Backcountry Skiing Guide

Kevin Casper
two backcountry skiers

Looking for a good backcountry skiing guide for your next skiing adventure? There are many different ways you can get this information these days, from web resources to published books on backcountry skiing. The resources below will help orient you to all the information that is available.

Why Ski Backcountry?

Backcountry skiing is desirable for those who want more freedom out of their skiing adventures. Downhill skiing is a blast, but you are limited by groomed trails and have to shell out good money for lift tickets. But out in the backcountry, there are a lot less limits. You can blaze your own trail and aren't expected to pay as you go; it is the ultimate winter adventure.

Precautions

Before setting out on a backcountry adventure, you need to be aware of some of the serious risks that present themselves to you when you leave the relatively safe confines of the groomed slopes. You might want to break into backcountry skiing slowly, doing day trips at lower elevations on days with mild weather to start off. You also need to be honest with yourself about your physical conditioning; backcountry skiing is much more grueling that even the toughest double diamond skiing on the mountain, so you need to make sure your body is up to the challenge. Taking an avalanche safety course is essential before you head out. These courses teach you how to evaluate snow pack and read weather patterns, and some also have basic medical training as well.

Supplies

Being properly equipped is the difference between having a great trip and one that results in misery and possible serious injury. You'll want to use several layers of high-quality outdoor clothing made of materials designed to keep moisture out and warmth in (nothing cotton should be considered). You can add and remove layers as you need throughout the trip. A good Gore-tex outer shell is also recommended as a lightweight, warm, and dry first defense against the elements.

A good daypack will also be required to carry the essential backcountry supplies you should never hit the snow without: avalanche beacon, shovel, medical kit, goggles, polarized sunglasses, high SPF sunblock and lip balm, spare ski/snowboard parts, crampons, rope, and an ice ax. You'll also want to have enough water to stay hydrated throughout the trip.

Gear

Depending on the intensity of your location and whether you ski or snowboard, there are different considerations to be aware of as far as gear goes. The first is how you're going to hike from the car into the snow. If you snowboard and you are planning a relatively mellow trip, you might be able to make the hike in your snow boots. However, if you plan to use snowshoes, you'll need to carry around a pair of collapsible poles to get you where you want to go.

If you ski, you'll obviously need another pair of either boots or snowshoes to walk in as you won't be walking far in regular ski boots. However, if you use snowshoes, you'll already have ski poles so you won't have to worry about that issue. No matter how you decide to attack the trip, make sure all your gear is in workable order.

Other Backcountry Skiing Guide Resources

Some other backcountry skiing guide resources that will be useful for you are listed below.

  • Turns All Year - This site is a great forum with a wealth of information for backcountry skiers.
  • Backcountry Skiing California's Eastern Sierra - This book is obviously geared for a particular region, but much of the information contained in a book like this would be universal for all backcountry skiers.
  • Alpine Skills International - ASI is a great resource for general instruction, guided tours, and classes on all things backcountry.
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Backcountry Skiing Guide