Adventure Ski Touring Week in Western Balkans

A recent trip to the Balkan region was a very exciting experience for me. There was a strange feeling from the beginning of the trip as news of the Coronavirus was spreading, but at that time it was still far away from me. The tour was organized as part of the adventure programs of Tourism Development and Promotion Project implemented by the Regional Cooperation Council, funded by EU. Our first stop was in Bosnia and Herzegovina and started with very bad weather. We got stuck in the mud with the jeeps we procured for transportation and the whole trip soon developed into a pure adventure. We quickly rejected the idea of approaching steep lines on skis, even though the potential in the mountains there is huge. The whole region is marked by the war still, giving the terrain a beautiful and raw feel. Unfortunately, there was not enough snow at that time. Nevertheless, I love to explore new mountain worlds and to experience the feeling of being outside.

Our journey continued on to Montenegro. With every border crossing, I trembled; crossings can be difficult as an Italian, but Klement always managed to get us through with clever conversations. From Montenegro we crossed the border back into to Bosnia on skis and spent the night in a hut, where we shared our passion for the mountains by exchanging countless stories about skiing and life.

"One thing I know for sure, is as soon as I am allowed to return to my beloved mountains it will never be the same again," says Simon.

Skiing is an outdoor sport and one cannot always count on ideal conditions. But on the day, we made the push for the summit of Mount Haijla, we were rewarded with wonderful weather and fresh snow. The snowpack was still missing for really good skiing, but the feeling of community and fun made this trip unforgettable for everyone. We learned a lot about the country, the people who live there, and were able to better understand their worries and problems. We felt like ambassadors for a better and more beautiful future.

With many new ideas, impressions in our heads, and a plan to return in the future in place, we began our journey home. None of us had any idea at that time what we would experience when we returned home. We had just experienced a country that was a stark contrast to our modern and civilized world in Central Europe.

And now? Now I am stuck at home for three weeks. The virus spread so quickly in my absence that curfews and strict prohibitions, as in wartime, followed. I am fine myself, but the fear and doubts, especially in relation to the time after the coronavirus, are visibly written on the faces of all people. During the last years as an athlete I was so focused on achieving my goals that I now have to admit to myself that I never expected such a scenario. And now that ski touring is strictly forbidden, the only escape is 200 meters from your own house, I see many things from a completely new perspective. Maybe this will change the world? Maybe we will all learn to appreciate how privileged we were? Maybe in the future we will be able to put ourselves in the shoes of people who are not as well off as we are, who have other worries than deciding which mountain they would like to ski on. One thing I know for sure, is as soon as I am allowed to return to my beloved mountains it will never be the same again. I will enjoy every step on skis, every turn and every feeling, no matter how small, in the future.  I have come to understand one thing: Nothing can be taken for granted.

But now, I must take responsibility. Responsibility for my fellow human beings. Now mountains are a minor matter for the coming time and we must all be strong together to defeat this virus. Please stay at home for now, the mountains will not run away from us.

Simon Hitti