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The idea of a ski ascent, in which a ski mountaineer climbs a peak on skis but does not necessarily ski back down, faded as the big Cascade volcanos were conquered on skis before World War II. Attention shifted to ski descents and to skiing up and down more remote peaks. With improving standards after the war, if a peak could be climbed on skis, it could generally be descended as well. The terms ski-climb and ski ascent remain useful to describe achievements that were significant in the early days of the sport, but are of less significance today.


A climb in which a significant portion of the route is done on foot. Historically, ski-climbs preceded ski ascents. Ski mountaineers would climb as high as possible on skis, then abandon them and continue to the summit on foot. Recording these attempts reminds us of the problems that early ski mountaineers had to overcome. An example is the 1928 ascent of Mt Rainier by Best, Giese and Strizek, in which skis were abandoned below 12,000 feet and the climb was completed on crampons. Another example is the 1931 ascent of Mt Baker from the northeast by Hayes, Jank, Strizek and Thompson, in which skis were abandoned at the bergschrund below the Cockscomb.

Ski ascent

A climb completed on skis. Ski ascents (without corresponding descents) have seldom been recorded since World War II. A classic example is the 1939 ski ascent of Mt Rainier by Sigurd Hall. Due to icy conditions, Hall walked down the upper 2,000 feet of the mountain before beginning his ski descent with Andy Hennig.

Ski descent

A descent completed on skis. An example is the 1932 ski descent of Mt Adams by Giese, Grage, Mosauer and Strizek. When defining what constitutes a complete ski descent, the standards of the day must be considered. For example, the 1941 ski descent of Mt Shuksan by Reasoner and Trott, which began at the foot of the summit pyramid, was considered a complete ski descent at the time. This is not altered by the fact that nearly fifty years later skiers discovered it is possible to ski the summit pyramid itself under ideal conditions. Even today, a traditional ski descent of Shuksan begins at the base of the rocks, and the extreme descent of the summit pyramid is considered something special.

Ski summit

Ski summit is proposed as a casual term to describe a ski ascent combined with a ski descent. I prefer not to extend the term ski ascent for this, but instead retain its more restrictive, traditional meaning. The term ski descent doesn't very well convey the experience of skiing both up and down a peak. Ski summit is appropriate to describe skiing a remote peak, not necessarily difficult technically, where just getting there on skis is an accomplishment.

Ski traverse

A trek from point A to point B substantially made on skis. A ski traverse over a summit follows different routes on the ascent and descent. A loop or orbit ends near its starting point, but does not retrace its route.

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Last Updated: Fri Feb 4 09:43:01 PST 2005