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Experienced downhiller taking first steps into the backcountry

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

Hi Folks,

 

[Note: This initial post was supposed to have more information and queries - which must have been accidentally deleted before it was submitted (I knew I should have used the preview function).  In any event, please see my post below (posted at 9:56am, 11/12) where I clarify - and SORRY for the inconvenience.]


Edited by rhvigil - 11/12/10 at 1:09pm
post #2 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by rhvigil View Post

Hi Folks,

 

 

So whats an experienced downhiller anyways? whats this backcountry you speak of? do you mean like skiing moguls? 

 

I dont know anything about that I like to ski groomers on my anton gliders. Unless its sheer ice I dont go out.
 

post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 

Uh...

 

By "experienced downhiller" I mean that I've been resort skiing practically since I could walk - I would consider myself an "expert" in that there is no terrain at a typical ski mountain that I cannot ski.

 

By "backcountry" I am referring to usually untracked snow that is *not* accessible by a ski lift, but rather that you hike to.  I believe this could be anywhere from relatively flat to quite steep (even forbidding) - I am mostly interested in climbing up the fairly (but not forbiddingly) steep kind, and skiing down.

 

Anyway, I was sort of hoping to be getting answers, rather than giving them - anyone else want to help me out?

 

P.S.  Bushwacker I believe you need both an apostrophe and a comma in your last sentence for it to make sense.

post #4 of 23

And here I was about to suggest that you trade in the DH skis for something lighter. 

Still would be a good idea to look into an alpine touring rig (boots/bindings/ski).

Avalanche education (not from the school of hard knocks) is a good idea also.

post #5 of 23

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by rhvigil View Post

 

Anyway, I was sort of hoping to be getting answers, rather than giving them - anyone else want to help me out?

 

What was the question?

 

Assuming you did some searching...

post #6 of 23

We're here to help, but you've got to give us something.  A more focused question perhaps?

 

Welcome to Epicski.

post #7 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by rhvigil View Post

Uh...

 

By "experienced downhiller" I mean that I've been resort skiing practically since I could walk - I would consider myself an "expert" in that there is no terrain at a typical ski mountain that I cannot ski.

 

By "backcountry" I am referring to usually untracked snow that is *not* accessible by a ski lift, but rather that you hike to.  I believe this could be anywhere from relatively flat to quite steep (even forbidding) - I am mostly interested in climbing up the fairly (but not forbiddingly) steep kind, and skiing down.

 

Anyway, I was sort of hoping to be getting answers, rather than giving them - anyone else want to help me out?

 

P.S.  Bushwacker I believe you need both an apostrophe and a comma in your last sentence for it to make sense.



not into corn snow at all? only want to ski untracked?



Quote:
Originally Posted by SpikeDog View Post

We're here to help, but you've got to give us something.  A more focused question perhaps?

 

Welcome to Epicski.


hence my first post.

post #8 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by rhvigil View Post

Hi Folks,


Yeah, "Hi Folks" isn't much of a question, but "Hi" back at ya.

 

Maybe begin by letting us know your location, & where you will be skiing.

The best place to start is to maybe take an avalanche awareness class. 

Next, start to figure out what kind of equipment you are going to need.

Bob Lee posted a great list of books in a recent thread, another good place to start.

 

JF

post #9 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4ster View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by rhvigil View Post

Hi Folks,


Yeah, "Hi Folks" isn't much of a question, but "Hi" back at ya.

 

Maybe begin by letting us know your location, & where you will be skiing.

The best place to start is to maybe take an avalanche awareness class. 

Next, start to figure out what kind of equipment you are going to need.

Bob Lee posted a great list of books in a recent thread, another good place to start.

 

JF


I have a hunch its a troll/alias especially after correcting my grammer on my smart ass first post.

 

 

post #10 of 23
Thread Starter 

OK - so something strange must have happened, because I thought my initial post was a whole lot more extensive than "hey folks."  I must have inadvertently deleted the bulk of my message.  (Hence, by the way, my snotty response to Bushwacker - I had actually (or thought I had actually) provided a fair amount of background in that first post.

 

So let me try again.

