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Kalen’s Zen and the Art of Ski Touring Part 3

Editor's Note: My first ski tour was an absolute disaster. I couldn't quite figure out how to adjust my Fritschi bindings that where mounted on top of an ancient pair of BD Verdicts that I borrowed from the UVM Outing Club. Absolutely drenched in sweat I reached the summit of Big Jay in Northern Vermont. A smile crossed my face as I knew I have found something special. The boys at Soulryders Productions perfectly capture both with words and photos the essence of the ski tour. A great read for those both new to the touring world and expert backcountry travelers alike.

(Photo by Jim Harris)


So you’ve been cruising along. You found your rhythm, the engine is warm, the mind settled in to a steady pace of thought. You’ve been enjoying the scenery around you and all is good in your little skin track world. But little annoyances start to happen. Maybe your skins keep coming off, your dealing with too many icy switchbacks, perhaps your boots hurt or bindings are cooperating. Nothing major but just enough to switch your zen gear from calm to irritated. Before you can even notice, you’ve headed down a spiral of shame that leads to nothing but negativity and a lot of swearing.

This was the toughest phase to learn how to handle. As I’ve said, I wasn’t born a hiker and I didn’t ever enjoy it growing up. I was inspired by the end result so I forced myself to keep doing it and practiced harnessing my emotions and thinking logically and optimistically.

Frustration and impatience will not only deflate your day but that of your groups. I look back at some of my emotional moments hiking and can’t believe how selfish it was of me and how embarrassed I was afterwards. I have not once finished a tour or hike regretting it regardless of what happened. I always look back on the adventure as an amazing journey and experience. I take away lessons that can only be taught in that setting and have found inspiration that only these places can present. The toughest part with this stage is that it’s just going to take practice. Even the strongest of minds will occasionally find themselves in this hole so there’s a few things you can do:

First, get your gear dialed. If you went for a tour and you hate your bindings, get ones that you like. If your boots suck, get ones that don’t. If your skins slip on every step, buy new ones. Cold and soggy halfway through the tour? Get proper layers. As funny as the tight pant rondo skittles that whiz by you on the skin track look, there’s a reason they’re crushing it. When all your gear is dialed it gives you a wonderful peace of mind. You won’t have these little annoyances picking away at your sanity and potentially ruining your day. This won’t happen overnight. The evolution of my touring setup over the last few years is pretty hilarious. But I made the investment (yes I did buy some things) and it’s truly allowed me to take my touring to the next level. This day and age touring gear is so solid that I honestly can’t tell a difference between my alpine boots and my touring boots; my Dynafit bindings and my alpine bindings. There’s no excuse not to have great gear in the mountains.

Next, get in shape. This doesn’t mean you have to join a gym and have your personal trainer Hans yell at your for two hours a night. Nope, it just means maybe push a little harder than usual. Take a few extra runs or hike your line one more time even if you're tired. Maybe go for a quick 45 minute skin up a cat road on a high pressure day. Go out for a quick jog even if it’s just around your neighborhood. The littlest things can make the biggest difference.

(Photo by Kalen Thorien)

Partners. This is HUGE! If you don’t like the people you go ski touring with you can kiss a fun day goodbye. Honestly most people who ski tour are on the same stoked wavelength but your adventures are a little more special when you have that solid group that you can depend on and have a great time with. Find your niche and don’t be egotistical. Just because someone is a rad skier and can crush a skin track does’nt mean they’re the person you want to spend your whole day hiking with. I’ve gone out with some of the gnarliest guys out there and accomplished amazing objectives but couldn’t appreciate it as much because every time I looked over with the biggest shit eating grin on my face wanting to hoot and holler the feeling wasn’t reciprocated. People approach the mountains in many different ways so find who makes you happy and stick with them.

Last, check yourself and the first way to do this is leave the ego at the door. Every step you take should be pure of heart. This is encompasses everything from saying “No” to a situation you’re unsure of to why you're hiking in the first place. This was a very recent revelation and an interesting one to say the least. Ego spans all types of situations and people. Most of us I’d say are fairly ego free. Sure, our feathers get ruffled here and there and maybe we feel like pushing ourselves a little harder when we see a buddy getting after it, but generally speaking we keep the cockyness at home, saved for drunken beer pong rivalries or late night wizard sticks matches. When you begin to approach your missions without ego, you accomplish more and gain more from the experience. Our ego can cut us off from new experiences and altered paths. It closes our mind to outside changes and turns us into a selfish explorer. When you approach the mountains with an open mind and heart and are willing to bend and sway in whatever direction she’ll throw at you, that’s when you’ll have a great day. Let go of that control, that ego, and allow yourself to be embraced by the world around you.

Summit Stoke

Speaks for itself. This is the best feeling in the world, unmatched by anything. Take time to appreciate your surroundings. Breath deeply, dance around, give an air hug, do whatever, but don’t get sucked into the “Ok we’re at the top let’s get down now” mentality I’ve seen before (unless of course your safety is in question). You’ve accomplished something that most people in the world will never do. Be grateful to yourself and your partners. You are living a life elevated. Then enjoy the ride down.

End of the Day

Just have cold beer waiting and enjoy. That’s all that needs to be said. 

Athlete & Words by Kalen Thorien

(Photo by Jason Eichhorst) 

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About The Author

stash member SoulRyders Productions

Production company, curating the lifestyle & adventures of mountain sports. Whether it be by road, air or foot, we work to capture what few actually do…tell the story of the sport. We are explorers & storytellers, driven by the passion of our team

Comments (1)

Great work Kalen Thorien!