The Alps are the tallest and most expansive mountain range in all of Europe, running 750 miles long, 160 miles wide and covering an area of 77,000 square miles. Inhabiting portions of the countries of Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia and Switzerland, the peaks are hallowed grounds for skiers—especially ski mountaineers.
With this in mind, Cody Townsend and Josh Daiek embarked on a trip to Europe with the goal of connecting ski resorts via the famous European Haute Route, and without the aid of cars, buses, trains, etc. When it was all said and done, the duo connected five ski resorts over the course of two weeks spent across the pond. The trip, they say, is one that any skier with at least some backcountry and ski touring experience can accomplish.
“As pro skiers we are quite often trying to do what’s on the edge of possible and I love that,” Townsend explains. “But, at the same time we kind of skip out on all of these things that are totally doable for so many people and are incredibly fun experiences. You can do this kind of trip, if you can ski tour at all.”
Daiek notes that the general idea of the trip was to utilize each other’s Instagram stories—along with the hashtags #HavePackWillTravel and #KeepMovingKeepTicking—to plant the seed in people’s mind that this kind of expedition is within reach and worth taking. “More and more, we’re trying to produce content that’s more relatable via social media. It’s not the Fantasy Camp with TGR, there’s nothing relatable about that,” Daiek explains. “We wanted to go out and tell a story about two bros ski bumming it through the mountains, with the idea being to inspire people to go do the same. Something like this is totally attainable to anyone with some backcountry knowledge and ski touring experience.”
On top of having experience navigating through the mountains, it’s a smart idea to be in good physical shape and comfortable skiing at high elevation. “I was in British Columbia at sea level for two months then went straight to 10,000 feet the first day [of our trip] and just got worked,” Townsend recounts. “I’d recommend that if you live down at sea level to spend a couple of days in Chamonix before going out to get acclimatized.”
Aside from the physical guidelines, Townsend and Daiek relied on the internet for a lot of beta about the trip. Whether through forums, blogs or articles, there’s a wealth of information that can point you in the correct direction when planning your journey. “The internet is a great resource of information because we went without a guide. I just looked stuff up and gained a basic understanding of where we were going by reading blogs and posts about the Haute Route,” Townsend explains.
While Townsend and Daiek didn’t hire a guide, that option is always on the table for those who aren’t as comfortable navigating foreign mountains. “There are hazardous mountain environments that include glaciers, so if you don’t have that experience it’s worth going with a guide,” suggests Townsend.
While the mountains always contain a bit of inherent danger, Townsend says that the actual skiing is as difficult as you want to make it. “You can do things like make little side runs or different mini versions of the route and ski steep, amazing lines but you can also just cruise glaciers that are similar to green circle skiing.”
Physical safety is one aspect of the trip, but staying sane when traveling vast distances with a heavy pack on your back is also a huge factor in a successful trip. One of the best ways to keep a clear head on your shoulders is to take advantage of the huts that line the Haute Route. For a lot of North American skiers who are familiar with hut systems in the United States and Canada, the set-up of the huts in Europe is a pleasant surprise… Continued on next page.