Katharine Symonds Furse.

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The Elementary test ought to be so planned as to force this type of

Another way of running an Elementary test is for a judge to lead at a
steady easy pace for an hour's cross-country run, including both up
and downhill, as well as level running and obstacles. The test would
be timed, an ample margin being allowed beyond the judge's time. All
those, who finished within the time would pass.

This would probably not be nearly so popular a Test with the
candidates as the short downhill run, but it would be a far better
test of their capacity for touring.

The British Ski tests consist of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd-Class Tests, the
Regulations for which will be found in the Ski Year Book, which can
be obtained from the Hon. Secretary, Federal Council of British Ski
Clubs, Essex Court, Temple, London, E.C. They can also be obtained
from any official representative of one of the British Clubs in
Switzerland, and are printed as an Appendix at the end of this book.

In the 3rd class test, which is the first and which has to be passed
before the runner can go up for his 2nd class, there are three parts.

Part (a) is a climb of 1,500 feet in not more than 1-1/2 hours and a
run down 1,500 feet in a time set by the judges. The time may not be
less than seven, or more than twenty minutes. It should not be more
than 12 minutes under good conditions.

Men must carry Rucksacks weighing not less than 6 lbs., and women 3
lbs. Sealskins may be used for the climb.

Part (b) consists of four consecutive lifted stem-turns on a slope
of 15° to 20°, and Part (c) four consecutive Telemark turns on a
slope of the same gradient. Parts (b) and (c) are often used as
a qualifying test before Part (a) is run, in order to limit the
entries for Part (a), which may otherwise be a very difficult test
to run when a large field enters for it.

Candidates who enter for this test should really take pains to ensure
that their bindings fit their boots and that they have everything
necessary for a run as well as being up to the standard. Speaking as
a judge of four years' standing, who has run innumerable tests, I may
say that it is pitiable to see the number of casual people who will
come up for a test without reading the regulations and without being
in any way prepared for a 1,500 ft. climb. Few things are more
disagreeable than having to disqualify a candidate, who turns up
without a Rucksack, or more miserable than having to shepherd down
beginners who are worn out by a run for which they are quite out of
training. The one comfort is that a candidate, who is pertinacious and
courageous enough to face this test five or six times without passing
and goes in again, is almost sure to pass in the end.

For the judge's sake, however, I strongly urge such a candidate to
time himself over similar runs with his friends and to persist in this
until he proves that he is up to 3rd-class standard, when he will be a
very welcome candidate in the test itself.

A course is easily found by using an aneroid, or it may also be worked
off the Ordnance Map. Any ordinary watch with a second hand will
suffice for the timing of one's own run.

Some people may think that I am a little harsh in my reasons for
suggesting that beginners should not enter for the running part of the
3rd-class test so lightheartedly. It is really for their own sakes as
much as for that of the judge's. Failure is very discouraging, and I
have known people's nerve quite upset by one of these runs. They have
tried to race down and have taken really nasty tosses in their rush,
while the fatigue of constant falling and getting up out of deep snow,
becoming more and more out of breath in the anxiety to compete, is
very bad for their running. I have often wanted to hide my head in
shame when coming home after such a test with a lot of worn-out
people, wet through, who have failed. And yet, such is life, that many
with the first breath, after they finish exhausted, will ask when the
next Test takes place in order that they may compete again. Such a
candidate really does one's heart good.

Tests have probably done more than anything else to improve the
standard of British running. We all have a liking for competition, and
here is our chance. Having succeeded in passing the 3rd-class test,
we can wear a badge and then we have to ski better in order to prove
worthy of it, and presently we see no reason against qualifying for
the 2nd-class test before going home. "After all, the turns only have
to be done on a steeper slope." "The run can be put off till next
Winter, and passed the moment we come out," they say.

The 1st-class standard is rising higher and higher as British Ski
runners become more proficient. The runner who passed a year or two
ago now hesitates to wear the gold badge, because he often realizes
that his speed and turns are not good enough for what is now required.

