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Getting Started...

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
The last two seasons I have done more and more lift accessed boot packing to ride untracked bowls and out-of-bounds runs at resorts like Alta, Alpine Meadows, Sugar Bowl. I ride frequently with some aggressive tele skiers who have been urging me to get an AT set-up and begin venturing into some more serious backcountry skiing (hiking to stuff like Dana Coulour/Ellery Bowl in Yosemite, for example).

I have gotten pretty keen advice on AT bindings and know that for just starting out I don't really need to plunk down on boots until I'm 100% about my dedication to it.

What I am most curious about is whether or not I should take some sort of avalanche safety course and what kind of equipment I would need other than AT bindings, skis, and my boots (I believe shovel, probe, and beacon are highly suggested).

If the answer is "Yes, you need to take a course" does anybody have any recommendations for courses given in/around Lake Tahoe. I predominantly ski North Shore, but also South Shore.

post #2 of 21
Couloir is based near there and a very good resource for you. A quick search on their forum provided these discussions. Isn't Cirquerider near you?
post #3 of 21
Thread Starter 
Yeah, CR is near me. In fact I already have an "appointment" with him to videotape my technique (or lack thereof).

I'll check out Coulouir.

Thanks for the heads up.

I'm also gonna check with my tele bud in Truckee (but he's notoriously hard to get ahold of) as well as my other buddy in Sun Valley and my buddy in Marin County. They're all pretty avid hike-to-ride skiers.

But yeah, any suggestions are welcomed. I haven't bit the bullet on an AT set-up, but am eying the Bros with Fritsche Freeride +'s and just using my alpine boots until i suss out if I'm going to be super gung-ho or just a few times a year.
post #4 of 21
You probably can rent or demo gear to try out for a while, until you know you have gotten a big scratch to itch or not.
post #5 of 21
Gary Bell @ Sierra Cycle works in SLT used to rent AT gear.
post #6 of 21
Dookie, Kirkwood is offering Level 1 AIARE Avalanche courses this year.

January 27-28, 2007
February 24-25, 2007
March 24-25, 2007
April 14-15, 2007
Cost: $300 (Includes course handbook, backpack, shovel, probe and beacon, if necessary).

This is a new program for them, but I think they are ideally located to have an interesting field day. Kirkwood also has a permanent beacon basin for practice, which is really nice since they don't charge extra for it. Of course by March last year the control panel got buried in snow under the stairway, but, it was nice in the early season.

In addition to AT bindings, you need a pack with ski carry, skins, shovel, probe and a beacon. You don't need to rush at the first deal. We actually saw Mammut Barryvox beacons go on sale for $199 at REI just before Christmas last year. You can use the school's equipment for the Avy course, but after that you are going to be expected to be on your own. If you don't mind me holding you up on the uphill, we can maybe get together a few times this year.
post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the KW link. Looks like a good place to start.

In terms of a backpack, I found an Osprey Switch 25+5 at a local shop for under $100.
Here's some info on the pack:

I also scoped out a Marmot pack, I think it's the Doug Coombs model.

And at this juncture, I don't think you'll be holding me up on the uphill. Last season I had to bail out on hiking the full mountain off the out-of-bounds section by Last Chance. I made it about 1/3 before I pooped out and settled for only riding a football field's length of powder instead of 3 football fields! But I'm up for a challenge, no question. Like I mentioned in my first post, my tele buddies bandied about us hiking/riding Ellerly Bowl last June/July. But we never committed. I think it's a must this season, though.
post #8 of 21
I have the Switch and love it for a lot of things and it's versatility. BC gram counters think a pack like the Switch has too many bells and whistles creating unnecessary weight penalties.
post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 
which Switch do you have?

I don't want too much pack, but also don't want too little.

I forsee me doing mostly lift accessed BC stuff with a few day trips tossed in for good measure.
post #10 of 21
The Switch 40-5. I like more than less and can use it year round for biking and day hiking, etc as well. Currently, the priority is getting out and carrying more than just my gear. Also, I wore it for 10 days on a lama trip in the Winds this fall and really like the burrito wrap of the Ospreys as you can easily expand or contract the pack depending on load and you can customize the fit. Backcountry Experience has them on sale. Not sure the weight difference between the 25-5 & 40-5. The hydration pack is sweet for doing laps and carrying minimal stuff once you're at a spot to climb and ski.

