Originally Posted by Liquidnails
How did you get into backcountry skiing?
I live in an amazing area for backcountry recreation, but I've had few opprotunities to take advantage of it. I hike camp and backpack every chance I get, but I find it a lot harder to get out there in the winter.
The main reason for the difficulty is that I know few people with similar interests, and those that I do find are pros. They seem to welcome my interest and ambition but the trips they go on are way out of my league.
did you guys jump right in, ease yourself in or just grow up doing it?
Outfitting myself will be expensive, and the avalanche and route finding courses I plan on attending will add to the cost. But I think it will be worth it. Ski resorts just don't do it for me anymore.
I just eased into it over the years, first by doing laps with alpine equipment on mountain passes that can be skied with a car shuttle...places like Loveland Pass in Colorado and Galena Summit in Idaho. Then, I got into lift-served backcountry, going out of bounds and then back in again either at the base of the lifts or somewhere down the road. I guess I had the luck of the foolish or just was living right because I never got into a dicey snow-safety situation.
I eventually got some cheap first-generation telemark equipment and thrashed around in the woods, taking short tree runs, for example, between switchbacks on forest service roads that were used mainly by non-telemarking cross-country skiers. This was low-angle, minimal risk stuff...barely one step above the old kick and glide in terms of risk.
Next I took a couple of avalanche awareness classes, bought a used transceiver, a shovel, some skins, etc. and kept my ear to the ground, so to speak, to get info about the easier backcountry tours in the area where I was living at the time. You may meet others in an avalanche awareness class who are also looking to break into the sport. You may get some leads on scheduled outings or touring clubs. Your local winter-outdoor-recreation store probably is as good a source as any for information. I remember people posting "skiing partner wanted" notices on the bulletin board at the Salt Lake City REI when I lived there, so that's another possibility.
After my ski-between-the-switchbacks phase, I just sort of followed the crowd to the most popular touring places. I kept up to date on the avalanche reports and would only go if it hadn't snowed in at least two days, if I saw several cars in the parking lot and, better yet, if I saw some skiers putting skins on in the parking lot. It was a risk, yes, since the presence of other people doesn't imply safe skiing conditions, but it was a calculated risk. Then again, it's always a calculated risk, even if you're skiing with other people who have been out every day and have an intimate knowledge of that season's snowpack history.
One possibility is to locate the access points to ski-in yurts or huts in your neck of the B.C. backcountry. If you see other skiers at the trailhead, ask if you hang with them for a run or two. They may say yes, they may say no. They may tell you about other places to ski.
When I started to go into the backcountry with one or two other people instead of just taking my chances and showing up at a trailhead alone, I would typically ski one run to their two just because I wasn't as fit as my skiing partners. But it worked out great just the same. We were just skiing laps, and we all ended up in the same place at the end of the run, so I just did fewer laps. If your buds are just going out for a few laps instead of some epic Kaslo-to-Nelson-in-24 hours cross-country marathon, and they ask you along, you should go with.
Also, spring is a nice time to take solo trips. Once the snowpack has stabilized into an end-of-season freeze-corn-slop cycle, you can ski chutes and steeps that would usually be too dangerous in midwinter. However, as you no doubt will find out or may already know, wet-snow avalanches (http://www.offpistemag.com/themag/avy/vol2/spring.html
) are also part of the spring-skiing package.
It's a chicken and egg thing, but the more you get out, the more information you get, and the higher your chances are meeting up with others who are at the same ability and enthusiasm level.