Ski touring – which differs from skiing – is a special experience of outdoor activities one can have in Kosovo during the winter season.
Several hundreds of meters of walking up the snow-covered mountains, carrying a pair of skis wrapped in skin. The goal is to reach the highest mountain summit and from there, to experience the beauty of unspoiled nature and then, to ski downwards.
Edis Krusha started this business activity inspired by the beauty of Sharr Mountains. Seeing how every day the environment, in Brezovica, which is a well-known skiing center, was being harmed, together with a group of nature enthusiasts they decided to bring a different activity to explore the territory of the area.
After attending a training in France about snowshoeing and protection and salvation techniques, Edis began to organize snowshoeing groups. This activity is suitable for people who do not ski, and a pleasant one at that, as they can enjoy nature while in the company of the group. Everything started with 15 pair of special shoes for this activity. The first ones to be part of the activity were his friends, all nature enthusiasts. In time, many others joined.
Now, Edis Krusha runs his business E-19, a tour operator well-known in Kosovo for ski-touring offers. “If I show you the first equipment we used, for sure someone who comes from a country with more developed mountain tourism would laugh,” says Edis humorously. In the beginning, they used pieces of skiing skin stitched together, laces from military boots of the 1970s and heavy alpine boots. “We did not even have the right equipment should be come across the biggest ‘enemy’ of unspoiled nature – the avalanche” he says.
However, when there is a strong passion for nature, the opportunities arise. Group members, mostly international tourists, would arrive with their own equipment. “In the recent years we have noted a great interest from local people too” says Edis. Observing the growing interest on ski-touring, he invested in purchasing equipment for groups that are organized by guides.
With the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, through the Promoting Private Sector Employment (PPSE) project, Edis now has all necessary equipment for ski-touring for groups of 6. These are all modern and high-quality equipment, including avalanche detectors, shovels, and probes. “Everything is ready for the snow to begin”.
Like many tour operators, in 2020 Edis faced the obstacles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and had to deal with the insecurity of how things would unfold. “We do not stop working though. We are exploring new territories, improving on our capacities, and exploring how to best promote this activity. We are in this for the long term” he says.
A ski-touring experience
Activities mainly take place in the Sharr Mountains because of the snow texture and attractive slopes. The northern part in particular offers paths for ski-touring.
The meeting point is the location where the group slept the night before. Usually, the overnight places are located near the starting points to avoid long ways and to use the few hours of daylight in wintertime.
The day starts with coordinating activities. A checkup is run, whether all required equipment is ready. The guide never forgets to check the weather and if there might be a risk for avalanche.
The starting point for the group also defends on the terrain configuration. The heights climbed vary from 1,200 to 1,700 meters, depending on the weather, time available, and the readiness of the group. Ski-touring is a great social experience: group members engage in conversations, they make stops to rest, to enjoy nature and snack on the food they brought along.
Then, it is reward time. After climbing all the way to the intended height, the group skis its way downwards! A hearty traditional dinner, lots of fun conversations and new friendships await.