Skiing is a recreational activity as well as a competitive sport and its history dates back to 600 BC when it is believed to have been practiced in what is now China. Modern skiing has evolved from Scandinavia and the word Ski has originated from Old Norse word Skið meaning split wood or firewood. The sport has grown so popular over the decades that most people have a good understanding of what Skiing is all about. Balance, weight, and edge control are the key skills needed in Skiing.

There are 2 types of skiing widely recognized – Alpine and Nordic. Alpine skiing is a downhill skiing that involves sliding down hills with fixed heel bindings. For Alpine Skiing, one needs mechanical assistance to get to the top of the hill as all the equipment makes walking or hiking almost impossible. Nordic Skiing on the other hand is a cross country skiing with free heel bindings. In Nordic style, skiers can freely climb up and down the hills without any mechanical help.

Popular Skiing destinations across the world –

1.       Interlaken, Switzerland – Interlaken is one of the most ideal skiing locations in the world and it has no fewer than four beautiful ski resorts to choose from. The spacious ski slopes, long cross country pistes and snow parks make it perfect for experienced as well as amateur skiers. There are many snow-sports schools here as well, that can make a beginners experience rewarding and fun. All the equipment is available for hire. One of the most popular regions in the Interlaken is the Jungfrau Region. Interlaken is well connected by road and air, with as many as 5 airports within a 2 hour drive. Berne airport is just an hour’s drive away.

Interlaken cable car
Interlaken cable car

2.       Oslo, Norway – Oslo is a perfect winter and skiing destination with more than 2,000 kms of prepared cross country ski trails that lead one into the beautiful Norwegian forests. These are just 20 minutes away from the main city. Oslo city also has its very own modern alpine ski centre called the Oslo Winter Park, which offers plenty of challenges for downhill skiers as well as snowboarders. With more than 60 cozy cabins available for stay, this makes for a great place to go to with family and friends alike. Here you can also ski after dark as almost 90 kms of the track is well lit till 10 PM.

CrossCountry Skiing Oslo
Cross Country Skiing in Oslo

What it means – A Via Ferrata or Iron Way or Iron Roads is a fixed protection climbing path or route found primarily in the Alps. The term originates from the Dolomites mountain range in Northern Italy.  Its core is a steel cable that runs along the path and is sporadically fixed to the rock. Climbers secure themselves to the cable and also use the cable as a climbing aid. Other climbing aids include pegs, carved steps, iron rungs and sometimes bridges and ladders. It makes an otherwise unsafe route relatively easy. Even those with very less or no climbing experience get the chance to reach places otherwise only accessible to avid mountaineers. All you need is some basic equipment and technique coupled with the will to do it!

Climbing with the help of iron rungs.
Climbing with the help of iron rungs.

Origin and History – Simple paths with basic protection aids and ladders have been there in the Alps for centuries. These paths helped the natives connect to the high pastures. These constructions date back to the early nineteenth century, during the time of the early Alpine exploration, and can be considered as a harbinger to the modern day Via Ferrata. Via Ferratas are also strongly linked to the First World War when, to assist the movements of the troops, many of them were constructed by the Italian Army on the Dolomite Mountain range in northern Italy. This was primarily to access difficult peaks and to also carry heavy equipment.

Development – Via Ferrata is a new adventure activity and is often tried by people looking for something slightly more challenging than the routine alpine hiking and climbing. Many new paths have been developed over the years, especially recently and their tourism benefits recognized. They have gained popularity amongst serious climbers and amateurs alike. Traditionally associated with the limestone mountain regions in Italy, Via Ferratas have found their way to other mountain ranges outside Europe too. There are more than 1000 Via Ferratas in the world today, majority in the Alps.

Via Ferrata - Dolomites
Via Ferrata – Dolomites

Safety and Equipment – Via Ferratas were primarily climbed using basic equipment like carabiners or slings attached to a rope or harness. However it was soon realized that these did not provide much safety or prevent serious injury. To resolve this, many devices have been developed that act as shock absorbers. These are aimed at dispelling energy of the fall efficaciously, keeping the climber safe. A Via Ferrata set contains a lanyard and two carabiners. The lanyard comprises of an energy absorbing system, two arms that connect to the cable and a way of connecting to the harness, forming a “Y”. It’s called a Y tape configuration and is the only type to be approved by the UIAA. It is safe and simple.

One of our Adventure Nation Gurus, Amit Chowdhury is an esteemed member of the UIAA.

Adventure Nation Guru Amit Chowdhury with the other UIAA members at Chamonix, France
Adventure Nation Guru Amit Chowdhury (Sitting – extreme left) with the other UIAA members at Chamonix, France

Grading and Types – Via Ferratas vary in length and difficulty levels, from under one hour short tours to long and demanding alpine routes at high altitudes that can take 8-10 hours to finish! These routes can sometimes be just simple paths in spectacular surroundings to very steep and dangerous treks. These definitely require the strength, if not the technique, of serious rock climbing. There are numerous grading systems that exist today and most focus on the difficulty level of the toughest passage, using a 5 or 6 point scale. The Kurt Schall guides use an A to E 5 point scale.

Alps Mountain range is one of the most popular in the world. It attracts millions of tourists every year from all over the world. Here are some interesting facts about the Alps:

  1. The formation of the Alps  started some 300 million years ago. It was a process spread between various episodes from the Paleozoic Era to the Mesozoic Era to the Jurassic Period. From a single tectonic plate, the Pangaean supercontinent broke into many plates, thus forming the Tethys Sea between Laurasia and Gondwana. Mountain ranges called the Alpide belt were formed when the Tethys was squeezed between the colliding plates – a process that continues till now. This orogenic process led to the formation of the Alps, caused by the collision between the Eurasian and the African plates.

    Aerial View of the Swiss Alps
    Aerial View of the Swiss Alps

  2. Covering eight counties, the Alps are located in Middle-Southern Europe and cover a distance of 1,200 km. This crescent shaped mountain range is majorly divided into Western Alps and Eastern Alps. The division is along the line from Lake Constance through the Rhine to Lake Como. The Western Alps are located in Italy, France, Monaco and Switzerland, the Eastern Alps in Austria, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovenia and Switzerland.
  3. Alps have been extremely important from a historical point of view. Even before antiquity, countless numbers of armies crossed the Alps, including Caesar and other Roman leaders during the expansion of the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages, post the fall of the Roman Empire, barbarian hordes looking for a new settlement migrated through the Alps.

    Famous Mount Jungfrau in the Swiss Alps
    Famous Mount Jungfrau in the Swiss Alps

  4. In 1991, a mummified man nick-named Otzi the Iceman was found at the Austrian/Italian border in the Alps. It is said to be 5,000 years old. In the Drachloch cave above the village of Vattis in the canton of St. Gallen, radiocarbon dated charcoal placed around 50,000 years ago was found. It proved that the high peaks in the Alps were visited by prehistoric people.

With its rich history and culture, 37 World Heritage sites, beaches, snow-capped mountains, the most modern cities and most picturesque villages, France is, statistically, the most popular tourist destination in the world.

The French climate varies from moderate in the northwest to Mediterranean in the southeast. Across different regions, one witnesses extreme rainfall, plentiful sunshine and freezing temperatures, making France a favorable destination for a variety of adventure activities and holidays.