Glissading : The Snow Slide
If you have spent time in the mountains gaining elevation in snow to reach your destination whether kicking in steps with boots, crampons, snowshoes, or rotating them all you know how tiring it can be, but as strenuous as the trip up is there are opportunities that arise that make the journey down fast and fun if you know how and when to “Glissade” a technique used to make a controlled descent by sliding on your feet or your rear end. I have glissaded many times both short and long distances and once quickly descended a few thousand feet down a snow field that took me a few hours to climb, however you must have the skills to assess for the right conditions and to perform the glissade safely before you attempt it in your back-country travel.
So while reading a book or watching a video will show you the concept of glissading there is no alternative to formal training from an experienced friend or reputable outdoor organization under controlled conditions where you repeatedly go through the mechanics of “self-arrest” using an ice axe before glissading which should begin at short distances and low angles. Make sure you are comfortable and proficient at self-arrest you will use it practice often to keep your muscle memory intact.
There are several methods of glissading “standing” often called “boot skiing” of which “crouching” is a variation and “sitting” and while I have seen some excellent boot skiers I have never been one of them so I prefer sitting glissade’s I usually end up on the ground anyway. As Spring progresses opening up access to the back-country and it’s adventures in the mountains there will be quite a bit of snow travel. Be prepared and have fun.