Lake George

Lake George
Lake George - from Tongue Mtn Range - 11/11/2011

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Glissade to Freedom

Here in the great northeast of the U.S., the 4 season climate is something I really enjoy.  I always look forward to the seasonal change as it gives me a chance to mix up my activities.  I make full use of each season and then I’m ready for the next one.
I’m still sneaking in some last days of skiing, but with our current stretch of warm weather, I put the kayak racks on the car last night.  I’m ready to hit the water; perhaps this weekend!

In addition to skiing, I like winter hiking; perhaps more than any other season.  I like the cold, I like the beauty of the snow and I like being able to control my body temperature through layering.  Once spring and summer hit, the bugs are out, the humidity arrives and I leave the woods for my kayak or bicycle.
In many ways, winter hiking is easier.  You don’t have to climb over rocks and roots.  Snow is the great leveler.  And then there is the downhill.  Snow can provide an additional opportunity – Glissading!

Glissade is a climber’s term meaning “a way to descend a snow-covered slope”.  A glissade can be done in the standing or sitting position.  Often, climbers will practice glissading on a steep slope with an ice ax.   The technique provides a means of a quick, yet controlled, descent.  The ice ax is used to arrest the slide.  Hikers, like myself, just like to do a little butt sliding on the way down.  With optimal trail and snow conditions, a glissade can be the most enjoyable part of a hike.  Of course, caution is necessary.  You don’t want to go so fast that you can’t control your descent.  By keeping your feet in front of you, and your hands at your side, you can “rudder” to steer and/or slow yourself down.
Usually on the ascent while hiking, I’ll inspect the trail for a possible glissade on the return trip.   I’ll make mental notes of where a glissade is possible, and where it should be avoided.  It’s good to have some advance idea of what the trail will be like below you. 

Some hikers carry a small piece of plastic, or a small preformed plastic butt slider (available at places like EMS and REI).  The plastic helps to keep your pants a little drier, protects your pants and butt from obstacles and gives you added range to glissade a little farther on a flatter slope.  I’m also told there is even such a thing as pants designed specifically for glissading, although I’ve never seen them.
Skiers often do a bare boot standing glissade on a hard pack slope; to retrieve a stray ski, or just for the fun of it.  Some skiers who have practiced the standing glissade even have good technique; you would swear they are on skis.

Before winter makes its’ final retreat, get out there and glissade to freedom.  Soft spring snow is ideal.  You’ll get wet, but you’ll have fun.
To celebrate the sunny days of spring, the Sierra Nevada company offers a Glissade Golden Bock beer.  Perhaps a fitting end to a fine day in the snow.  

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