Ski Touring in a Prepared Piste

Two decades ago, no one would have imagined an urge to go up in a perfectly prepared piste with skins. Randonné / Ski Touring was only something for hills without ski lifts. Today it is becoming increasingly popular in Sweden to go uphill within bounds. More and more discover Ski Touring as a sport and a way to exercise. It can be seen as an expression of the increasing individualization in skiing.

But there are risks involved. The Ski system is a workplace even when the Ski lifts are closed and advanced machines are at work to prepare the arenas for the coming day. We love to see that more and more people are engaging in the alpine sports, but in a safe way. Therefore more and more resorts open up dedicated routes and opening hours for touring in the prepared pistes.

A Good Way to Exercise

More and more people appreciate being able to exercise when they want and where they want. Being able to use a perfectly groomed hill to walk uphill with skins is growing in popularity among both residents of ski resorts and guests. It is above all the ski ascent that attracts as a form of exercise, the downhill skiing becomes a bonus. Taking a virtually undisturbed ride down is something that attracts more and more people after closing time and sometimes even during the lifts’ opening hours.

Off Hours the Ski Area is an Intense Work Place

The ski resorts are of course welcoming the fact that more people discover all kinds of skiing, but at the same time they need for guests and locals to carefully check which slopes are suitable for the purpose to avoid collisions with other skiers during opening hours and with snow groomers and other heavy machinery such as snow mobiles and snow making machines. Another risk is the winch cables that are set up for the snow groomers to operate in steep terrain. It is easy to miss that a wire is in the way when you go down a hill at high speed after closing. Work with avalanche protection also takes place largely outside opening hours. Sometimes large drifts are required to burst off slopes to prevent them from releasing spontaneously, covering visitors. Therefore, it is forbidden to ski off hours, drive any vehicle, bike or do other things in the ski resorts.

SLAO – The Swedish Ski Areas Industry Association

The Swedish Organization for Ski Resorts has what they call “The Little Yellow Book”, with rules applying in the Ski Areas. The Little Yellow Book states that it is not allowed to go uphill in marked slopes at any time. Slopes are to be regarded as workplaces during non-opening hours. If a facility wants to allow Ski touring / Randonné, however, it is possible by providing special slopes and routes where no work is in progress or on marked trails that are separate from other downhill skiers to avoid collisions.

Marked Trails for Ski Touring

In Åre, for example, the phenomenon of Ski Touring in prepared pistes has grown steadily and therefore special randonné evenings are now arranged where illuminated slopes are open exclusively for touring. Something that has been well received by both locals and guests. The long bright spring-winter evenings contribute to more people being attracted to the ski systems even in the evening and therefore there are several touring trails next to slopes in the Åre area. Also in Funäsdalsfjällen there are trails open for “touring” on Funäsdalsberget and in Tänndalen. Even smaller resorts have marked trails dedicated for Ski Touring. The trails are often open during the evenings when the slopes are open for night skiing.

Increased Understanding

Ski resorts that offer special evenings for Ski Touring on marked trails sign and inform about rules that apply on their websites and in social media. You can also get information from, for example, Ski Lift Operators. In Ramundberget, guests are offered to ride in snow grooming machines to get an insight into the job behind the preparation of a hill and also a feeling for how difficult it is to discover if a skier is on the slopes after closing.

A ski pass is required for access to the slopes at all times, even when the ski lifts are closed.

 

View towards lake Åresjön and the cable car of Åre. Photo: Karl Hägglund

Equipment for Ski Touring in Ski Areas

If you want to try touring, you can rent equipment. The skis are often light and can give a slightly more unstable feeling than you are used to when you go downhill. So called skins with permanent glue are mounted on the underside of the skis to go uphill. The adhesive is permanent so when you get to the top of the hill, you just fold the skins together and put them in your backpack, making them ready for your next tour. You can also use your regular skis and get skins that are specially cut in the store to suit them. The disadvantage of “regular skis” is that they are heavier when you go uphill, but if it is the training you are looking for then the weight should not be a problem. However, if you get stuck on the sport and start competing, a lightweight ski is preferable.

You also need a binding that enables to loosen the heel when going uphill, and preferably boots that are comfortable and have a walking function to facilitate going uphill. To further facilitate, there is a function on tour bindings that allows you to get a heel support for the boot in steep terrain. Telescopic poles that can be made longer when ascending and shortened during downhill skiing are convenient.

It is important to have a positive fluid balance in your body to keep up the pace, so bring a water bottle and also make sure you have functional and breathable clothing, preferably with zippers under the arms of the jacket and along the legs of the trousers to ventilate when going uphill. Put on a windproof beanie when you go up and fasten the helmet to the backpack, ready to put back on for your descent.

Extra Equipment (and Skills) is Needed for Skiing Out of Bounds

If you want to go hiking out of bounds, in the backcountry, you also need avalanche equipment: an avalanche probe, shovel, transceiver and a first-aid kit plus extra clothing. For example to go skiing around mount Sylarna in the west part of Jämtland, Sweden. If you are curious on skiing in the backcountry come prepared with a good physique and go with a guide.