Judges of the British Ski tests may be found in most well-known
centres, but, as there are very few 1st-class people, the tests for
this class are usually run in one or two districts only.


Swiss Guides are certificated by the Swiss Alpine Club and are the
only people permitted by law to guide parties among the higher
mountains. A tariff exists in every district showing the fees which
these Guides must charge. In addition to the fee, the client usually
gives a gratuity and also pays for the Guide's accommodation and
provisions on the tour. A percentage may be added for numbers greater
than those provided for in the tariff, while on a really difficult
tour, the Guide will probably refuse to take more than two or three
runners unless a second Guide or porter be engaged. The Certificated
Guides wear a badge issued by the Swiss Alpine Club and any man
wearing this may be depended upon to be a good fellow, a careful
Guide, and a philosopher and friend. Most of them can now ski well,
though a few of the older ones may not be very proficient in technique
and may be stick riders.

When on tour with a Guide, he is responsible for the safety of the
party, and every member should do his best to help him by carrying out
any instructions he may give for their greater safety. This is not
always appreciated by people who do not know the Alps and their
unwritten laws, and the Guides complain somewhat bitterly that they
are often put in very difficult positions. For instance, on one
occasion, when a party was crossing an avalanche slope, the Guide
asked them to go singly at intervals of 20 metres, so that if anyone
was carried away, the others would not be involved and could go to his
rescue. One of the party was overheard saying: "Oh! he is only trying
to prove how careful he is in order to get a higher tip," and they
were careless in their carrying out of the instructions.

In any case it is discourteous not to do what the Guide prescribes and
he is put in a very false position as he is held responsible.

Ski Instructors belong to a different category, unless they are also
Certificated Guides, which is often the case. In some Cantons, such as
Graubünden, the Instructors have to pass an examination showing
their capacity to ski and also to teach. Many of them are perfectly
beautiful runners, but they should not be pressed to conduct tours
where glacier work or rock climbing is involved. They are not examined
for this and they hold no credentials, and if an accident occurs,
everyone is blamed. There are a great many other runs they are allowed
to lead and they will set as good a course as anyone would wish for.

Before engaging a Guide, or an Instructor on the recommendation of the
concierge, get some expert advice as to who is the best. The Secretary
of the local Ski Club would advise or some good runner in the

In some parts of Switzerland the Guides and Instructors have taken to
touting for clients. They hang about the hotels and try to induce the
unwary to engage them and to go for tours for which they are often
not fit. The better Swiss Guides are the first to want the public to
discourage this type of behaviour, as it is doing a lot of harm to
their good name.

When a Guide is engaged, treat him as a friend and trust him. They
are usually a most obliging and reliable set of men, who will do
everything in their power for their clients, such as carrying food and
spare clothing, waxing skis, attaching skins and even making terms in
inns, and cooking the food in huts when on tour. Their knowledge of
the mountains and their experiences are well worth probing, and they
will usually talk willingly when kindly dealt with. They are quick
judges of character and if the younger ones are sometimes a little
inclined to take advantage of the people who do not treat them
suitably, only those people themselves can be blamed. The
old-fashioned Guides are never familiar, though they are very friendly
and will always do their best for the entertainment of their party.
They should not be petted and flattered, neither should they be
treated as inferiors. A happy medium is easily found which is what the
Guide will prefer, because in his heart of hearts, he has the whole of
the Swiss characteristics - great dignity, independence and respect for
wise people.

On a long and dangerous tour the safety of the party may ultimately
depend upon the trust and confidence placed in the Guide in charge,
and by him in his clients, and this should be remembered in all
negotiations. These men often have to risk their lives for the sake of
the people who employ them, and their staunch unselfishness is a fine
example of human endeavour for the benefit of others. Their fees may
appear to be high, but when everything is taken into consideration,
including the shortness of their Winter and Summer Seasons, it is soon
realized that the fees are not exorbitant.


Every Ski runner going across country should carry a map. Even on a
short run a great deal can be learnt from a map, which will prove
useful later on a longer run. Both time and risk can be saved by
people who run by their map and who know how to avoid dangerous places
and how to take advantage of narrow safe openings.

