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Looking to start BC Skiing

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I'm looking to start backcountry skiing, but have no idea what to get. To start, this will be an east coast thing. This should be a good way for me to get out and ski new places, like Mount Marcy in NY, and a few hidden gems in Maine.

Where should I start? I really have no idea about the pros, cons or requirements of each setup (AT, Tele, ?). Tell me what to do. Skis won't be a problem, I've been making a few pairs of my own.
post #2 of 20
First thing to get: an experienced friend/mentor - someone who really knows the ins and outs of bc skiing. After you get one of those, all the rest will fall into place. If you don't have one and you're out east, strongly consider joining NATO or a local climbing club to meet some.

After the friend/mentor get certified avalanche level 1 training (standard unignorable advice), a probe, beacon, and shovel. Skins, a nice pack, good clothes.

Tele only if you really want to learn the turn, otherwise AT. I say this as an exclusively tele skier for over 20 years. Tele's harder and the only advantages are that chicks will dig you more and for some reason snowboarders will talk with you in the lift lines.
post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Lee View Post
After the friend/mentor get certified avalanche level 1 training (standard unignorable advice), a probe, beacon, and shovel. Skins, a nice pack, good clothes.
Is that really necessary in the east?


For AT, what are the advantages of AT specific boots? Any reason that I can't just pick up a set of bindings, some skins, and go for it?
post #4 of 20
^ I have to say yes, it is necessary. Though I confess that I've never skied in the east, it wouldn't be responsible to say otherwise. I have no idea of where you plan to ski and people have been killed by accidents and avalanches out east.

AT boots make it much, much easier to skin and hike.
post #5 of 20
People have been buried by avalanches in Michigan. Anywhere there is snow and slopes of over 30 degrees I think you need to be thinking about stability.


If you're used to alpine equiptment, I'd just get a pair of AT bindings and skins. You can always add some AT boots later if you think you need them. I own both, but most of the time I just use my alpine boots. Besides the avalanche stuuf and AT binders, learn how to use a map and compass if you don't already. You can get lost and die of hypothermia anywhere. 1st aid/CPR isn't a bad idea either.
post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks jer.

I've got the CPR/First aid skills plus the wilderness skills down. Thinking about picking up winter camping along with the BC skiing, but need to watch my expenses.

I'm not overly concerned with the avy danger; most of the areas that I would ski are areas that I've either hiked in the winter or snowmobiled through anyway. Of course, before I go into areas that actually have danger (Mt. Washington, potentially Katahdin and Mt. Marcy) I'll find a course and buy some gear.
post #7 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Lee View Post
Tele's harder and the only advantages are that... for some reason snowboarders will talk with you in the lift lines.
Advantage???

Seriously, another way to get started on the cheap is to buy some skins and Alpine Trekkers (an adapter that you click into your alpine bindings - you can get an idea as to how they work by looking at the picture here: http://www.backcountry.com/store/BCA...-Adaptors.html)
They are not nearly as good as real AT bindings in part because of the stand height and in large part because of the weight, but you can pick up a used pair for under $100 (in fact I have a pair that I would sell for about $80). You can always move up to a full AT rig when you have the money and some experience as to what you want to get. Also, take a look over at backcountryworld.com forums (formerly the Couloir forums). There are always things for sale there for cheap. I think there's someone selling a slightly used beacon there, too.

Definitely good and essential advice about avy training and a mentor.
post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 
Does anyone have solid statistics about avalanches in the eastern US?
post #9 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by krp8128 View Post
Does anyone have solid statistics about avalanches in the eastern US?
Start here, then click around: http://www.avalanche.org
post #10 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by krp8128 View Post
I've got the CPR/First aid skills plus the wilderness skills down.
Cool.

It never ceases to amaze me how many guys have all the gear and maybe have even taken a level one or two class, yet have no idea how to administer CPR. Usually when you dig someone out of a big pile of debris, they're not gonna just shake it off and ski away. They'll more than likely be unconscious/not breathing/not beating/in shock/hypothermic. I've always thought CPR/1st aid should be included in level 1. It'd probably only add about 3-4 hours.
post #11 of 20
wrt CPR,

I recently took a WFA class and the instructor (a veteran ski patroller) pointed out that only students who had gone through a rigorous 8-hour CPR class could actually perform the technique correctly and consistently when put to the test.

I think this is his website FWIW, the course was quite good..
http://www.wildernessemergencycare.com/
post #12 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jer View Post
Cool.

It never ceases to amaze me how many guys have all the gear and maybe have even taken a level one or two class, yet have no idea how to administer CPR. Usually when you dig someone out of a big pile of debris, they're not gonna just shake it off and ski away. They'll more than likely be unconscious/not breathing/not beating/in shock/hypothermic. I've always thought CPR/1st aid should be included in level 1. It'd probably only add about 3-4 hours.
Very true, Jer. It's not just like on TV! However there is some surprising information about hypothermia that suggests is is less of a problem in avalanche burial than previously thought. Although core temp doesn't decrease too much during a survivable burial, it may decrease further during evacuation if the victim is not properly bundled and the evac is prolonged. Abstract and link to full text here:
J Appl Physiol. 2004 Apr;96(4):1365-70. Epub 2003 Dec 5. Links
Hypercapnia increases core temperature cooling rate during snow burial.

