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Back country? With a family?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

We're off to Jackson for 10 days next week.  Me, my wife and three boys aged 17, 15 and 14.  We're British so we only ski once a year, but because we only ski once a year we tend to play hard when we get there.

 

We've been to Jackson twice before and skied pretty much all of the marked stuff including things like the Alta Chutes, Expert Chutes and Toilet Bowl.  Other people look prettier than us and ski faster than us, but we get down in control with huge grins on our faces.  So hiring a guide to take us into the back country looks like a tempting - if expensive - idea.

 

Would you take three once-a-year teenagers into the back country?  Is it a ridiculously irresponsible idea or would it be the best family day out that we've ever had?

post #2 of 13

You fail to mention if you or anyone in the family has any experience with backcountry or avalanche safety, though it sounds like they don't.

 

Purely my opinion, but I wouldn't take my entire family into the backcountry for the very first time together. Just seems to risky, and I'd rather have some experience myself before bringing the family.

 

That said, a cat skiing trip (Grand Targhee offers this, I believe) or a mellow backcountry trip with little avalanche risk might be options.

post #3 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by jonny.jones View Post

We're off to Jackson for 10 days next week.  Me, my wife and three boys aged 17, 15 and 14.  We're British so we only ski once a year, but because we only ski once a year we tend to play hard when we get there.

 

We've been to Jackson twice before and skied pretty much all of the marked stuff including things like the Alta Chutes, Expert Chutes and Toilet Bowl.  Other people look prettier than us and ski faster than us, but we get down in control with huge grins on our faces.  So hiring a guide to take us into the back country looks like a tempting - if expensive - idea.

 

Would you take three once-a-year teenagers into the back country?  Is it a ridiculously irresponsible idea or would it be the best family day out that we've ever had?

 

I would highly recommend it.  

 

If you've skied the inbounds terrain you're describing, then the out of bounds terrain doesn't have to be any more difficult at all (and can be even easier).  

 

Since you'll be here for ten days, you would have a couple of days to get your skiing legs back.  Then, just watch the weather forecasts and try to schedule a guided day (or days) for when we're having some significant snowfall.  Give the Mountain Sports School booking office an honest assessment of your skills and then tell the guide as well.  The guide can certainly tailor the level of terrain (and exertion) to what is best for your group.

 

The guides provide all the gear you need as well as some rudimentary training.  You'll have a blast if our current snow pattern keeps up. I've made a bunch of out-of-bounds trips the last few days and the skiing is very good.

 

Have fun while you're here.

post #4 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeUT View Post

You fail to mention if you or anyone in the family has any experience with backcountry or avalanche safety, though it sounds like they don't.

 

Purely my opinion, but I wouldn't take my entire family into the backcountry for the very first time together. Just seems to risky, and I'd rather have some experience myself before bringing the family.

 

That said, a cat skiing trip (Grand Targhee offers this, I believe) or a mellow backcountry trip with little avalanche risk might be options.

 

Joe, I understand your sentiment, but I honestly think that if he hires a guide, which is specifically what he's asking about, that significantly mitigates whatever risk might be involved.  The guides certainly take families regularly.  

 

I know that I did back when I was a guide here.

 

By the way, jonny, JoeUT's suggestion of a Grand Targhee cat skiing trip is an excellent one.  That's also pretty pricy when you figure in five people, but it's a lot of fun. 

post #5 of 13

We did something similar last year when we took our family to Austria (kids were 14 and 17) -- spent 3 days with a guide in the Kitzbuehel area. It was definitely a highlight ... from what I understand, JH has many levels of back/sidecountry difficulty, and the guide will know where to take you. 

 

One thing: the actual skiing downhill was never very difficult, but make sure you are all comfortable with weird snow conditions and long traverses and sidestepping and skiing over avy debris and  creeks -- just being capable tromping around places that no one has taken care of. I haven't toured around JH, so I don't know how much of this there is where you would go, but it's something to consider.

post #6 of 13

I agree with going for it.  I would discuss with the guide service as soon as you get there--they'll have an idea of forecast and when conditions will be worth it.  While fresh snow is nice you don't want to go out when avalanche conditions are considerable--you'll be stuck on low angle, lower elevation terrain if you're able to go out at all. Mid winter the snow should good for quite a while after a storm, particularly if you're prepared to deal with wind affected snow.

post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 

Some good advice here - thanks.  We've never been in the back country before and we've never gone off-piste in Europe so our experience is very limited.  Keeping an eye on the weather forecast and choosing the best day is blindingly obvious but I'd probably have been stupid enough to not think of it myself until I discovered myself skiing through crud - thanks for the tip.

