How to Get into Back Country Skiing and Snowboarding

When it comes to skiing, there is nothing quite as exciting, adventurous and beautiful as getting out into the back country. However, this isn’t something that you can simply launch yourself into.

It is a particularly dangerous activity, so you need to make sure that you are fully prepared for what lies ahead. If you’re an experienced skier or snowboarder and want to make your way into the back of beyond then this is what you need to know:

Getting into Back Country

The first rule is that you need to be able to handle yourself on the slopes. You don’t HAVE to be an expert skier, but it definitely helps! If you shy away from double black diamond runs or off-piste snow then this probably isn’t for you just yet.

Before you do anything else, it is essential that you get some practical knowledge and training on what to do in emergency situations and how to handle the rougher snow adeptly. One of the most important things for you to do is an avalanche safety course, which will teach you how to:

  • Traverse backcountry terrain
  • Evaluate the snow pack
  • Follow weather patterns
  • Pick out routes
  • Use an avalanche beacon
  • Basic medical training
  • And other useful things you need to know

    Skiing Dream

    Skiing Dream

Preparing for the Trip 

Unlike ski-accessed slopes, Back Country requires you to climb the mountain before you’re rewarded with the sweet descent. This does mean that you need to prepare fully before taking to the slopes and this includes considering the clothes you’re wearing – you need to be looking for clothes that keep you cool and dry, with maximum mobility and being highly waterproof.

Pro Tip: Pack two pairs of gloves and socks – there’s nothing to make you feel better than being able to change into a warm, dry pair of glove and socks before you make your way down again.

You should also have a fully packed and stocked daypack that sits comfortably on your back. Going to a hydration pack is a good option as it gives you easy access to water, but you need to make sure the pipe is properly insulated or it could freeze. Here are all the things you should take with you:

  • Shovel
  • Probe
  • Avalanche Beacon with fully charge batteries
  • Climbing gear – rope, harness, ice axe and crampons
  • Spare snowboard or ski parts
  • Multi-tool
  • Basic medical supplies
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Polarized sunglasses for the hike, Goggles for the way down

Specialist Gear

Backcountry skiing is much easier than snowboarding, due to the nature of the device. However, if you are a snowboarder then you may want to look into investing in a splitboard – which splits lengthways into two skis that you can use to climb and traverse. You will also require skins, to stop your skis from sliding backwards on the uphill sections.

Skiing Trail

Skiing Trail

Getting Started

While you may have the skills needed to go back country skiing, you need to build up the experience too. In order to do this, try to start small and find a mountain that’s relatively easy to hike up and poses minimal avalanche danger.

Always travel in pairs and make sure you have let people know where you’re going and roughly how long you will be. This simple safety measure can drastically speed up any rescue attempts if the worst does happen.

There are plenty of places available to explore the back country, but the easiest way of finding out the best places to go is by talking to the local ski patrol or other skiers in the area. They will be able to guide you through a selection of routes ranging from those that are perfect for first time explorations to people looking for more advanced adventures.

About the Author – Snowchateaux offers a selection of catered and self-catered ski chalets in a selection of French ski resorts. If you’re thinking about getting into back country skiing then the French Alps provide one of the best destinations to begin your adventure.

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