Beginners Backcountry Skiing

backcountry skiingWhen I first heard of backcountry skiing, I thought it was the perfect method for enjoying the mountains during wintertime. No lifts, no lines, no crowds, and only fresh powder. Sounds pretty good, even with only two ski seasons under my belt. Naive and reckless, I quickly found out how dangerous, hard, and downright fun this outdoors endeavor is.

3 Dangers of Backcountry Skiing

1. Avalanches

The most terrifying event that can happen is being buried in an avalanche. Avoiding avalanche terrain and bad snow conditions are paramount to avoiding a disaster. It is a good idea to take an avalanche training course and get to know what you are up against. Being buried alive miles away from any road is not a way I plan on dying.

2. Getting Lost

Getting lost is always a danger when trekking into the mountains and during the winter, this danger is amplified. A distance as small as one mile becomes 10x harder to walk through when the snow is deeper than you are tall. I rely on my cell phone and Gaia GPS* to always know where I am. There were a few times where I skied down into a ravine and relied on the topo maps to locate the road, even though I was less than 200 yards away!

3. Hypothermia

It’s winter time and it’s cold outside. Even with body temperature is up because of exercise, once you stop, you are going to cool off fast. Do not get stuck out there without adequate layers and cold weather gear. Also, do not sweat into your clothes, when you do stop moving, it will freeze – reducing the insulation ability.

3 Beginners Tips I Wish I Knew Before Backcountry Skiing

Tips for backcountry skiingThe intoxicating freedom of having a mountain to yourself, the cold winter air, and the winter wonderland scenery, all of which enticed me to get out there and ski a mountain. Having never done it before, I was glad that I went for it but I wish I had read some advice for first-timers. Lucky for you, it’s time to learn from my mistakes.

1. Do Not Dress Too Warmly

I wore all the gear and all the layers. It took me about 10 minutes to strip everything off. My mittens were too warm as was my 400-micron thick wool baselayer. I should have gone with a thinner baselayer and fewer layers. The high for the day was 30 degrees but the direct sunlight kept me cooking.

2. Bring Sunblock

Did I mention how sunny it was? All that UV light was bouncing off the snow and burning my skin. As good as vitamin D feels in the middle of the Winter, that is no reason to get a burn. Wear strong stuff because all that snow makes for a bright day.

3. Pack Plenty Of Food and Water

Climbing a mountain is hard in the summertime but try doing it with snowshoes or skis on your feet. All this exercise burns calories and I was wishing I packed more food for the journey. I drank my entire liter of water and ate my breakfast burrito but I could have used more fuel. Pack a day pack similar to any other hike you have been on.

Backcountry Skiing Is Great For Beginners

If you have always thought about going but are too nervous to dive in, don’t be! Just remember to get proper avalanche training and the right tools before heading out there. Find a good buddy and give it a go. Like everything else in the outdoors, once you do it a few times, it will start becoming fun!

*On this page we have used our affiliate link for Gaia GPS.  We do not usually use affiliate links on this website but we have made an exception here because we use this program extensively and have mentioned them repeatedly.

Our link will save you 20%-50% on the membership cost, plus we get a small amount back which goes straight towards creating quality content. It saves you money for a program you should already be using, and is a great way to support the site. Classic win-win!

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