Glissading: A Different Kind of Snow Sliding

With the recent spike of warm weather on the Coast it’s the perfect condition to cool off by walking on an ancient glacier. And just in time, our Whistler Mountaintop Tours are now open for the 2017 summer! We’ve waxed poetic about the Glacier Walk experience before, but after the high alpine snow levels in the early summer 2016 we noticed a particular offshoot activity gaining popularity on our Whistler Mountaintop via ferrata and glacier tours: glissading.

Glissading ona glacier in Whistler
Roped up and ready for ascent.

According to the the knowledge bank Wikipedia, glissading is described as ” the act of descending a steep snow or scree covered slope via a controlled slide on one’s feet or buttocks. It is an alternative to other descent methods such as plunge stepping, and may be used to expedite a descent, or simply for the thrill.” Interestingly, the act of glissading came about from mountaineers looking for a quicker way to descend safe slopes. For sightseers and hikers (and aspiring mountaineers), glissading is fun way to to escape the heat and get your summer snow sliding fix.

Glacier Glissading in Whistler, BC.
A guide glacier glissading the bottom of the whistler glacier

There’s a few conditions needed for effective glissading. A thin layer of summer snow – known as névé – is needed. Too deep and it’s difficult to climb without skis or snowshoes. Too shallow and you can end up sliding on the blue ice underneath without a means to slow down. With plenty of snow leftover from the ski season and recent warm weather, the best time to go glissading is right now.

Group glacier glissading, Whistler
Too much fun to try just once! Groups will often climb up for multiple glissading laps.

A few tips to make sure you have the best experience glissading on snow and glaciers:

  • Never glissade with crampons on. Your guide will be quick to note this when you first set foot on snow. Crampons are sharp and are made to grip snow and ice, so if you start sliding and catch a crampon that’s strapped to your foot… Well you can imagine the potential injuries.
  • Wear waterproof pants. If you don’t have rain or snow pants, wear something you don’t mind getting wet (and a bit dirty) and bring an extra pair of pants to wear for your mountaintop sightseeing afterwards.
  • Bring a second set of socks. Because you’re walking through snow, inevitably your feet will get wet. Especially if you try standing glissading (which resembles something like boot skiing). We have hiking boots you can use so your own shoes stay dry.
  • Don’t go rogue. Your guide knows where the safe spots are and where there are hazards such as rocks and crevasses. Heading off on your own glissading tour is not recommended.

    whistler via ferrata
    It may not be skiing or snowboarding, but glissading is still fun sliding

If glissading is a tad adventurous for your family or group, you can still explore a 10,000 year-old glacier on our Glacier Discovery (2 hours) and Glacier Ascent (3-3.5 hours, steeper terrain) tours. So grab your mountaineering axe and join us high above the Whistler Valley on your next glacier-fed adventure.

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