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backcountry/ski mountaineering

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
I've always been interested in trying backcountry / ski mountaineering, but would like to know the extent of additional or different equipment (e.g., skis, boots).
I already have too many old, unused skis cluttering my apartment, and recently invested time and $ in learning another new sport.
I am hesitant to get into it if it will ultimately require another set of skis and boots.

Thx in advance.
post #2 of 25
Ultimately, it will require not only new skis, bindings and boots, but also:

avy beacon, probe, shovel
skins
avy lessons
avy rescue know-how
snowpack knowledge
snowpit equipment
weather knowledge
months of reading and familiarization with avys
probably a new clothing layering system
winter camping equipment if you're thinking about extended trips
climbing equipment if you're considering mountaineering
climbing knowledge
experience
a trusted partner(s) that is proficient, knowledgeable, well prepared, and experienced with travel in the backcountry, particularly in the location where you are interested in exploring


Good Luck!! It's awesome.
post #3 of 25
Is that all, Dug? and i thought it would be harder.
post #4 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dug
Ultimately, it will require not only new skis, bindings and boots, but also:

avy beacon, probe, shovel
skins
avy lessons
avy rescue know-how
snowpack knowledge
snowpit equipment
weather knowledge
months of reading and familiarization with avys
probably a new clothing layering system
winter camping equipment if you're thinking about extended trips
climbing equipment if you're considering mountaineering
climbing knowledge
experience
a trusted partner(s) that is proficient, knowledgeable, well prepared, and experienced with travel in the backcountry, particularly in the location where you are interested in exploring


Good Luck!! It's awesome.
You forgot the most important thing of all:

A dog.

Powdr
post #5 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Powdr
You forgot the most important thing of all:

A dog.

Powdr
Got mine, Guess I am prepared....
post #6 of 25
Here's mine. Absolutely loves the snow.

post #7 of 25
Don't let these guys scare you off. I went from being a primarily resort skier to a primarily BC skier a couple of years ago and it was the best thing I've ever done.

I'm sooooooooo over resort skiing!!! Bumps? BLEAH! I never want to cross somebody else's tracks!

You can stick your toe in the water without falling in completely... hire a guide or find a (safe) friend who skis in the backcountry. You can rent AT gear (assuming you're not a tele skier, otherwise you'd probably already be out here!) You can also rent shovel/probe/tranceiver, as well. Be sure you use a small backpack you can move in, preferably one with a strong enough compression strap system that you can pack your skis, if necessary.

Pick your partner carefully because skiing with unsafe partners is less safe than skiing by yourself.

I, personally, ski dogless although one of my ski partners skis w/powder hound, so many of my trips come with 4-legged companionship.

Visit LeeLau's 2005-2006 season thread for inspiration.

Pick up a book "Allen & Mike's Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book" for some basics you'll want to know. If you decide to get into it, get thee to a Level 1 avy class first and foremost. You can find them through the forest service, local avalanche center, or local mountaineering shops.

Welcome to the FUN part of skiing!!
post #8 of 25
You can ski tour without needing climbing gear but its nice to have some knowledge of basic systems for the odd rappel etc

If you're touring in glaciers its very nice to have your crevasse rescue and glacier travel protocols dialed too

If you're ski-mountaineering then its also good to have some basic mountaineering and iceclimbing knowledge.

So either you're asking a very big question or you have lofty goals.

Other people already covered off the knowledge and equipment base. Also check out Amar Andalkar's site - www.skimountaineer.com/
post #9 of 25
You raise a good point re: the differences between BC skiing and ski mountaineering.

There are a variety of places where you can pick up basic mountaineering skills, depending on where you live. In Colorado, for example, the Colorado Mountain Club has the Basic Mountaineering School and High Altitude Mountaineering School for its members. Both will cover knots, anchor systems, climbing techniques, self-arrest, crevasse rescue, route selection, snow/glacier travel techniques, etc. etc. etc.

There are also a variety of commercial options for learning this stuff. Exum Guides has ski mountaineering schools in the Tetons. Rainier Mountaineering has a six-day mountaineering seminar on Mt. Rainier, which is a good mountaineering introduction. They occasionally run a ski-specific mountineering seminar, too.

In any case, though, there's a whole different (additional) skill set and gear collection that come with mountaineering/ski mountaineering that's farther along the adventure continuum from backcountry skiing.

More reading material - "Mountaineering - Freedom of the Hills" is the Bible of mountaineering. Also, if you're going to be visiting glaciers, pick up "Glacier Travel and Crevasse Rescue" by Andy Selters.
post #10 of 25
First, let me provide perspective by saying that I have only been backcountry skiing for about 4 or 5 years and that I only get in at most a dozen or so touring days per season.