There are different types of maps to be had in Switzerland. The
best are the official Ordnance Maps published by the Eidg.
Landestopographie at Bern. The mountain districts are produced at a
scale of 1 centimetre in 50,000 centimetres or 2 centimetres in one
kilometre, and large or small sheets can be bought almost everywhere.
The gradients are clearly shown by contour lines. The equidistance
being 30 metres, or roughly 100 feet, the dotted contour lines when
height is marked some every 8 or 10 ordinary contour lines. This
differs according to the edition. Cliff and rock are shown grey, while
glacier contour lines are blue.

Some districts, such as the Bernese Oberland, have produced this map
with red lines showing all the Ski runs. In other places they also
provide Ski-ing maps, but on a different scale and not as good as the
Ordnance Map.

All maps are best when mounted on linen, as the weathering they
receive on a run may reduce a paper map to pulp or rag.

It is easy to work out the distance of runs or the gradient of slopes
from the large scale Ordnance Map. 1 in 50,000 metres means that 1
centimetre on the map equals a run of 50,000 metres; 2 centimetres
equal a kilometre or 100,000 metres; 8 kilometres equal five English
miles. Therefore, if a centimetre measure be carried, the distances
are soon ascertained with a minimum of arithmetic.

Throughout this chapter I have taken the mathematical or map gradient
and not the engineer's gradient. The latter is generally used, I
understand, to measure the gradients of roads, railways, etc.

To avoid confusion when Ski-ing, the gradient is usually named by the
angle of the slope.

The gradient of slopes is shown by the contour lines, the drop between
each being 30 metres or approximately 100 feet. The table on p. 92 was
got out by Commander Merriman, R.N., and has proved very useful to
me in setting tests as well as in judging whether slopes are
comparatively safe from avalanche or not.

A slope showing eight 30-metre contour lines in one centimetre works
out roughly at 27°, which is a steeper slope than most people care to
take straight, running over unknown country. Anything steeper than
this is apt to avalanche in certain conditions, though a 30° slope
should usually be safe. (A 25° slope may be dangerous under some

A comfortable slope is 5 contour lines in 1 centimetre, or a gradient
of 17°. Taking English measurements as in Commander Merriman's scale,
16 contour lines in one inch on the map.

The beginner will probably content himself with slopes where 10
contour lines are shown in one inch, or a gradient of about 13°.


Assuming 30 metre contours to be equal to 100 feet contours
(actually this is 98.4 feet). Natural Scale 1: 50,000.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Drop per inch | Average angle | Gradient
on map. | of slope. | 1 in.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
100' | 1° 24' | 40.9
200' | 2° 45' | 20.8
300' | 4° 07' | 13.9
400' | 5° 29' | 10.4
500' | 6° 50' | 8.3
600' | 8° 12' | 6.9
700' | 9° 33' | 5.9
800' | 10° 52' | 5.2
900' | 12° 11' | 4.6
1,000' | 13° 30' | 4.2
1,100' | 14° 47' | 3.8
1,200' | 16° 04' | 3.5
1,300' | 17° 20' | 3.2
1,400' | 18° 34' | 3.0
1,500' | 19° 48' | 2.8
1,600' | 21° 00' | 2.6
1,700' | 22° 11' | 2.5
1,800' | 23° 22' | 2.3
1,900' | 24° 30' | 2.2
2,000' | 25° 39' | 2.1
2,100' | 26° 45' | 2.0
2,200' | 27° 50' | 1.9
2,300' | 28° 53' | 1.8
2,400' | 29° 56' | 1.7
2,500' | 30° 58' | 1.6
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Up till now I have only been describing the official Ordnance Maps.
There are several other maps which may also be useful.

The Dufour maps are good for direction and lie of country, but their
scale being 1 in 100,000 they are not much help for actual running.