Grissom CK, Radwin MI, Scholand MB, Harmston CH, Muetterties MC, Bywater TJ.
Department of Medicine, LDS Hospital, Salt Lake City, UT 84143, USA.
Previous retrospective studies report a core body temperature cooling rate of 3 degrees C/h during avalanche burial. Hypercapnia occurs during avalanche burial secondary to rebreathing expired air, and the effect of hypercapnia on hypothermia during avalanche burial is unknown. The objective of this study was to determine the core temperature cooling rate during snow burial under normocapnic and hypercapnic conditions. We measured rectal core body temperature (T(re)) in 12 subjects buried in compacted snow dressed in a lightweight clothing insulation system during two different study burials. In one burial, subjects breathed with a device (AvaLung 2, Black Diamond Equipment) that resulted in hypercapnia over 30-60 min. In a control burial, subjects were buried under identical conditions with a modified breathing device that maintained normocapnia. Mean snow temperature was -2.5 +/- 2.0 degrees C. Burial time was 49 +/- 14 min in the hypercapnic study and 60 min in the normocapnic study (P = 0.02). Rate of decrease in T(re) was greater with hypercapnia (1.2 degrees C/h by multiple regression analysis, 95% confidence limits of 1.1-1.3 degrees C/h) than with normocapnia (0.7 degrees C/h, 95% confidence limit of 0.6-0.8 degrees C/h). In the hypercapnic study, the fraction of inspired carbon dioxide increased from 1.4 +/- 1.0 to 7.0 +/- 1.4%, minute ventilation increased from 15 +/- 7 to 40 +/- 12 l/min, and oxygen saturation decreased from 97 +/- 1 to 90 +/- 6% (P < 0.01). During the normocapnic study, these parameters remained unchanged. In this study, T(re) cooling rate during snow burial was less than previously reported and was increased by hypercapnia. This may have important implications for prehospital treatment of avalanche burial victims.
post #13 of 20
If you check the Sierra Trading Post website they have some good deals on AT equipment, most of which is discontinued models at pretty good prices if you can find what you want. I have bought stuff from them many times with no problems.
post #14 of 20
I'd second the thought about first aid & CPR. Learn it and carry the tools. Avalanches happen where ever there is snow and an incline. Even in the east. Small avalanches are killers, big scary slopes can be obvious. Many avalanche victems didn't even know they were in avalanche terrain or at risk. Partner, Training, and Tools. Some good advise on this thread.
post #15 of 20
Wanted to bump this to the top.

I was thinking about joining the Colorado Mountain Club and taking their BC class. Anyone had any experience with this? Thought it would be a good way to meet some BC skiers in the area.

Also, if $$ wasn't an issue, what equipment would you get? I'm not a free-heeler, so I'm leaning towards AT vs Tele. Thoughts?
post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by lnester View Post
Wanted to bump this to the top.

I was thinking about joining the Colorado Mountain Club and taking their BC class. Anyone had any experience with this? Thought it would be a good way to meet some BC skiers in the area.

Also, if $$ wasn't an issue, what equipment would you get? I'm not a free-heeler, so I'm leaning towards AT vs Tele. Thoughts?
I've done a few things with the CMC, and just like everything else - depends on who's running the trip, who's on the trip.

After a few trips out you'll figure out who your favorite trip leaders are and can go from there. My experience, too, was better with the Boulder group than the Denver group with winter outings... smaller group, good vibe.

And, yes, it is a great way to meet new partners.

AT vs. tele - one of the advantages to tele in the BC is that tele can make lower angle slopes more interesting skiing, which is a +. At least that's what my tele friends tell me. Personally it took me this many years to get reasonably skilled at skiing... I'm not going to start over learning a new turn style at this point. I'd rather be able to actually keep up with my ski partners.

+2 re: avy course/gear and first aid. Also - do yourself a big favor and do some winter camping, including digging/sleeping in a snow cave. You'll be very very very happy you've done it before if you ever really need to use one. I've not gotten caught that way, but 4 of my 5 ski partners have, and for me it's likely just a matter of time.

Good book on the subject - easy and fun to read with good info:

Allen and Mike's Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book. Lots of little things that it might take you years to pick up otherwise, and very clear/concise BC travel info.
post #17 of 20
Hi MG61-
There is a new book by Martin Volken that is supposed to be really good.
http://www.wildsnow.com/?p=962
post #18 of 20

...

Ditto on the info & Alan & Mike's book...MG1961! A really useful book.
post #19 of 20
I' don't know about the east, but in a lot of places out west (especially colorado) that get good freeze/thaw cycles in the springtime, the snowpack condenses into one solid, stable layer of corn snow.

With snow like this, as long as you head out early, things are relatively safe. The things you do have to worry about are also really easy to learn. Things like when the sun will hit different aspects, and how the rocks around the snow will conduct heat, as opposed to the wintertime, when you have to dig snow pits to study how the different layers of snow will bond. With corn snow, its pretty much just common sense, look at the snow, see how wet/heavy it is, think of whats above/below you, etc.

If the climate in the east is conducive to this, the spring would be great time to start learning basic bc skills.
post #20 of 20
Hi,

I'm new to BC and am thinking of taking weekend classes from EMS Ski in North Conway NH.

1) Does anyone have any experience with them and
2) Would there be anyone interested in going together to get a cheaper group rate? The price starts at $250 for an all day private lesson, and drops to $170 each for 3 people I think.
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