I guess I think that the requirements to "try" backcountry skiing that have been mentioned here are perhaps a bit overstated. In my experience it was very easy to try it without a huge investment. My family and I hired a guide service and skied of Teton Pass. All AT/randonee gear was rented. Two of us rented skies (w/skins) with AT bindings and two of us used our own skis (w/ rented skins) with rented Alpine Trekkers (AT binding adapters). We all had packs that we had previously bought that included a method for carrying skiis (2 Dakine Heli-Pros's, 1 Wookey Pack, and 1 other). We had these packs from previous need based on guided and unguided hiking from inbounds. We also used beacons shovels and probes that were provided by the guide.

It was very easy to pick out appropriate clothing layers from our existing ski clothing although we have certainly over time purchased more efficient and effective clothing items better suited to back country. However, there is almost no piece of clothing that I haven't used for both backcountry and inbounds skiing with many new "backcountry" items working better inbounds than anything I had previously owned.

In terms of avalanche knowledge I do not think it is at all necessary to take an AVY I course before you have some experience - that is - as long as you go with a qualified guide who is well aware of your level of knowledge. Certainly some intorductory information and beacon training should be provided by the guide. Most important, however, I think is that you should have some awareness and interest about avalanches, snow pack, and route finding. www.avalanche.org is a great resource with a good library of online materials for you to learn from before you head out on your first trip. Also, Bruce Tremper's book Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain is very good.

I have been extremely lucky to have made a number of (very experienced and expert backcountry skier) friends who have been willing to take me touring. Through them, a couple of formal guiding experiences, a steep skiing camp, and reading I learned most of the stuff provided in an AVY I course. I and my two kids finally took an AVY I course this January and while it was review for a lot of things it was very effective in helping me consolidate my previous experiences. While I expect to take an AVY II course in the future, I don't think it would be a bad idea at all to repeat the AVY I course again (which a few people in the course were doing). The thing is that I believe the most important aspect of safe backcountry travel is route finding based on a good understanding of snowpack history and weather. You really need to be doing a lot of touring to get this kind of experience. At this point I almost always go backcountry with VERY experienced friends. I almost never go on my own or with my kids (who essentially have the same level of experience as I do) unless it's an area that we are familiar with and about which we have a reasonable understanding of weather and snowpack. Perhaps that is just starting to change but as of now it is still true.

In my experience, if you are outgoing and can demonstrate some basic knowledge and understanding, it is pretty amazing how you can find people willing to take you out on a tour. Obviously you need to be able to judge as to their level of expertise but that is not all that hard. Before that, there are numerous opportunities to hire guides and rent touring equipment. After a couple of trips, if you are so inclined, you will probably want to get a pack, beacon, shovel, and probe of your own.

If you would like some suggestions about places and guides for some backcountry touring drop me a PM and I will give you the few leads that I am aware of. some of them are pretty pricey but others can be pretty reasonable if you have a group to split the costs.
post #11 of 25
yeah what si said. You can rent a lot of gear and try it out first - check out www.whistlerskiguides.com for an example of a good outfitter - good operation.

but just remember that its sometimes junky snow and not always blower pow.
post #12 of 25
heh.

Well my post was assuming that you wanted to become proficient and dedicated to the activity. There are several avenues you can explore as suggested by other members for trying it out but if you plan on doing it regularly what I outlined is pretty much the basics.

And it's really not THAT difficult. Just a little resourcefulnes, dedication, PASSION, and some income are all you need.

Oh, and personally, if you plan on doing anything backcountry with any sort of frequency, I wouldn't rent the beacon/probe/shovel. They're indespensible. You can't do without them and you'll want to practice with the beacon a good deal.
post #13 of 25
One other comment that I forgot. While AT boots have some clear advantages, I and both my kids have so far done without. I fly to ski and I already take 2 pairs of skis. Don't really have space for a second pair of boots. My kids (who are in college out west) just have other priorities for spending their money (and mine). (Additionally they are in pretty exceptional shape and really aren't hampered with the extra weight of an alpine boot). I guess I am very lucky in that my boots (and theirs) fit comfortably enough to do a reasonable day - I typicall do between 1,000 and 4,000 vertical in a day with just a minor blister or two. The biggest diadvantage I see is that I am already touring with people who regularly tour, are acclimated to altitude, and/or are in better shape than me. Thus, my boots probably increase the speed differential between myself and others. However, the nature of the people I tour with is that speed is not really an issue (except for the guilt I have for being the slowest).