 

My concerns were twofold: would the younger two lads be able to manage the hiking without flagging; and, in the event that Something Bad happens, would it be imprudent to have younger kids out on the hill who - being kids - may be very competent skiers but who would be unlikely to remain level-headed in a crisis and whose idea of local geography and topology would extend no further than the adrenaline-inducing effects of the next slope.

 

I'm reassured to hear that we're not the first family to entertain this madness.  It sounds as if I need to give my credit card a polish and go chat to the guides office!

post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by jonny.jones View Post

Some good advice here - thanks.  We've never been in the back country before and we've never gone off-piste in Europe so our experience is very limited.  Keeping an eye on the weather forecast and choosing the best day is blindingly obvious but I'd probably have been stupid enough to not think of it myself until I discovered myself skiing through crud - thanks for the tip.

 

My concerns were twofold: would the younger two lads be able to manage the hiking without flagging; and, in the event that Something Bad happens, would it be imprudent to have younger kids out on the hill who - being kids - may be very competent skiers but who would be unlikely to remain level-headed in a crisis and whose idea of local geography and topology would extend no further than the adrenaline-inducing effects of the next slope.

 

I'm reassured to hear that we're not the first family to entertain this madness.  It sounds as if I need to give my credit card a polish and go chat to the guides office!

 

Hi, jonny.

 

There are many, many options as far as where to go.  Some involve hiking (typically a boot-hike with skis fixed on your pack), some involve a mild uphill sidestepping traverse.  Some of the routes involve no hiking at all.  Again, the guide can assess everyone's skills and choose a suitable route.

 

As to Something Bad... the guides all carry radios and can summon the ski patrol.  Even though this is beyond the ski area boundary and ski patrol rescue is not "guaranteed", the likelihood is the guides wouldn't even take you out if the danger is seriously high.  Ski patrol is not that far away and there are often other guides in the vicinity who can also come to help.  I don't think you need to worry too much about that.

 

Lastly, the terrain you would most likely ski is very beautiful.  It's a scenically dramatic area that gives you a very different "feel" from the inbounds terrain.  I think you'd love it. 

post #9 of 13

At 14 my kids could already outski me and out climb me. I think yours will do fine.

post #10 of 13

JJ:

I would highly recommend listening to Bob.  Not only that,  you should probably hire him for a private your first few days and he can show you the ropes.Then he can assess your abilities and truely give your guide a good idea what your capable off.

I would also go cat skiing.  Think of entire trip as an investment, with the payback coming in twenty years when your kids take you heli skiing in AK!

post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters View Post

 

...

 

As to Something Bad... the guides all carry radios and can summon the ski patrol.  Even though this is beyond the ski area boundary and ski patrol rescue is not "guaranteed", the likelihood is the guides wouldn't even take you out if the danger is seriously high.  Ski patrol is not that far away and there are often other guides in the vicinity who can also come to help.  I don't think you need to worry too much about that....

While the term "sidecountry" is non-pc for some on here, this summarizes very well the terrain and circumstances that the o.p. would be guided in in this case.  It sounds like the o.p. understands the difference between going with a guide and going by himself, also, so some of the "moral hazard" of the guided experience isn't there for him.  Basically, it sounds like they'll be a fun group to guide and have a fun time.  In terms of conditions, if it hasn't snowed in a while, some of the sidecountry terrain there can get pretty chewed up, so also ask for an honest assessment of the fun-factor of the snow conditions for where you would be going.

 

My advice would be to consider for a day after, not during, significant snow.  With fresh snow during the day of or the evening before, there are so many places inbounds where the resort will have great snow that a guided day outside the resort could actually be an opportunity cost for many on vacation.

post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by CTKook View Post

My advice would be to consider for a day after, not during, significant snow.  With fresh snow during the day of or the evening before, there are so many places inbounds where the resort will have great snow that a guided day outside the resort could actually be an opportunity cost for many on vacation.

 

This, enjoy fresh snow in the resort then head out a few days later when the weather clears. And Bob is right, having a guide mitigates almost all the risk. While there are no guarantees of absolute safety, the guide is not going to take a family with no BC experience into dangerous conditions, ain't gonna happen, and thus I would say it's no more dangerous than skiing in the resort where other accidents are possible.

post #13 of 13

You all should have a great time Jonny...and for the backcountry on this planet, the more you do it and learn....the better every experience gets.

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