is bound to
slip especially on hard snow. By standing upright as you go uphill and
keeping the ankles straight, the Skis will be edged in the right way.
A quick way of getting up a steep slope is side-stepping. As you stand
with your Skis horizontal across the slope, lift the upper foot and
place it on the slope a few inches higher. Then lift the lower foot
and place it beside the upper. You will soon be able to do this while
advancing across your traverse at the same time, but it is hard work
and should only be used for short climbs.
Side-stepping is a very good way of climbing, but should be avoided
when descending, except when approaching a narrow gap in a fence or
crossing a stream where the approach is steep.
I have known a party almost benighted by a beginner, who had
discovered the joys of side-stepping and proposed to descend some
1,000 feet by this safe method, instead of sliding in the proper way.
Allowing eight inches to each side-step, how many hours would it take
to descend 1,000 feet?
A further hint, which may be useful for uphill work. If the Skis are
slightly lifted at every push forward, they tend to stick instead of
Always stand upright when climbing and keep the weight well on the
heels. People tend to bend forward and this adds greatly to the effort
and the Skis are more likely to slip back.
On long climbs sealskins are usually used on the Skis. The hairs lying
towards the rear stick into the snow and prevent the back slip, while
when the Ski pushes forward, they lie flat and offer no resistance.
The best uphill track is the one which keeps going at the same angle.
Every good walker knows how tiring it is to go up and down across
country when gullies have to be crossed. It is disappointing, having
got up a certain height, to lose all that is gained by going down
again. So it is even more with Ski-ing, when uphill work is really
more arduous than walking. Mr. Caulfield gives a very helpful
description of a good uphill track, and Skis tend to teach the
beginner how to keep the angle as they slip so easily downwards the
moment the uphill direction is altered.
When going uphill make up your mind what point you want to reach in
the distance and what line will take you to it most easily and then
go for it steadily, keeping the same angle all the way so far as is
possible and choosing your places for turns very carefully before you
Following an experienced leader teaches a great deal about the art of
setting an uphill track, and the criticisms of the rest of the party
following, when the leader loses height soon make one want to avoid
In organized Ski-ing centres a perfectly good code of etiquette is
growing up as the result of experience.
So many novices pour out on to the slopes with no knowledge of the
game that notices are even posted on the boards in the hotels giving a
few of the main points of the Law.
One such notice runs as follows:
(1) Ensure that you take your own Skis, sticks, etc. when you start
out. It is wise to mark sticks, and they are safest kept in bedrooms.
(2) Never join a private party unless invited.
(3) Only join the advertised tours, the test for which you have
(4) The slower mover has the right of way. The faster mover must avoid
him. Never call "Fore," "Achtung," etc.
(5) Always offer help to anyone in difficulties.
(6) Keep with your party. They might waste a lot of time looking for
you while you run home because you thought their pace too slow.
(7) Never desert a runner who, for any reason, is unable to keep up
with a party.
(8) Carry your own gear including spare clothing, Ski-ing necessaries,
(9) Avoid stepping on the Skis of another runner. This caution is
especially necessary for uphill work.
(10) Remember that wherever you leave a track others may follow.
Therefore only choose safe slopes. The snow is liable to slip on
slopes of 25 deg. or more, so that these are dangerous.
Ski-ing is a sport which can be made dangerous for others if
individuals do not carry out the usual etiquette. It may seem
extraordinary that people should need warning not to join a private
party unless invited, but it is sadly true.
One day as I was starting off on a long run a stranger came up to me
and asked if she might join us. I consulted the Guide, and he said he
already had as many in the party as he could take charge of. I told
the lady this, and said I was sorry that we could not accept her
companionship. She at once replied cheerily, "Oh, then I will follow
you." Nothing could prevent her from doing this. Switzerland is a free
country, and there is a right of way anywhere over the mountains in
winter. We started off and she followed. From that moment, of course,
we automatically became responsible for her because one of the Laws
is that you never desert a runner who is alone. She was a very poor