The local Ski Tour Map is useful to show where the usual tours go,
but cannot always be trusted for gradients or cliffs and rocks. The
Pontresina map, for instance, though showing an equidistance of 30
metres as in the Ordnance Maps, really has 50 metres contour lines,
which might be a terrible snare to the unwary, who would confidently
run towards a slope, thinking it was about 20° and find that it was
nearer 35°, or an avalanche slope. In a case like this the Ordnance
Map must be used for actual running, while the Ski Tour Map is used to
show the line to be followed.

In some districts, such as the Bernese Oberland, the Ordnance map has
been used for the local Ski tour map, and the tours shown on it in
red. This is a great saving of weight and money for the runner, who
then only has one map to carry.

Most Ski maps show dangerous avalanche slopes. The local Summer map
published in most tourist centres in Switzerland is not much use to
the Ski runner, because it shows walks which may be along slopes or
down cliffs, which are perfectly safe in Summer and very dangerous in

I strongly advise all beginners who are bitten by the joy of Ski-ing
to buy, at any rate, the small local sheet of the Ordnance Map which
usually only costs Frs. 1.30, or roughly 1s., and to study it
carefully, noticing the contour lines on the well-known Nursery
slopes, and gradually realizing the gradient represented by the
different widths between them.

Let him also notice the difference between a hill and a hole on the
map. This is easily recognized either by the thin blue line of a
stream emerging from a lake, or by comparing the nearest heights shown
on the dotted lines or some marked point. Contours are often puzzling
to a beginner in map reading, but knowledge of what they represent may
save a party from a weary climb back up a place they have gaily ski-ed
down, thinking they could get through but finding an impossible slope
or fall of rock which forced them to retrace their steps.

Before going on tour even with a Guide, it is wise to study the map
with a view to knowing where an Alpine hut can be found in case of
need, or where a hay châlet could offer shelter.

When once the Ski runner has begun to appreciate the fun and interest
of running by a map, he will never leave it behind, and he will be
able to enjoy all sorts of runs he would never know of if he were
content with the sheep habit of "following tracks."

The greatest fun of Ski-ing is in finding one's own way, and this one
can never hope to do without a map.

The following scale of comparative heights in metres and feet may be
of use in estimating the heights of points which the Ski runner wishes
to reach:

10 metres equal 33 feet (approximately).
50 " " 164 "
100 " " 328 "
250 " " 820 "
500 " " 1,640 "
1,000 " " 3,281 "
2,000 " " 6,562 "
3,000 " " 9,843 "

A compass is, of course, useful when running by map, but as precipices
are apt to get in the way when running straight for any given point,
a compass cannot be trusted alone. In the case of fog, it is very
difficult to avoid difficulties, and points on the map can only be
identified by the use of an aneroid, as well as a compass. Set the
aneroid at the point you start from and check your heights by this as
you climb or descend, referring constantly to the map to ensure that
you are running on the right line. It is wise to practise this on
clear days in order to get accustomed to running by map, compass
and aneroid. As the weather also affects the aneroid, it should be
constantly reset at known levels.

All this may sound very confusing, and most beginners will probably
prefer to take a Guide who knows his country well rather than trust to
elementary map-reading knowledge in unknown country. Most runners
who go on tour will find running much more interesting, however, if
instead of following a Guide blindly they also watch the map or get
a knowledge of what is good or bad country to run over. There are
sometimes cases also when the party must necessarily divide, and an
amateur may have to take the lead over unknown country.


Much has been written on this subject. Mr. Arnold Lunn, in "The
Alps," tells some extraordinary stories about these monsters of the
mountains. My father, John Addington Symonds, in "Our Life in the
Swiss Highlands," also describes them.

There was a very interesting article by Monsieur F. Krahnstoever in
the "Swiss Ski Club Year-Book for 1923" on the subject of avalanches
in relation to Ski-ing. They are an everlasting nightmare to Ski
runners in high places, and beginners should at once take care to
learn all they can of snow-craft in order, in so far as possible, to
realize what is safe and what is dangerous.

The steepness of slopes and the condition of snow, as well as the
direction of wind, are all factors affecting avalanches.