For additional inspiration: #earnyourturns

Skier in Destination Funäsfjällen. Photo: Martin Söderqvist

Destination Funäsfjällen

Ski Touring or “Rando” in Funäsdalen

The trail starts in the middle of the village Funäsdalen in Destination Funäsfjällen, next to the Ski Shop Topsport and leads all the way up to the top of Mount Funäsberget. Even if it is windy, the trail is in wind-protected terrain with both flatter and steeper sections. A little further up the trail you get a fantastic view of the village Funäsdalen, the lake and surrounding mountains. Funäsdalsberget’s rando trail takes between 30 and 60 minutes depending on your pace.

Ski Touring or “Rando” in Tänndalen

The so called Randoleden in Tänndalen starts at Tänndalen Ski Lodge and lingers up over frozen mires and through the forest of birch trees shaped by the wind, up to the top giving you a startling view of the mountain range.

The Southern Åre Mountains

Ski Touring in Vålådalen

Start to the right of the children´s slope by the ski lift and ascend in the non prepared slope, alternatively follow the Interval XC track up to the top of the hill. Descend in either of the slopes during opening hours.

For backcountry skiing on Mount Ottfjället most trails are beginner friendly as long as you don´t ski all the way down to Lake Ottsjön. Talk to the staff at Vålådalen´s Mountain Station for directions.

Ski Touring in Östersund City

Ski Touring Gustavsbergsbacken

The Östersund Climbing Association offers Touring evenings in the local Ski hill Gustavsbergsbacken, two evenings per week in winter. The Ski lift is closed, but the lights are on in the slope for these occasions. The Touring Evenings are free for members and others are welcome to join and pay per evening.

A well deserved descent. Photo: Mark Going

Ski Touring in Åre Ski Resort

Always check the current opening hours with Skistar Åre for the route you are interested in, for your and others’ safety. Everyone´s experience skiing will be enhanced if all keep to dedicated trails and show consideration to other skiers.

The Ullåleden trail (Åre High Terrain)

“Ullåleden” in Ullådalen is suitable for those who want to try Ski Touring in a beginner friendly terrain. The trail is a total of 3.8 km with a drop of 600 m and starts in Ullådalen at the XC trail center / Ullådalen XC Arena or at Ullådalsliften’s Ski Lift a little higher uphill. The trail follows slope no 31, Ullåmon and leads further along Långsvängen to Åreskutan’s top plateau. When the ski area is not open, the same way down applies.

Watch out in the Ravine Stendalsravinen for skiers coming towards you as you need to pass in the narrow ravine, walk as straight as possible (do not traverse) and use the heel support of your ski bindings.

The trail is open during both day and in the evening.

 

The Björnenleden trail (Åre Björnen)

”Björnenleden” is in the part of Åre Ski resort called Åre Björnen. The trail begins at the Björnen Ski lift station. Follow the Björnen trail to Tott and Fjällgårdsexpressen’s mountain station. NOTE: after about 850 meters you cross the Hermelinen slope, so watch out and keep a good margin. The trail differs 335 vertical meters and the distance is about 3.350 meters. A simple and nice trail for all who wants to walk uphill, touring at a leisurely pace and enjoy nice company and nice views.

The trail is only open during the day, during the lifts’ regular opening hours.

 

The Järvleden trail (Åre Björnen)

“Järvleden” is in the part of Åre Ski resort called Åre Björnen. Start at Järvliften’s Ski lift station, go to “Björnlandet” and follow the trail uphill to Järvliften’s mountain station. Järvsvängen is open for descent. The trail gives you about 170 vertical meters and the distance is about 1.200 meters. Järvleden is a convenient trail for evenings.

NOTE: The trail has no markings in the terrain. The trail is open in the evenings.

 

The Tegeleden trail (Åre Tegefjäll)

“Tegeleden” in the Åre ski resort part called Tegefjäll. Start at Tegefjällsliften’s Ski lift station. Go up the Tegesvängen slope, after about 250 meters turn right along Lillåleden to Fjällvallsliftens Ski lift station, further along Bergesvängen to Fjällvallsliftens Ski lift station. The trail gives you about 370 vertical meters and a the distance is about 2.400 meters. A nice trail that starts and largely goes in wind protected forests and ends in the open mountain terrain with fantastic views of the Åre valley.

The trail is only open during the day, see the lifts’ regular opening hours.

 

The Arenaleden trail (Åre village)

“Arenaleden” in central Åre village. The trail starts at the west side of the road E14 tunnel by Störtloppet, to avoid going in the direction through the tunnel under the Störtloppet / Gästrappet. From the tunnel go Långsvängen to Rödkullen’s Ski lift station, turn right and continue along Rödkullevägen and on on Åreleden to the VM plateau (Gondolen’s Ski lift station). The trail gives you about 430 vertical meters and the distance is about 3.300 meters. The trail is uncomplicated and weather-protected up to the last about 50 vertical meters that can be exposed to wind.

The trail is only open during the day, see the lifts’ regular opening hours.

