Does the idea of packed runs ruin your day before you’ve even booted up? Are you over waiting for hours in canyon traffic because everyone and their mom is a powder hound these days? Or maybe you’re finally ready to give your knees a break from all the chowder riding over-crowded resorts can bring. Either way, the backcountry has been calling and it’s time to start building your kit and get educated on how to stay safe so you can get out there and see what everyone’s been hootin’ and hollerin’ about all these years. Because this is the next level of skiing, there are additional steps to getting out there that are crucial for a great and safe time. We’ll walk you through the gear in this article, but getting educated is the absolute first step. Check out Avalanche.org
for a list of groups offering avalanche safety classes in your neck of the woods.
The term “backcountry” has become a catch all to discuss any terrain outside of ski resort boundary lines and ski patrol maintenance. On any given day you could ski various types of terrain, between dropping cliffs below the lift line, boot packing fantasy ridge, skiing the Unitas in search of untouched, pristine powder, and solitude.
This guide is intended to break it all down for you, a new backcountry adventurer, to make your decision buying process just a tad smoother and even more educational than just a product description.
At Gear.com we believe that gear is just the facilitator and you are the experience maker, so grab your buds, take an avalanche class and get out there because days are meant for exploring, not scrolling.
Avalanches can happen to anyone, at anytime, inbounds or in the backcountry. Heaven forbid you or a friend will ever get buried in a slide, but in preparation of such an event, always have a beacon or transceiver, a probe, a shovel, and the knowledge and skill sets to use these pieces of equipment properly and efficiently. Practice will always make perfect, and practicing with your touring buddies will make trusting your partners more sustainable. There are more dangers than just avalanches in the backcountry, and you alone are responsible for acquiring the appropriate knowledge to stay safe and make it home after every mission. Before acquiring all the gear you’ll need to start your backcountry adventure, there are a few things to consider: price, frequency of use and ski style.
Step 3: Shovel
A shovel is going to unbury your pal faster than your paws will. Few variations in shovels exist but the ones that do can jump you a few bucks, make transition times shorter, and add ease of comfort as you start to use your gear more frequently. The main difference between shovels is weight and size of shovel head. It’s amazing how much of a difference technique can make when using a shovel in deep snow. We highly recommend watching some videos of proper avalanche shoveling techniques to learn more about how to dig efficiently in a pinch.
Oh Sh$! Kit (O.S.K.)
The kit you won't leave home without. Think of the items you’ve had on hand when times got hairy: the extra batteries, emergency blanket, extra snacks, pocket knife, hand warmers, etc. We like to carry a few extra essentials whenever we head out, regardless if it’s sidecountry, backcountry or a day chasing rope drops at the resort; no one has ever regretted being too prepared. We typically bring extra batteries for our beacon, matches AND a lighter (lighter fluid doesn’t always love the cold), a headlamp, socks, emergency blanket, extra gloves, thermal with HOT water, ice scraper, duct tape, ski straps, pocket knife, and T.P. (When nature calls, you’ll want to be ready.)
A ski pack will carry your avalanche safety essentials.
Ski packs vary by feature and weight, as a novice backcountry rider we’d recommend going with a lightweight pack that will carry the essentials for a day trip plus emergency essentials. Any pack between 20 and 32 liters will serve as a great starting point and later serve as your short trip pack if you decide to continue into the vortex of backcountry skiing.