From climbing to gliding: mixing mountain sports

It was late November and winter was arriving in Chamonix. There was only about an inch of snow in the valley, but the summits surrounding the town were covered with fresh white powder. The question was: how to get up there?

Liv Sansoz and her friend decided to use their new e-bikes to reach the snowfields high above the city.

“We cycled all the way up to the snow with our ski boots and skis in our backpacks,” she says. “Then we changed and started climbing. We did some really nice ski touring, and at the end of the day we drove back to the town. I enjoyed it a lot.”

For those people who know Liv Sansoz, this creative mix of cycling and skiing should not come as a surprise. Being a professional alpinist, skier and paraglider, Liv has always been eager to mix different mountain sports.

“I’m a climber, and at times climbing itself is enough for me,” she says. “But if I can combine climbing with paragliding, it’s so much more fun and adds a different flavor to a day in the mountains.”

In 2017 and 2018, Sansoz climbed all of the 82 summits above 4000 meters in the Alps – without the help of ski lifts or cable cars. Whenever possible, she carried her skis or paraglider all the way up and used them for the descent.

Making the most of the time in the mountains

Liv Sansoz is a living example of a new, fast-spreading outdoor trend. Today, more and more people are mixing several mountain sports and activities, even during the same day.

“Today’s young outdoor enthusiasts want to make the most of their time in the mountains,” says Damien Chirpaz, Head of Brand – Snowsports & Lifestyle at Salomon.

“So they may bridge hiking with other activities to get the maximum reward from their time outside. Often they are looking for a rush of adrenaline or a new challenge.”

Research data suggests that this multisport behavior is growing. Salomon’s consumer research team has learned that over 60 percent of millennials practice more than five different outdoor activities. Liv Sansoz has made the same observation.

“Most people work for five days a week, so they have only a limited time to spend in the mountains and want to get the most of their outdoor time,” she says. “People are looking for new experiences. For example, the combination of hiking and flying is getting very popular.”

Versatile gear is essential

The combination of climbing and flying has offered many memorable moments for Sansoz in the Chamonix valley.

“Once we climbed the really long and technical route to Mont Blanc via Peuterey ridge,” says Sansoz. “We were carrying paragliders, so we could not have any extra gear with us. But we had to be safe and so the climbing took two days. Then we flew down to Chamonix in 45 minutes instead of a five to seven hours hike. That was a very powerful experience that not everyone can do. We were really on the edge.”

For those of us who seek less thrilling moments, the Alps also offer easier alternatives.

“In France, I would recommend the area around Annecy and Aravis, as well as the area of Beaufortain, which is famous for its Beaufort cheese. In Switzerland, I like the mountains around Interlaken and St Moritz.”

Mixing mountain sports requires a lot from the gear.

“I use very versatile gear because I don’t want to carry extra weight. Sometimes I need special Alpine shoes, but most of the time I use the same shoes for everything.”

Getting closer to nature

Some other trends are also becoming visible.

“Some people are very sporty, and they want to push their limits even further. I have the feeling that some people want something different – they want to get closer to nature,” she says. “Of course, social media has a big impact on everything. And today taking photos is important because people want to bring home nice memories.”

Like many other mountain lovers, Sansoz is very concerned about global warming.

“The mountains are more fragile than the flat areas. We see the results of climate change very clearly here. The temperature rises maybe 1.5 degrees globally, but it can rise 2.5 to 2.7 degrees in the Alps. The glaciers are decreasing every year.”

What should we do about it?

“Everyone can act and do small things, and we can also act as consumers. For example, if everyone stops buying water is plastic bottles it will force the big companies to change and adapt their business to something sustainable. With small acts, we can change things on a large scale.”

Liv Sansoz also wants to limit her air travel. So in the coming winter, she will climb and ski mostly in the mountains where she finds new experiences every year – the summits surrounding the beautiful valley of Chamonix.

Images: Liv Sansoz, Dom Daher/Salomon

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