Glissade (climbing)

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Glissading is the act of descending a steep snow- or scree-covered slope via a controlled slide on one's feet or buttocks. It is an alternative to other descent methods such as plunge stepping, and may be used to expedite a descent, or simply for the thrill.


There are three primary methods of glissading:

  • Sitting
  • Standing
  • Crouching

Sitting glissade[edit]

This is the easiest type of glissade and generally provides the greatest amount of stability. It is also less tiring than a standing or crouching glissade in softer snow. To perform a sitting glissade one sits down and slides on the slope usually holding on to an ice axe in a self-arrest position, especially when the run-out of the slope is in question.

The major drawbacks to the sitting glissade are that one's outer layers get wet, and that there is less control than in a standing glissade.

Standing glissade[edit]

The standing glissade is often the preferred method if the person glissading is skilled in doing so and snow conditions allow. In this glissading position one has a better view of route hazards, and increased maneuverability over a sitting glissade. In addition a standing glissade cuts down the wet and abrasive forces of the sitting glissade. The standing glissade is best performed over firm snow with a soft top layer.

Crouching glissade[edit]

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. A disadvantage to this technique is the tiring of the legs.


While glissading can be a quick and thrilling way of descending an icefield, it can be easy to lose control of the speed of your descent. Carry an ice axe and know how to self arrest. Follow these simple rules:[1]

  1. Never glissade with crampons on. If you're wearing crampons it means that you're probably on hard snow or ice. This means that should you glissade, you will slide really fast. If you slide really fast and you catch a crampon spike, your leg will snap like a dry twig. As such one should never glissade with crampons on.
  2. Never glissade on a rope team. If one person loses control on a rope team, then others may do so as well.
  3. Never glissade on a glacier. It's likely that you'll be roped up if you're on a glacier so if you do glissade, you will be breaking two rules at once. We don't glissade on glaciers because of the possibility of hidden crevasses.
  4. Always make sure that you can see where you're going. This should make sense. If you can't see, then you could end up sliding into a talus field or off a cliff.
  5. Make sure that there is a good run-out. A good run-out is imperative. One should certainly avoid glissading above dangerous edges, boulders or trees.

Remember, the slope angle may direct you in a direction that you did not intend to go.


  1. ^ "The Dangers Of Glissading". Retrieved 18 September 2014.