Little Things That Matter When Backcountry SkiingOver the years, backcountry skiing has grown rapidly in popularity. Gear has improved immensely, as has our knowledge of snow and weather conditions. This has opened up numerous new areas for skiers and snowboarders to explore.
A tour in the backcountry is an incredibly rewarding experience. It makes it easy to avoid crowded resorts, lift lines and traffic. The sound of skins swishing through fresh blower powder as you make your way to the top of your line is beautiful music.
A trip to the backcountry is fairly easy to make happen. It doesn't take a ton of effort to call some buddies, set a meeting time and place, grab your gear and head out. With that said, there are a ton of small things that can add to your experience. Putting a little thought into the comfort and safety of the entire group goes along ways in ensuring a fun, safe and successful day out in the backcountry. Here are some small backcountry skiing tips and tricks you can use to make sure your next day on the mountain is unforgettable.
Ski straps are a vital piece of any backcountry skier's kit. By carrying at least four of them at all times, you can solve a number of issues that can come up while skiing in the backcountry. Can't get your skins to stick? Use a ski strap front and back to hold them in place. In a pinch, they can also be wrapped around your boot to provide extra traction.
In addition to securing loose gear or skis, a ski strap can be employed in a variety of situations if you get creative.
Dressing properly is a key part of a comfortable day of backcountry skiing. While the skin up may start off cold, you'll quickly start to heat up as you make your way up the track. Wearing a few layers that you can easily shed while ascending but then put back on prior to dropping in will make your life significantly easier. It's especially important to wear a thermal base layer before layering anything. This will be the most source of your warmth!
A second set of gloves can come in handy too. Mountain bike gloves make for a great option to use on the way up as they are lightweight and breathable, but still protect your hands from the elements.
Don't forget to wear a warm winter hat! Opting for something lighter weight can help avoid sweating on the way up, but can also be used as extra insulation under your helmet.
Bring Duct Tape
Duct tape (I personally prefer Gorilla Tape, but to each their own!) is an essential addition to your backcountry skiing kit. When something breaks, duct tape can generally fix it enough to get you back to your truck. Wrap it around your ski poles or Nalgene so you've always got some with you. Bailing wiring and zip ties are other items worth adding to your repair kit.
A scrap of old yoga mat or even just a thin piece of foam can be an incredibly useful addition to your set up. It can be used as a seat that keeps your butt warm and dry while you wait for the rest of your crew or stop for a lunch break. When you are back at the car, it doubles as a changing mat while you switch from ski boots to your everyday shoes.
Everyone waxes their skis at the beginning of the season, right? While you're waxing yours, put a light coat on the top of the skis too. This will help them shed snow more easily, saving you some energy on your way up.
Don't skimp on food. Trying to complete an epic day without proper nourishment is sure to cause major headaches. H-anger is a very real thing and can be avoided with a little planning. Pack something tasty with lots of calories. You'll thank me later.
Your trusty Nalgene bottle is a reliable and easy way to transport water, but it is not always the most convenient. These bulky items can easily fall out of a water bottle sleeve and are not very forgiving in the event of a fall. A soft sided water bottle is easily stashed in a jacket pocket and takes up almost no space once its empty.
Another option is to use a hydration sleeve. Though a hydration sleeve is convenient, they are not without their own issues. Water tends to freeze in the hose if it is not properly dealt with. Blowing some air into the hose and pushing the water back into the sleeve is one way to keep it from freezing. You can also add some sugar, powdered drink mix or even a little whiskey to keep your water from icing over.
Planning for a day in the backcountry involves a lot of things. In addition to the obvious things like your beacon, probe, shovel and other necessary gear, these small items can help make your day out a little bit easier. It can take years of skiing to get your kit just right, so trying new things never hurts. Lots of little things can quickly add up and help make your day out that much better.