Creek Crossings

| February 16, 2010

I first got into crossing streams with my skis on by accident when I was trying to cross over a slender snowbridge which collapsed and dumped me in the stream.  I was mainly worried about scrapping up my bases and edges, but on the other-hand, my feet stayed dry and it was fairly secure, so now I do it intentionally.  The rocks tend to have some river slime on them, so they are pretty easy on your edges and bases, especially if you just step and don’t slide on them.

Some of the other techniques I’ve tried are the time-honored ski toss, which often results in a ski hitting the far bank, then bouncing back into the river and getting swept downstream.  Not recommended.  Crossing with poles in one hand and skis in the other is a recipe for disaster.  Putting your skis on your pack and using your poles for balance sounds good at first, but you inevitably turf on a slippery rock and go in, or at least I do.  The “find a log and try to shinny across it” sometimes works, but can also take a lot of searching and still leave you in the stream if/when it breaks.  Cut your losses, find a wide spot with shallower water and ski straight across. P-tex is cheap and edges can be sharpened.

Crossing with skins on is better yet, but best saved for the very end of a tour as water-logged skins are a glomming nightmare. Also, this technique works best in low volume creeks – raging rivers are a whole different story.
Help support and keep your tootsies dry with a pair of Scarpa F3 Alpine Touring Boots from Click on the photo below…

Category: 05 Uphill

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (21)

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  1. Chuck says:

    Good Stuff! Once we had three people, each took a different way across LCC…I did the huck skiis and wade knee deep across; another scoped out a crossing 1/4 mile upstream, and the third did a balance act across (successfully).

  2. Richard says:

    In Vail, there is a sidecountry run called the Minturn Mile that has a decent creek crossing this season. The ski toss seems to be the most popular way across it right now with a run and jump finish…

  3. Cole says:

    I lost a pole in LCC last winter. If anyone found a BD carbon fiber pole I’ve got the match for it. Damn slippery rocks… Next time maybe I’ll try this way.

  4. Andrew says:

    Sorry to hear it Cole. I once threw a ski which must have hit a rock or something as it basically sprung back halfway across LCC creek, landed in the current and proceeded to get swept into the deepest section and stuck. I tried all sorts of fishing techniques before giving up and wading in up to my thighs and wrenching it out. It was pure misery, but luckily the end of the day.

  5. Andrew says:

    Nice one Bob. How was the tundra skinning? ;)

  6. gringo says:

    i have always enjoyed the Coal Creek crossing below Teton pass. the ‘bridge’ is two Lodgepoles wide and 20 feet long, 6 feet above the water. not a huge accomplishment, but it does make you feel good when you rip across at speed and arrive safely on the south bank.

  7. Bob says:

    The tundra skinning wasn’t as nice as I might have hoped – it’s not as smooth as it looks – but that move made sense at the time. Just call me a meadow skipper.

    Within an hour one of us was puking on the uptrack:

  8. jason says:

    Hey Cole,

    not that i found yours, but i too lost a bd carbon fiber pole that hasn’t had a mate for a while. mine is a fixed length 130 cm. if that’s what you need i’ll send it your way, as i don’t really find use for fixed length poles all that much. if that’s the case, ask andrew for my email so i don’t have to publish it online.

  9. Derek says:


    You’re right, but that only works in Utah and Jerusalem.

  10. Ruth says:

    I read the VOWS/STYLE section of the NYT every Sunday and
    thought the article on you and your wife and your
    lifestyle, kids, etc was very interesting. Better than
    the usual things they run, though it’s all fascinating.

    ANYHOW, i live in LA, don’t ski anymore, because I’m
    old and the risk of breaking a bone is too great, so
    I stick to the pool, but I find all of this
    I HOPE you do not take unnecessary risks.

    I watched Bode Miller ski last night and i had to
    say it seemed to me he was totally ‘in tune’. Sorry
    for the new age observation, but I figure you
    all must understand the concept.

  11. d3 says:

    andrew, might you post that link to which ruth refers? c00l! you all are society pages-worthy!

  12. d3 says:

    i just read it from a facebook link, facebook being much less in stature than this site, mind you. i the comparison of mira’s skis to the size of baguettes.
    yay, mcleans!

  13. d3 says:

    that’s “i heart the comparison …” yada yada …

  14. Chuteski says:

    Hey, Still doing the Sawtooths this spring??? Plenty of other things to hit up here also!

  15. Jim says:

    Who’s seen the Chic Scott photo of skinning the half-submerged log jam across the melt swollen river? That’s extra spice.

    Derek, I think I’ve skittered across that exact same pair of bendy, icy logs.

    How about pointers for scaling the undercut far bank snow mushroom? They’ve prompted me to pass up otherwise reasonable crossings in BCC a few times.

  16. Chris Larson says:

    OMG, do you know how hard Cathy tried to get into the NYT’s when we got married! Maybe not all that hard, but she did try…

    >> Ms. McLean, a smart, even-keeled redhead

    How’d you pull that off?

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