What to wear for winter adventures by Steve Walton
Skier, photographer and lover of everything to the extreme, Steve Walton grew up ski racing and has been involved in the competitive sports industry since the age of 16.
Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get into skiing?
I’m 28 and have lived in the Alps for just over 11 years. I started skiing when I was 4 years old on a family ski trip. I was lucky that my Dad was into skiing, it gave me a chance to spend time in the mountains from a young age.
When I was a kid my folks were more into sailing, and this was my first competitive sport, but as I grew into my late teens it was apparent my sporting talents were definitely more mountain than water based!
A few years later, I was invited to stay with some friends in Chamonix. I had spent years watching my heroes ski these infamous lines in the movies. I knew I had to live there, but I never expected this would end up being my home, it came as a surprise that I would end up being so comfortable in this extreme environment.
A couple of the Norwegian professional skiers who lived with us that season were involved in the French action sports film “Nuit de la Glisse.” The Director knew I was a keen photographer and in need of a Job, so for the following 3 years I worked full time on their film projects. Being able to combine my love of the mountains and develop a creative career was a dream come true.
I then started to take on new challenges and plan some new adventures. Probably after reading one too many Ranulph Fiennes books I decided it would be a good idea to head to Northern Iceland for a trip where we would be ski touring during the day, and winter camping at night. Some places we stayed were only 40km south of the Arctic Circle and no more than a few hundred meters inland from the coast; I could hear the Arctic Ocean crashing against the shore from the camp. More than ever the quality of our gear was going to make or break of this trip.
You’ve been testing out some of our Expedition and Ski kit in the harshest of environments. What are your favourite bits from the new collection and why?
Clothing on a trip like we had in Iceland is vital, it has two main areas of use; during and after activity. Both of these require very different characteristics, however most items have to be used full-time so all garments need to perform.
Whilst ski-touring, layering and breathability are key factors. You heat up and perspire whilst climbing up hill. If the moisture doesn’t get out from your layering it can cause a dramatic decrease in body temperature as you stop to take a photo or switch to skiing downhill.
A good tip is to wear a synthetic mid-layer whilst ascending or a fleece if you normally find yourself over heating with an insulation layer. If you intend to stop for more than a couple of minutes you’re going to need something that will trap the heat in.
As the weather is volatile it can start to snow or rain at any time, the outer layer has to be extremely waterproof and durable. In skiing we aim to ride in the deepest snow, the sensation of that normally takes precedent over staying dry so the outerwear has to make up for our shortcomings!
If I could pick one item of clothing that would be my favourite piece from our Iceland adventure it would be the Arctic GORE-TEX® Primaloft Parka . The jacket is incredibly waterproof, durable and has tonnes of insulation. The ripstop fabric enables a durable functionality and a big warm hood shielded harsh nordic winds. The long cut of the jacket even makes it quite bearable to sit outside on the snow for a while whilst cooking or melting water if the weather permits. I don’t think there was a minute spent in Iceland that I didn’t have this jacket on, apart from if I was in my sleeping bag or had skis on my feet.
What does winter mean to you?
Winter to me is about the adventure. I am incredibly lucky that I am able to enjoy a sport that I love as a tool to travel the world with friends. It also means living on the edge, outside of your comfort zone and being acutely aware and respectful of the dangers that surround you, that’s the spot where you progress as a rider and learn more about yourself as a person.
At the end of the day it’s about coming away from the mountain with a smile on your face, safe and excited to get back up there and do it all again tomorrow.
What destination would you recommend most for a week in the snow?
It’s a very personal thing. A beginner would enjoy a different mountain environment to an experienced skier; I’m unashamedly a fan of skiing in France. For an experienced skier looking to test their skills off piste, it’s hard to imagine a better resort than Chamonix. If you aren’t yet an expert or enjoy the whole experience on and off the hill the Tarantaise Alps are great. That region includes Tignes, Val d’Isere, Les Arcs and the 3 Valleys.
Where is your next trip/adventure to?
I’m heading to Georgia in January to ski-tour and explore the Caucasus mountains. A couple of friends are driving over from France in a converted Land-Rover and I’ll fly in and meet them. Then we’ll head up into the mountain range to see if we can find any good peaks to climb and ski. We’ve only done a little bit of planning so far but it seems like a great idea for a trip.
Scenario – you have unlimited budget to plan to ultimate winter adventure. Where would you go and what would you do?
Being able to mix mountain and arctic camping experience with filmmaking and photography is an interesting challenge. If I could leave tomorrow with an unlimited budget, I’d sail around the world linking up coastal mountain ranges, camping inland where necessary. The more remote and uncharted the skiing the better! I’d probably start off in Norway in early Spring before Crossing over to Greenland. Then you could include the Balkans, Pakistan, Japan, Kamchatka, Alaska and Chile on the hit list.