FWIW here's a two person load with room to spare:

post #11 of 21
Thread Starter 
Man, who is making you carry their gear!?
post #12 of 21
While waiting for the snow to fly, you should pick up a copy of Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper, and if you are feeling like a more technical read on snow structure, temperature and avalanche science try the Avalanche Handbook by David McClung. Those books can get you a nice head start on the avy class, and will serve you well making observations in low-angle/ risk terrain with more experienced partners. I keep reading them over again just to try and keep things fresh.
post #13 of 21
Originally Posted by dookey67 View Post
Man, who is making you carry their gear!?
My ski buddy's

Starting him early, getting him hooked for life. Then I can go more and he can carry my stuff.
post #14 of 21
Dookey, just make sure whatever pack you DO get is specifically designed to haul skis. Don't compromise on winter/skiing functionality in the search for a groovy 4-season solution. I've flailed around for years with a bunch of different pack configurations and finally broke down and bought a ski-specific Ortovox pack last year. What a difference! The things are actually suspended for packing skis, move with you while you're sweating uphill, are balanced when you head downhill... man. I'd never go back.
post #15 of 21
Originally Posted by dookey67 View Post
which Switch do you have?

I don't want too much pack, but also don't want too little.

I forsee me doing mostly lift accessed BC stuff with a few day trips tossed in for good measure.
The Osprey Switch 25+5 and the Switch 40+5 have been replaced by the Switch 26 and Switch 36. (The Osprey website's 'temporarily unavailable' as I type or I'd hotlink them) IMO, the new packs are even better - lighter, simpler design, and cheaper. They're very well thought out and designed and they have great suspension that carries like a dream. This year I'm using the 26 for most basic day trips and the 36 for the big days that might include crampons, ropes, ice axe, things like that. Both packs feature tool/skin storage compartments separate from the 'dry stuff' compartment, helmet pockets, insulated hydration sleeves, A-frame and diagonal ski carry, snowboard carry capability, and really nice belt pockets.

For what you're looking at, the Switch 26 sounds like a good match. I totally <heart> the new Switch packs.

No affiliation on my part, just admiration.
post #16 of 21
In that case, I guess I'm going to have to get another Osprey to add to my quiver of 3. The 26 sounds like a good size I don't have. I also admire the innovative designs Osprey continues to come out with and keeps refining.

Thanks for the heads up Bob.
post #17 of 21
Thread Starter 
Right on!


I did find a 25+5 for pretty cheap at a shop in Berkeley, so I might just go with that. They had a 26, as well (factory demos).
post #18 of 21

The first thing on your list should be to get a beacon, probe and shovel. Next is to get the books Cirquerider recommended (the McClung book is required reading for many courses) and to take an Avy I course asap. Just set aside a weekend and do it. I highly recommend these cats:

They're right in truckee and are the best in the area by far - do a search over at tgr I think theres a plethera of information about them. Tom Carter and Peter Leh taught my class and really know their stuff...they teach the basics but the also convey to you a lot of real world experience and give lots of intuitive type situations to think about...a couple salty old mountain dogs that have seen it all.
post #19 of 21
Thread Starter 
cool, again thanks for the tips/pointing me in the right direction, etc.

i'm on the Backcountry email list and i believe a blast they just sent out mentioned the Avy courses you just suggested.

Pretty much on my plate this season is to set aside a weekend for one of those courses, toss in a few lessons, and partake of the ESA Tahoe camp. Since I dumped a ton of $$$ on equipment, might as well hone up the skills and venture into something new.
post #20 of 21
Don't forget when you are ready to buy, send a PM to Powstash here. He will set you up for a discount code for or Tramdock. You won't be sorry. Also, if you click through the Backcountry ad at the bottom of the page, Epic gets a small kickback.

Originally Posted by powstash View Post
Sorry, I couldn't resist the "Hot Dog" reference in the title. Call me old school. Anyway...

I figured it was about time I gave a little (or more) love to the community rather than keeping it all for myself. Although I lurk more than I post here some of you may know that I work at I've been meaning to pass along a little savings to the Epic community by way of a hook up code, at least to those that would like one.

Or course if you frequent a local shop or buy gear from another online retailer, by all means stick with the home team.

But if some of you are headed to anyway to get some gear you might as well be able to tell your wife/husband/partner/bf/gf that all your time spent/wasted on the Epic board is paying off in actual savings. At least, that's the basic idea behind the rationalization.

Anyway, if you'd like to get a code of your own for roughly 15% off of just about anything on the site (a couple of brands <Oakley, TNF> won't allow for discounting of any kind), let me know by sending me a PM with your name (the real one) and an e-mail address to attach to the code.

This offer is for the supporting members only.

One piece of advice. To further help support be sure to click through one of the banners or links on this site to begin shopping. This way a percentage of your purchase will help "the man" to keep the lights on.
post #21 of 21
Thread Starter 

i gotta get my ass in fighting shape to take the Harvard Step Test so I can fill out the Avy 1 forms!

too much ice cream over the summer and holidays is coming back to haunt my often lazy a$$!

but again, thanks for the tips, pointers, and suggestions. much appreciated since I find myself riding with two freeheelers and one AT cat quite frequently during the season and they've all been trying to convert me to at least getting some AT bindings on one set of my skis and taking the occassional day trip with them.
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