How to survive a snow-free summer

The fun doesn’t have to end when the ice melts. Here are some tactics to help you find your fix another way, with different people, during the long, snow-free summer months

Last summer I co-wrote a massive report for Sport England on the motivations for ‘Getting Active Outdoors’. If you are a nerd and into this sort of thing you can read about it in detail on the Sport England website, in a 127-page booklet (in pdf form), complete with photos and pie charts. But I’ll help you cut to the chase: through a big survey we discovered that people’s passion for a sport was usually a way to satisfy some key motivations in their life. Hence skiing is often a means to an alternative end – a way to experience the peace of the mountains; a fix of adrenaline for the speed freak; a vehicle to spend time with loved ones; or a spiritual fulfilment, among others.

So what? Well, if you took the most passionate climber and chopped their legs off, they would just go kayaking to get their chosen fix. The same is true for skiers: most of us have a number of other sports to help us get what we need through the snow-starved months. Now is a great time to think about trying something new this coming summer.

Swap planks for wheels

Swap planks for wheels

My first tip on this front is to be more creative than just going to the same places you ski, when they’re snowless. One of a few golden rules in my life is that some hills (or mountains) should never be walked up. The Strahlhorn above Saas-Fee is one example. Would you be happier skinning up alongside a lift, or using skins to access somewhere the rest can’t get to? I thought as much. So don’t torture yourself by walking in places you should really be skiing. The solution? Go somewhere better (or ‘differenter’) that is fit for another purpose.

Take a few minutes to work out what the essential ingredients are for you, then stop to wonder where else you might find them this summer. Here, from our thousands of responses to the Sport England survey, are a few common examples.

Like to learn?

Then find some new skills to pick up. This summer could be the time to nail your navigational skills on a course, or take up
rock climbing. Those skills are transferable – helping you to find even more ambitious ski adventures, and safely negotiate steeper challenges when the snow returns.

Plas y Brenin National Mountain Centre has oodles of great skills courses to choose from. Better still, you get to stay in the mountains and work with like-minded mountaineers who totally understand your needs.

Love a challenge?

Find something to train for. Let’s face it, ski touring demands a certain ability to suffer and plug away on the hills in return for a fabulous swooping descent. Get something in the diary: book on an iconic bike ride, such as the Etape Eryri in Snowdonia, which will give you a motivational challenge to aim for, and an excuse to take your fitness and training out in the fresh air this summer.

Is it all about the wind in your hair?

Then get sailing, or astride a bike – you’ll soon be whooping it up with the best of them. Downhill mountain biking has become a rapidly growing niche sport, with many ski resorts offering uplift in the summer, and a plethora of trails to enjoy on the way down – with something for every standard and aspiration.

Have canoe, will travel: aqua-ramble, anyone?

Have canoe, will travel

If you can’t justify another trip to the Alps, get your fix closer to home at the growing number of trail centres around the country, from the Surrey Hills less than an hour from London to Dalby Forest in North Yorkshire. Antur Stiniog in Blaenau offers lifts up the hill on a bus, in return for some awesome descents. If you’re prepared to do the pedal work – and build up to the skills required – then riding off the summit of Snowdon into a sunset will rival any powder day. Honest!

Hey hobo! Got a need to be touring?

The good news is that if you like your adventures to take several days and complete a journey, you have plenty of options. Here are just a handful:

  • Get on a bike. If you can’t handle the idea of paniers and being a rambler on wheels, don’t despair. There are some great multi-day adventures, many of which are supported. This means you can complete an epic multi-day journey carrying little more than a day pack. Try the Pyrenees coast to coast Summit to Sea trip with Altitude Adventure (altitudeadventure.com) for an epic tour across the mountains.
  • Go kayaking. If you like being self-sufficient in a rich and stimulating environment, go aqua-rambling. For a mellow journey, an open canoe trip in Canada is your bag. If you like a faster moving environment that will use all your skills of navigation, tidal planning and camping, sea kayaking is for you. People flock from all around the world to paddle the coastline of the UK. The National Centres at Plas y Brenin, Glenmore Lodge and Tollymore offer all the skills and courses you need to get going. Some great coaches run bespoke trips around the country – in Angelsey try Roger Chandler or Ollie Sanders (rockandseadventures.co.uk), while in Skye there’s Gordon Brown.

Hungry for soul-food?

If an alpine sunrise satisfies your craving for a wild, pristine alpine environment, then get into alpinism. There are so many transferable skills, and endless opportunities to spend time high and free in the lofty peaks. Check out the British Mountain Guides’ website (bmg.org.uk) to find loads of British guides who love working in the mountains all year round. They would be delighted to share this amazing experience with you.

Think laterally (or vertically) this summer and scratch your touring/adrenaline junkie/spiritual itch

Think laterally (or vertically) this summer and scratch your touring/adrenaline junkie/spiritual itch

Born to carve?

Time to get some new flow! Try skating, surfing, kite-surfing or surf kayaking… Freestyle sports are on the up right now and a sport like kite-surfing will combine all your favourite moves in one activity. Only if you can pat your head and rub your belly at the same time though!

The final message of support is that whatever your primary motivation for getting out in the mountains, the chances are you are not alone. Most of us are sociable cats and spending time with our families and mates trumps all other motivations to be active.

If you’re on the hunt for like-minded people, check out the Eagle Ski Club. This vibrant club has an action-packed schedule of tours and trips to join, but they know we can’t all be skiing all of the time. Hence members enjoy an equally packed programme of events through the year, from film nights and lectures to skills training and mountain-biking weekends. There is something for everyone, whatever the season. Good luck and see you next winter!

For more outdoors inspiration, take a look at our action-packed sister magazine, Outdoor Adventure Guide.

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