Snow conditions are subtle and ephemeral. Quality and depth varies massively within a geographically small area. Where are the best and safest conditions?
Mark’s familiarity with the Alps–including dozens of alpine ski resorts–combined with his knowledge of the entire season’s snowfall and weather means he can intuit which corners of the mountains will yield the best and safest skiing on any given day. It could take several of your entire ski vacations just to figure out a single ski resort by yourself, and you wouldn’t have the safety factor and learning opportunities provided by partnering with a highly-qualified companion and guide.
Skiing with Mark can mean a number of different things:
The marked pistes at ski resorts are often crowded and their snow quickly worn down and scraped off by the dense traffic. But there are quiet, unmarked slopes away from the obvious marked lines if you know where to look. Fortunately, Mark does.
Off-piste skiing sometimes requires long traverses and/or short segments booted with skis over the shoulder. But the main uphill motivation is provided by ski lifts (or a helicopter) rather than your legs.
Fundamentally, ski touring involves going uphill as well as downhill on a pair of skis, using removable “skins” on your skis that grip for climbing up without slipping backward. Ski touring may be employed for half an hour to climb over a col in order to access a powder snow descent, or for a multi-day hut to hut trip.
Ski mountaineering is a particularly exciting form of ski touring that adds alpinism skills like climbing snow and ice with axe and crampons, rock scrambling, and roped glacier travel and rescue practice. Multi-day ski mountaineering routes include the infamous Chamonix-to-Zermatt Haute Route (also known as the High Level Route or HLR), though there are hundreds of other possibilities of all lengths and degrees of difficulty.
European heli-skiing works like a taxi, not a chairlift, dropping you onto a mountain top that you will then ski mountaineer your way off for the rest of the day.
Landing sites are highly regulated, and a certified mountain guide is required to heli-ski in the Alps. Mark will contract with helicopter operators for your flight.
Required Skiing Standard
Always a difficult one to quantify. It depends what you want to do. If for example you are someone who wants to progress from piste to off-piste skiing, then I will do three things:
1. Fit the terrain to your standard of skiing;
2. Teach you to ski in a functional manner so that you can get down the snow no matter how horrible it is;
3. When the snow is good, teach you how to ski powder.Mark Seaton
If you are someone who comes with a specific objective (such as the HLR), then by implication a set route has to be followed and the standard of skiing is easier to quantify. These are good guidelines for someone who wants to come adventurous skiing:
- Substantial experience of skiing off-piste in a variety of snow conditions;
- The ability to execute a kick-turn on the steepest part of any black piste.