 

The Åreleden trail (Åre High Terrain)

“Åreleden Högzon” is the continuation of Arenaleden in the higher terrain. The trail goes from the VM plateau by the Gondolen Ski lift station and west in the direction of Rödkullen along the World Cup trail about 600 meters, turn right and then follow the Åre trail. You get about about 440 vertical meters and the distance is about 3.000 meters. A fairly simple trail that is partly narrow where you meet skiers on the way down, completely in open mountain terrain. You can take the Ski lift WM:8an up to avoid going up the lower part (Arenaleden) which connects Åredalen with Åre Topp-Platå.

The trail is only open during the day, according to the lifts’ regular opening hours.

 

The Mullfjällsleden trail (Duved)

“Mullfjällsleden” in Duved is an effective trail for those who want to train with as many altitude meters as possible in a short time. Start by Linbanan’s Ski lift station and walk Mullfjällsbacken to Linbanan’s mountain station. The trail gives you about 360 vertical meters and the distance is about 1.950 meters. When the slopes are open for night skiing, you can go downhill in all open slopes, otherwise the same way down applies. NOTE: The trail has no markings in the terrain.

The trail is open evenings only.

 

Ski Touring Nights in the WM:8an in Åre

During dedicated evenings the trail is open, starting at VM:8an Ski lift station, further via Långsvängen to Rödkullen’s Ski lift station and further right along Rödkulleleden to Åreleden up to the VM plateau (the starting point for the Gondola). The trail gives you about 430 vertical meters, and the distance is about 3.300 meters. NOTE: On these evenings, Gästrappet is open for descent.

The trail is open only on special occasions, see Skistar Åre’s website.

 

The Byleden trail (Åre village)

“Byleden” is a trail starting from the big square (Åre Torg) in Åre village, or you can start at the Ski lift VM6:an. Walk uphill along Stjärnbacken’s east side to the ski lift Fjällgårdsexpressen, further via Tottliften’s lift track to Tott and Fjällgårdsexpressen’s top stations. You gain about 385 vertical meters, and the distance is about 2.150 meters.

Byleden is a trail mostly for locals and all those experts used to touring in varied terrain and slopes with many oncoming skiers. Not for skiers trying Ski Touring for the first time. The trail is only open during the day, according to the lifts’ regular opening hours.

 

The Leråleden trail (Duved)

“Leråleden” in Duved. Start at Leråliften’s ski lift station. Follow the lift track til the end, keeping to one side. This is not the regular procedure but for this part of the ski system, the ski lift is the most safe terrain for touring. As the trail runs in a lift track during the lift’s opening hours, it is required that you are an avid tour skier and can walk straight up with heel support. You gain about 220 vertical meters, and the distance is about 960 meters.

The trail is only open during the day, according to the lifts’ regular opening hours.

Långbacksleden (Åre High Terrain)

The trail starts at the “1000-meter plateau” below the Cable Car´s (Kabinbanan) mountain station and goes to Åre Top Plateau on the east side of Fjällbacken. You gain about 280 vertical meters, and the distance is about 1.300 meters. This trail is Skistar’s first Ski Touring trail of the ski area. A perfect test trail if you are planning your first Ski Touring trip in unmarked mountain terrain. Some days, the old lift house of the former 1000-meter Ski lift is manned by experienced ski patrollers who can advise on avalanche safety. Keep an eye out for when the flags are out, then the patrol is in place.

The trail is only open during the day, according to the lifts’ regular opening hours.

Topptur. Foto: Anette Andersson.
Ski Touring, also called Randonné. Photo: Anette Andersson.

Notes of Safety when Ski Touring in Ski Areas

It is not permitted to stay within the boundaries of the ski area and its immediate vicinity during times other than those specified. Check opening hours with the ski resort before departure for both your own and others’ safety.

  • A Skipass is a must even if you do not use the ski lifts. Always keep a valid ski pass when ski touring in a resort, within bounds.
  • Do not go uphill side by side when in a slope where skiers come downhill. Walk uphill on a line.
  • Do not leave the trail, follow signage if possible. The trails are made for safety.
  • Do not Zig Zag up the mountain and across the slopes during opening hours. If you must cross a downhill slope, do it where you can see skiers coming and you are well seen by others.
  • Respect closed trails whatever time during day/night.
  • Respect signage and information.
  • At night – if no other information applies, always go the same way down as you came up. Always ski with care since there may be snow mobiles and snow groomers more often in the ski area before and after the opening hours of the ski lifts.
  • The ski area is a work place for making snow, preparing slopes and avalanche security work, deliveries and more. It is important to keep to the trail both coming up and going downhill and respect the opening hours. It is forbidden to be in the ski area and it´s vicinity after closing – other than on the trails open at the time.
  • It is forbidden to be in areas where avalanche security work is being performed when ski lifts aren´t open (all areas within gliding distance from a ski lift or slope).
  • Snow grooming may be performed in slopes during trail opening hours, ski with care, attention and good judgement.
  • It is not permitted to go up or down trails or slopes other than the ones specified as open.
  • Remember to check the weather and possible risks for avalanches before heading out.
  • Come prepared by having all necessary emergency phone numbers already programmed in your phone. Check available emergency numbers to the ski resort you are in and if an immediate emergency occur, dial 112.
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