There are some "hybrid" (stiffer and at least one with an interchangable sole) AT boots on the market with more to come I am sure. If I can find one that fits well enough and is stiff enough, I may consider just switching to the AT boot for everything.
post #14 of 25
I love my AT boots and ski them almost exclusively. I have Technica resort boots with custom liners/footbeds... they fit fine, they perform beautifully... I'm not hucking cliffs, have gotten used to the "softer" AT boot, and prefer happier feet.

I wore my AT boots at ESA this year and had Steve Bagley put in AT-specific Zip-Fit liners. I already had good custom footbeds.

Man, what a difference. They stiffened up the boot considerably as well as fixing a lot of fit problems that had come with packed-out boots used for skiing uphill and downhill both. I do get a few heel blisters now - better fitting heel pocket on the downhill means more rubbing on the uphill - but I've got the spots located now and apply moleskin before I head out.

Absolutely night and day. And even with the closer fit they are still lighter/more comfy than my Technicas with Thermafits.

FYI, most BC days for us are between 2000-5000' vertical.
post #15 of 25
An ability to suffer for hours for a few minutes of turns helps too.
post #16 of 25
This is suffering????



post #17 of 25
Re AT vs alpine boots.

- A light alpine boot with walk mode and maybe cat-tracks will be fine. Saloman makes some of those.

- A stiff AT boot is still going to be usually softer then soft alpine boots. However they can be modded with stiffer tongues etc.

- Alpine boots really blow for bootpacking and for fitting crampons. Not an issue for touring.

- Alpine boot liners blow for drying out overnight - even with the old trick of stuffing them in the sleeping bag. They suck period. Most newer AT boots have liners that dry relatively quickly.

Re Suffering on the uptrack.

- Most people just aren't really that fit. Therefor they will suffer.

- mountaingirl- thats a nice picture but depending on where this guy is it might be 100kmh sideways winds and minus 20 degrees. Its not always pretty.

I still tend to agree with Si. For most easy light tours, don't worry too much about gear; the knowledge is more important imo. I am not knocking dugs list but while Im at it

Don't forget snow saw; first aid kit.
post #18 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by killclimbz
An ability to suffer for hours for a few minutes of turns helps too.
I guess it depends what you call 'suffer'. I suffer under any sort of crowding. Lift lines & tons of other people on the slopes just somehow detracts from my enjoyment factor. I'd much rather slog up a mountain for a few runs (virtually always untracted) than do battle at a resort with so many people. Besides, I actually enjoy the uphill. It's a great opportunity to see the outdoors at speeds slower than a detachable lift, not to mention the tremendous cardiovacular workout.

Powdr
post #19 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by LeeLau
- mountaingirl- thats a nice picture but depending on where this guy is it might be 100kmh sideways winds and minus 20 degrees. Its not always pretty.
Sorry, trying to be funny... but I have those pictures, too, Lee... that's when it starts looking less like skiing and more like mountaineering. And, yes, there is an element of skill and danger involved in the backcountry from which you are generally insulated in-bounds.



I think Powdr nailed it, though. If you're willing to put in the work the rewards are off the chart. And the money you spend on gear/education pays itself back in un-purchased lift tickets and gym memberships.
post #20 of 25
The original poster had asked about gear so I decided to really lay it out in that aspect.

Camping in winter is funny too. I always feel like a coat rack with all the gear stuffed into pockets around my body to dry out and my sleeping bag turned into some sort of clunky drying bag.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lee Lau
snow saw
I dunno, I never really used a snow saw except in snow "quarries" when building a wind wall. Maybe it's handy in avy debris ...
post #21 of 25
I wasnt lecturing mtngirl - sorry if it came across that way. I wont post the pic of the sideways boogers from a winter ascent of mt angeles in the Olympic Range because thankfully the pics are burnt.
post #22 of 25
Don't get me wrong out of almost 50 days only 4 at resorts. I admire the beauty of my surrounding as I am skinning up. It is hard work though. Some people deal with it better than others.
All of the people here that have given advice take the pain as part of the pleasure. There are plenty of people who are lifty riders and like the idea of backcountry but don't realize how hard the work is...
post #23 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Powdr
You forgot the most important thing of all:

A dog.

Powdr
What for?
post #24 of 25
Food with legs = ultra lightweight.




Just poking fun! I LOVE dogs.
post #25 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for providing a glimpse into what sounds like extensive knowledge and incredible experiences.

I think I have the clothes, enough passion to suffer a few days, and may be able to borrow a friend’s Jack Russell or my nephews’ miniature. That’s about it, so far.
Given that I live in the city (with Tuckerman’s the closest peak) and seldom take more than a long weekend, I probably could only get into it over a long period of time or during a very long vacation. That said, I will probably nix the equipment and go for camps, lessons, etc. for steep skiing, backcountry, mountaineering, or related.

Am more ready to do something this year than ever.

Thx again.
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