Get to know Mountaineering Skiing with Lukas Pratilas, director of the outdoor activities company Nature In Action and qualified mountaineering and climbing instructor.
"Walking" in the virgin corners of the Greek snowy mountains
"It is Christmas in 1995. My friend Nassos and I have planned the ascent many days ago and we were looking forward to it. So, as planned, with my father`s old Vespa, we start our way to Giona. The snow starts at low altitude, so we are forced to walk as of the village Kaloskopi.
Soon we sink into the snow to the knee. The scenery is wonderful. A sunny day in winter and everything around us white. The branches of the fir trees bow under the weight of the snow. We take as many photos as we can.
Now the snow reaches our waist making our ascent extremely difficult. The decision is inevitable. We have to return. Two parallel footprints on the snow accompany us along our way and testify that some others had taken the same way with us.
These lucky ones certainly managed to climb to the top and enjoyed the view, as they have used mountaineering ski.
When I was back at home, I made up my mind. I will try to learn more about mountaineering skiing! Immediately I made the necessary phone calls. Surely the experienced climbers shall inform me as I have a lot of questions.
What is the necessary equipment? Where will I find it? Who will teach me? Are there many others doing mountaineering skiing in Greece, so I have company?
I will try to answer to these logical questions of every beginner having the experience of several years now. You see, this sport is not widely spread in Greece, so there are not enough articles written. There is, therefore, a general ignorance about this wonderful sport.
First things first, I should mention that skiing started from the Scandinavian countries. The Scandinavians in order to move on the snow, invented the use of the two "wooden boards". So they did not sink but instead they slid on the snow and could go almost everywhere fast.
Soon the first ski bindings were designed that held the feet safely on the ski. At that time the bindings allowed the heel of the leg to get up like walking and they were used for both ascent and the descent.
Later the downhill ski was invented for entertainment. It is the well-known skiing sport we see in the Greek mountains during winter. The binding ties the soles of the skiing boots firmly to the ski and they are used only for downhill. Once the ascent is done... we are sitting in the lift.
Mountaineering is a combination of the two techniques above. In the ascent, the ski bindings remain open allowing the foot to move as much as walking. Beneath the ski a tape is placed to prohibit them of slipping backwards. The tape is known as "seal", as it was formerly made of the skin of the amphibian mammal.
With this way, we move forward, supported by the "sticks" (known as the baton) that we hold in our hands. After we finish the ascent, we make some adjustments. We remove the "seal" and lock the bindings. So in a few seconds, we are ready for a delightful descent.
For mountaineering skiing it is necessary to first know good downhill skiing. The teacher who teaches downhill skiing must also know mountaineering skiing to give the proper knowledge. He will continue with a few downhill ski lessons outside of the organized skiing slopes.
Lastly, the technical ascension course will continue wearing only the mountaineering ski, which is the easiest. If one wants, after learning mountaineering skiing, to enjoy this sport in isolated places, away from the ski resorts, he should be a very good mountaineer.
If one wants, after learning mountaineering skiing to move in isolated places away from the ski resorts, then things become more complex. He should be a good mountaineer.
I left the most important at the end!
The reasons that make this sport wonderful and I suggest it to everyone is first of all that it exercises the whole body, especially when climbing. Equally important is that we work out, enjoying wonderful landscapes that will never let us get bored.
For those who already know downhill skiing, I suggest to try mountaineering skiing, in order to get to know the "virgin" places of the Greek mountains, away from the bustling ski resorts.
This gives you also the opportunity to ski for about six months (ski resorts operate only three). For mountaineers I recommend it, as it is the only fast way to travel during the winter months.
And... if all the above reasons are not enough to persuade you, then come and try it. You will certainly get hooked on to it!