Any slope whose gradient is more than 15° may be dangerous under
certain conditions, but it may be generally accepted that most long
slopes under 25° are comparatively safe so long as they have not much
steeper slopes immediately above or below them.

New snow is always apt to slip before it has had time to settle down.
Snow blown by wind into a cornice or overhanging lip at the top of a
slope or on a cliff may topple down and start an avalanche.

Wet snow, after rain, or a warm Föhn wind, becomes heavy and begins to

A very dangerous condition is new soft snow lying on a slope covered
with old hard snow.

Trees or rocks sticking up through the snow make such slopes safer, as
they tend to prevent the snow from beginning to slip. This is why the
Forestry Laws of Switzerland are so strict. In some districts the
owner of a forest may not cut a tree unless it has been approved
by the Government forester. This is to ensure that the forests are
maintained as a protection for the villages in the valleys below.

Beginners should never go on a tour without first ascertaining that
the route they propose to follow is a safe one. And if there is the
slightest doubt, owing to weather conditions, they should put it off
for a day or two. Some runs are perfectly safe when the snow has
settled and a sharp frost has bound it, but they may become dangerous
again when a thaw sets in, a Föhn wind is blowing, or rain has fallen.

The Ski runner himself may start an avalanche on a slope where the
snow would lie safely if he did not pass along it. The cutting of his
track, breaking the continuity of the snow, may set it going either
above or below him and he will be carried away with it.

Wherever there seems to be the slightest risk of avalanche the party
should separate and proceed in single file at about 20-yard intervals.
Then if a runner is carried away, the others will be able to go to
his assistance. In some cases, however, even this is not sufficient
protection as the whole slope may go at once. In old days before the
railways had tunnelled through the passes we were driving over the
Fluela above Davos on our way to Italy in March. We were in the post
consisting of some 20 one-horse sledges and had just left the Hospiz
when we met the up-coming post, also consisting of a number of
one-horse sledges. It took some time to pass, as the track was narrow
and the horses floundered in the deep snow when passing each other.
After we had got by and were continuing on our way down to Süs, we
turned along an outstanding buttress of cliff and saw that some two
miles of steep slope ahead had avalanched. The whole surface of the
snow had slipped to the bottom of the valley and if either of the
diligences had been on this slope when it happened, horses, sledges
and all would have been carried away.

This experience fixed avalanche danger very firmly in my mind, and
having also seen several large avalanches falling, as well as the
immense amount of damage done to forests and châlets by these
insuperable monsters, I have never wished to risk getting into a large
one myself.

Even a small avalanche is very overwhelming and a beginner who has
felt its effects soon realizes what it may mean. Choose a _very_ short
steep slope on a day when the snow is slipping and try to get it
going. Once it moves and entangles your legs and Skis, you will feel
the extraordinary helplessness which results. This was one of our
games when I was a child. Without Skis it is possible to float on top
of a baby avalanche and to enjoy it, but with Skis on, the feet soon
become entangled and helplessness results.

The first thing to do when an avalanche starts and no escape is
possible is to get the Ski bindings undone and the feet free. Then
"swim" with arms and legs and try to keep on top. If buried, keep one
arm over nose and mouth so as to keep air space and push the other arm
up, pointing the Ski stick through to the open so that it may show
your whereabouts. This is easy to describe, but probably not so easy
to carry out if the occasion arises.

One of the first books on Ski-running advises people to carry some 60
metres of red tape and to let this trail behind them when crossing
dangerous ground. Then, if overwhelmed by an avalanche, the red thread
can be picked up by the search party and the victim may quickly be dug
out. I have never met anyone who has carried out this suggestion and
do not want the extra weight of red tape in my Rucksack, but it makes
one think and realize how much other experienced runners have thought

The following precautions would seem to me to be better:

Never ski along, or above, or below a dangerous-looking slope under
doubtful conditions.

Never go for a tour without making sure beforehand that the route you
propose to follow is a safe one.

Always carry out any instructions your Guide or the experienced leader
of your party may give. If you have any sudden doubt about the safety
of the slope you are on, make quickly for the nearest rocks sticking

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