 

I - unfortunately - cannot right now afford a whole lot of new gear.  I DO intend on taking an avalanche course, and getting safety gear, but that won't leave me anything for a new ski setup for now.  My longterm goal is definitely to get a lighterweight AT setup and do the whole skinning up, skiing down thing.  But for now I'm looking to take my current powder setup into the backcountry.

 

So here are my questions (I really hope this works this time - thanks for your patience):

 

Does anyone do that - sort of as an initial step?  That is take an admittedly heavier downhill setup into the backcountry, as a way of sort of getting their feet wet?

 

And, if so, what is the scenerio?  Snowshoe up/ski down?  Hike up/ski down?  Etc.

 

Should I be thinking about going up in mountaineering boots, with crampons, and carrying my ski boots (and, if so, how exactly should I carry those, since most packs I've looked at don't seem designed to carry ski boots internally)?

 

Should I be thinking about hiking up in my downhill boots (presumably with the top latches open, for better ankle flexibility), with crampons attached?

 

As I say, I'm looking to take my first steps into the backcountry.  After doing the safety part (I'm in New Hampshire, so I'm not too worried about avalanches, but they're here too, so I'll do all the necessary prep there), I won't have enough money (right now) to invest in a touring set up, so I'm interested in any advice you guys have for taking my current downhill setup into the backcountry.

 

Thanks!  And sorry for that initial confusion.

post #11 of 23

Does anyone do that - sort of as an initial step?  That is take an admittedly heavier downhill setup into the backcountry, as a way of sort of getting their feet wet?
Yes, it can be done that way.  My first backcountry experiences were done hiking with my skis on my back.

 

And, if so, what is the scenerio?  Snowshoe up/ski down?  Hike up/ski down?  Etc.

Either way. 

Do you already have snowshoes?  I haven't done much snowshoeing but a lot of snowboarders start out this way & end up getting a splitboard eventually. Snowshoes can cost as much as a set of skins.

 

Should I be thinking about going up in mountaineering boots, with crampons, and carrying my ski boots (and, if so, how exactly should I carry those, since most packs I've looked at don't seem designed to carry ski boots internally)?

Crampons aren't really necessary if you are hiking in powder, they can be lifesavers if it is icy.  On the other hand, booting in powder really sucks unless there is already an established boot pack.

 

You can carry your boots in the bindings of the skis, but this doesn't really work if it is very cold or storming because your boots will be frozen when you try & put them on.  It can work in the springtime though.  There are packs that boots will fit in, I've done it both ways.

 

Should I be thinking about hiking up in my downhill boots (presumably with the top latches open, for better ankle flexibility), with crampons attached?

You can do this, but your feet may suffer.  I usually hike with my boots unbuckled.  Crampons are advisable if it is icy.

 

As I say, I'm looking to take my first steps into the backcountry.  After doing the safety part (I'm in New Hampshire, so I'm not too worried about avalanches, but they're here too, so I'll do all the necessary prep there), I won't have enough money (right now) to invest in a touring set up, so I'm interested in any advice you guys have for taking my current downhill setup into the backcountry.

 

Maybe the best way to start is to get a set of Alpine Trekkers & some skins (still cost you a few bucks).  That way you can use your present alpine gear & get a taste of what skinning is all about.  It is a clunky way to go, but your initial cost would be kept down.

 

JF

post #12 of 23
Thread Starter 

Wow - thanks for this VERY helpful reply 4ster.  I do own a pair of snow shoes, so that's part of why I was thinking that they might be possible.  Also, I'm glad to hear that some people do hike up in their ski boots (partially unlatched), although this is clearly not the best option, it might be a start, to get me out, until I can afford a real setup.

 

Thanks for the advice re Alpine Trekkers and skins - if I go out a few times this winter and get the bug for skinning that might be a good way for me to take a further step in that direction without having to invest in a full boot/binding/ski setup.

 

Thanks again!

post #13 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by rhvigil View Post

Wow - thanks for this VERY helpful reply 4ster.  I do own a pair of snow shoes, so that's part of why I was thinking that they might be possible.  Also, I'm glad to hear that some people do hike up in their ski boots (partially unlatched), although this is clearly not the best option, it might be a start, to get me out, until I can afford a real setup.

