WHEN PASSION FOR SKI TOURING HAS A NAME
Arriving at the summit, he takes off the skins from his skis and stashes them in a pack. You can see the anticipation for the coming downhill gleaming in his eyes. All of what he does is perfect. It is not so difficult to recognize that there is a pro at work here. A pro who has already chalked up a few hundred ski tours over the years: Ernst Aufdermauer, 54, store manager in Melchsee-Frutt and an expert when it comes to all things ski touring.
When he talks about ski touring, he is in his element. He has loved the winter and, in particular, activities on skis in all of its facets since, well, forever. Ernst remembers his first ski tour. “I was 14 years old. Until that point, I was usually out on alpine skis more.” His father, himself a tour manger at the ski and alpine club Melchsee-Frutt, convinced Ernst to come along with him one day. “We went up Grassen mountain, 5-6 hours of climbing. A tough tour for a beginner.” But of course whatever his father can do, young Ernst should also be able to do, no problem. “It was really intense, but I didn’t want anyone to notice that of course,” he recalled with a laugh. He didn’t have to wait long for the reward. Because what came next was an unforgettable descent back to the valley. And that’s how it happened that skiing for Ernst since then was all the richer.
Jump ahead. It is now 1994. Now a trained multiskilled mechanical engineer and a certified ski instructor, he has been working part-time in sales in the Wolhusen and Wädenswil retail stores. Later, he moved into the ski racing department where he worked on the frontlines when Urs Kälin won the first World Cup race on Stöckli skis. Then, in 2000, the rental and service center in Melchsee-Frutt opened. Ernst became the manager of the shop which he does to this day. Now quite deeply rooted and with such a passion for ski and alpine sports, he remains the perfect man for the job.
So now back to the here and now. While his gaze wanders across the expanse of mountains, Ernst utters something interesting. “On a ski tour, I enjoy the quiet. Your really can literally hear yourself.” It is indeed so amazingly quiet that you hardly dare speak. Ernst loves being out in nature. In the process, he can clear his head and recover from daily stresses. “The wellness factor is for me really valuable. Of course, I ultimately really look forward to the excitement of the descent.” As a former ski instructor he is also getting down to business. With today’s touring skis, not a problem. But it wasn’t always like that. Back when you had to make a choice. “There were lighter skis that were better suited for climbing. If you wanted more downhill performance, however, the skis immediately became heavier,” noted Ernst. Today, typical touring skis have a waist of between 85-100 mm. “The width lends a ski better float and gives the skier more stability and safety.” Simply put, comfort. But of course, more material means more weight.
“This is where our Edge models are important,” continued Ernst. Performance has been deeply rooted in Stöckli’s DNA. The company researched, tinkered, and tested. With that, then, it succeeded in building wood cores, edges and fiberglass in a lighter manner without being forced to forfeit stability. The name “Edge” couldn’t be more fitting. It refers to the peak or even the edges of the mountain that are scaled. On the one side, up, yet on the other side, down – this ski is just as well suited for both. “In choosing a touring ski, this combination is for me quite critical.” Ernst lays down his Edge FT ready for the descent and then continues: “And that is precisely what I get here.”
Ernst is an experienced ski tourer. He’s done approximately 500 ski tours. These days, more and more people are gaining a taste for this activity and want to gain a little experience. What tips can Ernst offer along the way? “First, you must select your ski size carefully.” If you don’t feel quite so secure yet, he recommends a shorter ski, and most certainly not longer than your body height. This ensures that handling will be easier, and those somewhat awkward “kick turns” will be easier to maneuver. Speaking of kick turns… They can create a lot of anxiety and effort for many. Ernst’s insider secret: “Always look way ahead of you and select your line so a kick turn can be avoided if at all possible. Still, regular practice and use remains indispensable.”
Furthermore, he recommends without a doubt that everyone takes a beginner course that can be found everywhere. In it, one gets to know the gear better, how to manage avalanche safety equipment, and what needs to be top-of-mind in tour preparation. “On YouTube even, there are a lot of videos that are really helpful,” he added Yes, even experts like Ernst use this online website now and then. Today, there are a lot of other tools that can be taken advantage of. For example, the app “White Risk” from the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Davos or the Swiss Alpine Club app. In these, you can find useful information about snow conditions, plus touring maps or technical information, as well as the most important guidelines that need to be heeded. “You should never be ashamed to use all of these opportunities. Because when you are out in the great outdoors, safety should be of the utmost priority.”
Now, Ernst is really looking forward to the descent to come. Just as with any ski tour, this should be a true high point. “A passionate ski touring enthusiast never does a ski tour just for the climb,” he added with a grin. One final quick double-check to ensure bindings are adjusted properly and the boot’s ski function is enabled. Then off he goes. First, across the expansive, white slope, then through the woods. A little jump over a small rock, then a bit of a slalom around the trees. Really, just breathtaking.