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The 2015 European Ortler Traverse: Q & A with San Juan Mtn Guide, Pat Ormond

Gear Review: OR Lodestar Jacket
December 10, 2014
3 Interesting Facts about Our Ski Tour in Northern Italy
December 24, 2014
  Pat is a fully certified IFMGA Mountain Guide, having completed his AMGA Rock, Alpine Guide, and Ski Mountaineering Certifications. This will be his second trip on the Ortler Traverse.

What intrigued you about the Ortler Traverse and why did you decide to guide this trip?
“The Ortler is known for having the best huts around. This means awesome food! Four course dinners, stopping in for hot lunch during the day, cappuccino (this is Italy!) but it’s got Austrian heritage, so Apfelstrudel too!
Also, the Ortler region is in the South Tyrol, which is an autonomous region in Italy, near the border of Austria. There are many relics left from WWI and WWII when Italy and Austria were fighting for control of the area. As we ski around, we cross over old borders marked with barbed wire, stone fortifications, old cannons, all up at altitude and on glaciers. Think of the effort it took to fight wars in the mountains. Amazing!

How would you describe the snow-pack, weather conditions and over-all skiing of the Ortler Traverse?
“The good time to be skiing there is in the spring, mid march to late April. March can bring more storms and powder skiing, while April is time to ski from the summits. Stability varies, but tends to be like an inter-mountain snow-pack as opposed to a weaker continental snowpack. So as spring rolls around, more stable conditions tend to prevail. The skiing is mostly in the alpine, above treeline, and we are up in the mountains, ranging from about 9-12,500’. We travel on glaciers that are well filled in, allowing for  everything from wide open runs to steep and narrow couloirs.”ortler.8

What is the Ski skill-set to do the Ortler Traverse?

“If you can ski the mountain at your home resort, then you’re good to go. While we can keep the terrain fairly mellow, there are times that we are boot packing up couloirs, climbing along exposed ridge lines, using ice axe and crampons, ski crampons, scrambling over rock, skinning up steep slopes with kick turns, skiing steeps. So you want to be comfortable on all terrain. That said, we can be roped up for any and all of this if needed. We start out mellow, and build into the more exposed terrain, and we can always go back to mellow. But a great gauge is skiing all the terrain at the ski area. At Telluride Ski Resort, for instance, that would include hiking Gold Hill and Palmyra Peak. Skiing down doesn’t mean skiing fast and straight lining. In ski mountaineering, a lot of terrain is taken one turn at a time, and control is the name of the game.


What was one of the most memorable days on the Ortler Traverse?
“Most memorable day was skiing the Grand Zebru (pictured below) above the Pizzini Hut. It’s the highest peak we can ski, and it has it all: a steep couloir, 40 degree open face, knife edge summit ridge, and we’re back to the hut in time for lunch and then an afternoon tour if we’re up for it.”


The Grand Zebru – 12631 ft / 3850 m










We invite you to join us for this 2015 expedition that is guaranteed to be the highlight of your season! As always, don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule your next trip, course, or expedition with The Local Experts!