 

Thanks for the advice re Alpine Trekkers and skins - if I go out a few times this winter and get the bug for skinning that might be a good way for me to take a further step in that direction without having to invest in a full boot/binding/ski setup.

 

Thanks again!

 

hey sorry for the smart ass replies up high but you got to understand with nothng in the originial post it felt like "we" (aka the board) was being played.

 

some actually helpful comments

 

Alpine trekkers work but have alot of severe limitations especially on hardpacked sidehills. They do work and are much easier than hiking in waist deep powder. You can find complete touring set ups for 300 bucks if you look hard enough.

 

Also just because your in new hampshire doesnt mean there arent avalanches. Now if your skinning or boot packing up mittersall or lapping some lower elevations meadow thats barely 20 degree I think youd be fine. If you taking on runs in upper high elevations of the Upper Presidential range you best have your avy kits and be well versed in whats going on. A slope that is steep enough can slide even in trees. Last year at Stowe there were several avalanches in the notch in tree tight enough that most people can barely ski there.

 

If you ever find yourself in stowe Id be glad to show you some sidecountry which can VERY good skiing. 

 

23685_317036928356_505253356_3367089_4160606_n.jpg

 

22137_290413858356_505253356_3275219_1577697_n.jpg

 


 

post #14 of 23
Thread Starter 

Hey Bushwackerin,

 

Thanks for the caution about avalanches.  At the moment I'm looking at taking a course with the AMC out of Pinkham Notch, so I hope that will give me some good info about what to expect in the Presidentials, which is the most advanced area I'm likely to be skiing in the near future.  Also, I'm hoping to be going out with experienced backcountry-ers (is that a word?) - in any event, I won't be on my own.  I'm very comfortable with the idea that if you get out somewhere and you aren't SURE it's safe you just carefully hike back the way you came and live to ski another day.

 

In any event, I'll keep my eye out for some affordable gear - I have a feeling that once I get a taste of things I'm going to be scrimping and saving to be able to get a decent setup ASAP.

 

I would love to checkout what you've got going on out there in VT - I'll be sure to let you know if I'm heading to that area.

 

Thanks!

post #15 of 23

You should read this for some cautionary thoughts re: groupthink and avalanches.  

 

http://www.snowpit.com/articles/traps%20reprint.pdf

 

You need to be responsible for your own decision-making.  Yes, you should be out there with a partner, especially getting going.  But don't fall into the trap of thinking that more experienced peoples' ideas of what is and isn't safe is infallible.  It isn't.  I posted a thread here a couple years back about an avalanche incident I experienced, and we fell into a bunch of those heuristic traps.  Take your own classes, do your own observations and thinking, keep it safe and sane.

 

http://www.epicski.com/forum/thread/39086/human-causes-of-avalanches

 

+1 on the Alpine Trekkers, and if you're in the market for a pair I have some to sell you.  I bought them a while back so that my in-bounds friends could join me on OB days, but they all have AT setups now and the Trekkers haven't seen much use for a couple of years.  

post #16 of 23
Don't know how much you have to spend but these would be my priorities:

1. Avy Gear: beacon, shovel and probe - this is a must. Going out without avy gear is reckless and unfair to anyone you are skiing with. Gotta get it
2. Avy 1 Course: if you are going out with some REALLY experience buddies and skiing low angle stuff then this can actually be delayed a bit IMHO as long as you practice beacon searches and digging. I might catch crap for this though....

Ok so those are things you need to either buy or address just to even consider going into the BC. Next up equipment

Zero Cost: You can go snow shoe route. Nothing wrong with that and since you already have shoes you are set. Just don't shoe up an established skin track. Plus you will slow down your buddies so finding guys that want to ski/tour with you might be hard.

Low Cost: If you go the alpine trekker route you will end up paying about $100 for skins and whatever trekkers cost. You will still be slow but can stay in the skin track.

Medium Cost: dont buy the trekkers. Instead buy a used pair of Naxos or Fritchies for $125 - $200. You will still need skins. Both bindings can use you alpine boots. This is probably the best route IMHO as you will get more use out of the bindings. You can ski them at the resort as well. So total equipment cost is probably something like $250 for binders and skins + avy gear.

