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Glissade is the usually voluntary act of descending a steep slope of snow in a controlled manner either for the sheer thrill of the ride and/or to bypass tedious scree. Glissading is an alternative to plunge stepping and also cuts down on descent time.

Table of contents
1 Types
2 Cautions
3 Reference


There are three primary methods of glissading:

  1. Sitting
  2. Standing
  3. Crouching

Sitting glissade

This is the easiest to learn and generally provides the best feeling of being in control. It also works better in softer snow where the standing glissade would be ineffective. Basically, just sit down and push yourself off holding on to your ice axe in a self-arrest position. Push the spike of the axe into the snow on one side and use it as a rudder to control your speed and prevent your body from overextending forward.

To halt your momentum, dig the spike in deeper and gently dig in your heels -- do not do it abruptly or chances are, you will be doing a "heart in mouth" somersault. For an emergency stop, self-arrest

The major drawback to the sitting glissade is your outer layers getting wet. A good pair of nylon coated rain pants really comes in handy.

Standing glissade

The standing glissade is the preferred method if you know how to do it and snow conditions are acceptable. This form allows you a better view of route hazards, provides better maneuverability and cuts down the wet and abrasive forces of the sitting glissade. The standing glissade is best done over firm snow with a soft top layer. Start in a semi-crouched position with the knees moderately bent and your arms spread out for balance. Feet can be together or farther apart as needed but keep one foot slightly ahead of the other to improve stability and prevent nose dives.

To slow down or stop, you can stand up and dig your heels in, crouch and drag your ice axe or turn as if you were downhill skiiing.

Crouching glissade

The crouching glissade is similar to the standing method except the climber sits back and drags the spike of their ice axe (held in self-arrest grip) in the snow. The method is slower but more controlled than the standing glissade.