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  • What's in a name?

    January 14, 2019 2 min read

    The Hager brothers in 1924. The founders of Hagan Ski Mountaineering.

    Alpine Touring, Ski Touring, Randonee, Backcountry Skiing, Ski Mountaineering, Skimo. What should we call this sport we love so much?

    Alpine Touring is the nearly identical English translation of the traditional Austrian term for this amazing sport: Alpin Touring. The name Alpin Touring is fine in Austria where 10% of the population ski tours on a regular basis. Yes, 10% of the entire population. Think about that for a moment. How much of the population ski tours in Colorado or Utah or New Hampshire, much less the entire U.S. or Canada? 10% of 10% of 10%? Maybe? With 10% of the Austrian population participating in Alpine Touring, there is high awareness of the sport. It doesn't need to be explained to anyone!! That's not the case in the U.S., where I highly doubt a fraction of 10% of the population have even heard of Alpine Touring. Heck, the other day I had to explain it to my Mom. Again!

    The Hager Brothers in 1924 - founders of Hagan Ski Mountaineering.

    So, back to the name! Since the sport isn't yet well known in the U.S. and Canada, the phrase "Alpine Touring" has one major strike against it. It doesn't include the word "ski!" Hearing the term "alpine touring" the general public will develop a facial response somewhere between confused and... uninterested. And think "Okay, hiking in the mountains. Got it."


    1. It is more known, or at least used to be, as a bicycling term: long-distance races, somewhat similar to the current Gran Fondo usage.
    2. It doesn't have the word "ski."
    3. It's too French.

    Backcountry skiing? Almost. Getting there but not quite. In the minds of many people, backcountry skiing is simply riding the lift and ducking a boundary rope. There is little connotation, no requirement, for climbing on your skis. 99% of people will first make a mental image of downhill skiing in powder. Few will focus on ascending. 

    I believe the phrase Alpine Ski Touring combines the best of AT and Ski Touring.

    1. Alpine – clearly signals mountains.  
    2. Ski - check.
    3. Touring – implies self-powered movement, crossing and covering terrain and not just downhill skiing.

    Unfortunately, even Alpine Ski Touring doesn't, at least yet, convey the essence of the sport to the average American. Go ahead and try it. Tell someone, a non-Alpine Ski Tourer, that you enjoy Alpine Ski Touring. I bet you a donut that they say "Oh, you mean cross-country skiing?"  

    So we need more in America. We need to include the term mountaineering. Some people don't like the use of the term, because 99% of the time we aren't doing what "mountaineers" consider mountaineering. But very simply, if you don't use the term mountaineering, most Americans still picture cross country skiing.

    That's why the Hagan Ski USA website domain name is www.HaganSkiMountaineering.com. Hagan started in Austria in 1924, so in Austria www.Hagan-Ski.com is all that is needed.

    The Hagan slogan – Pure Ski Mountaineering - tells people what we do and emphasizes our exclusive (I.e. no downhill skis, clothing, running shoes, etc.) devotion to alpine ski touring. Hagan is Pure Ski Mountaineering.

    But when people ask what I do, I say I love to go alpine ski touring.

    Oh... and Skimo? While I don't revile it like some people, the less said, the better.

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