When winter arrives in La Rioja, there’s a whole mountain range waiting to be discovered! If you’re a telemark skier with skins and the right kit you can explore a range of slopes.

Our Zaldierna members don’t even bother to buy the annual Valdezcaray ski-lift pass – they don’t need to. Instead over recent seasons they’ve wandered extensively in “deep Demanda” – in effect their own secluded Telemark playground.

This winter’s abundant snowfalls mean there are rich pickings this spring for those looking for peace and silence. Among the places waiting to be explored are: Pico Otero (2045m), Cerro Galarcia (1927m) and Toro Cuervo (1933m).

Also just on the other side of San Lorenzo and the Valdezcaray resort are many beautiful slopes. So I set off with James Sturcke and his trusty Canon camera, for an overnight trip under the incredible starry skies. We loaded up everything we needed in backpacks and set off to enjoy ourselves.

From San Lorenzo we skied down the slopes from where River Calamantió, which later flows into Mansilla reservoir, originates. With heavy loads the descent was more of a challenge than usual but we arrived to our chosen spot to camp with stunning views to the north, east and south, from where we would later see distant La Rioja lit up at night.

Leaving our heavy packs we set out on a half-day excursion to Pico Salineros (2093m) descending down a picturesque gully and later diagonally ascending through a pine forest.

By nightfall we were back at camp, tired but restored by a good soup and dinner. As darkness fell there were incredible views of distant villages and towns illuminated at night and oh so many stars…

We returned the next day summiting San Lorenzo and enjoying the snow on its western slopes: Pala Bonita. It was one final sweaty ascent up the ridge to Colocobia (1969m) before returning home already promising to repeat the adventure.

Chefe

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9 & 10 March 2015 Winter camping and telemark skiing with Chefe in Sierra de la Demanda, La Rioja, Spain. Photo © James Sturcke | www.sturcke.org

9 & 10 March 2015 Winter camping and telemark skiing with Chefe in Sierra de la Demanda, La Rioja, Spain. Photo © James Sturcke | www.sturcke.org

9 & 10 March 2015 Winter camping and telemark skiing with Chefe in Sierra de la Demanda, La Rioja, Spain. Photo © James Sturcke | www.sturcke.org

9 & 10 March 2015 Winter camping and telemark skiing with Chefe in Sierra de la Demanda, La Rioja, Spain. Photo © James Sturcke | www.sturcke.org

9 & 10 March 2015 Winter camping and telemark skiing with Chefe in Sierra de la Demanda, La Rioja, Spain. Photo © James Sturcke | www.sturcke.org

9 & 10 March 2015 Winter camping and telemark skiing with Chefe in Sierra de la Demanda, La Rioja, Spain. Photo © James Sturcke | www.sturcke.org

9 & 10 March 2015 Winter camping and telemark skiing with Chefe in Sierra de la Demanda, La Rioja, Spain. Photo © James Sturcke | www.sturcke.org

9 & 10 March 2015 Winter camping and telemark skiing with Chefe in Sierra de la Demanda, La Rioja, Spain. Photo © James Sturcke | www.sturcke.org

This workshop was all about getting Torocuervo Telemark club’s youngsters – who are now reaching a good level of skiing – to start understanding the importance of mountain safety. Many of them are realising that there’s another world of off-piste skiing, but that you always have to treat the mountains with respect.

We invited mountain guide Eukeni Soto to give a two-day avalanche safety and rescue workshop for the young club members including a theory session and a practical class on the slopes.

We learnt about the importance of safety during different phases of an excursion: good planning before leaving home, upon arrival in the area, during the excursion and how to react in case of an avalanche.

The club has sets of avalanche rescue kits (transmitters, probes and shovels) and also some of Eukeni’s notes for those that wish to learn more about mountain safety.

Alvaro

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