Boots: going the medium cost route you can then upgrade your boots later on to an AT boot. I'm going to get on a podium here but when you buys boots make sure they are Dynafit compatible. They'll keep their value and be more versatile when you Do_It_Right.

Do_It_Right: if you really get into BC skiing then eventually you will buy Dynafit bindings. Hence the boot comment. Assume something like $450 for those.


So if I were you I would do the following:
1. Find some experienced buddies. Never tour or ski alone. Period. A lot more than avy danger to worry about out there.
2. Get some avy gear
3. Go the snow shoe route. See if you like the concept. No $ spent except for avy gear.
4. If you do, look for a used pair of Naxos or Fritchies and upgrade the bindings. Watch gear swap on Teton Gravity for a deal.
5. Upgrade to an AT boot when you can.
post #17 of 23
Thread Starter 

Mountaingirl and Que,

 

Thank you for the cautionary advice re avalanches.  Although I do intend to initially go out with people with plenty of experience, I am intent to educate myself and be able to think for myself when I'm out there.  So, definitely, avalanche training and gear are at the top of my list.

 

Que: thanks for your list of priorities - very helpful.  I think I will start off with the snowshoeing thing (and, yes, I have picked up already that it's very important to stay out of the skin track).  Would snowshoeing be something I could do with my alpine boots, or do you think I still need to be figuring out a way to carry those?  Any advice on packs for that sort of thing?

 

In any event, I think you've given me some good ideas about how to get started, and where to go from there.

 

Thanks!

post #18 of 23

As an FYI - if you're a supporter you get promotive access which gives you access to a lot of discounts, but most importantly Backcountry Access gear...  I am taking the same plunge into BC skiing and while BCA isn't the only brand out there I've heard good things from friends and the discount makes it hard to beat, even if you were originally going to buy used.  

 

I definitely second Mountaingirl - while I haven't applied my knowledge to avalanche's yet, the "expert trap" appears in my field a lot when it comes to safety (construction/engineering).  IF IT DOESN'T SEEM RIGHT OR SAFE TO YOU DON'T DO IT.

 

A couple books you may want to pick up and read, btw, even though they mostly have a Western USA focus:

"Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain" by Doug Temper

Snow Sense & Snowstruck (2 different books, Jill Freldston & Doug Fesler)

 

There are a ton more resources, so PM if you want some articles etc.  Per the above warning, I'm no expert, but I'm an engineer and enjoy operations research type stuff, so heuristics, decision making, etc is all interesting to me so I do a lot of that kind of reading.

post #19 of 23
Thread Starter 

Flyman,

 

Thanks for the great info - I'll definitely check out those books.

post #20 of 23
Rhv - I remember seeing a thread on the subject over at 14ers.com. I think the consensus was you could probably mods the snow shoes but there wasn't much point. I would just use your normal light weight boots in the shoes, strap your skis to your pack in an A-frame and clip in the boots into the bindings. It will make for much easier climbing and the boots will stay safe and secure out of the way. Best of luck! Post some trip reports!
post #21 of 23
Thread Starter 

Que,

 

Thanks for the feedback.  I'm definitely open to that - I guess my only concern is about the boots more or less freezing on the way up (and the in-bindings option not really being workable if it's snowing or anything like that).  I do think, however, that I'll try it that way presuming conditions are basically fair - maybe I could put plastic bags around the boots, so they didn't get too crazy cold, but, I mean, if I were carrying them in the backpack it's not like they'd be warm, exactly, so short of wearing them perhaps it's not that big a deal (i.e., wearing the boots up that you're going to wear down is clearly the best option - viz. AT approach - so anything else is a compromise).  Nevertheless, a comprise I'm currently willing to make in order to get out there.

 

Thanks again!

post #22 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by rhvigil View Post

Que,

 

Thanks for the feedback.  I'm definitely open to that - I guess my only concern is about the boots more or less freezing on the way up (and the in-bindings option not really being workable if it's snowing or anything like that).  I do think, however, that I'll try it that way presuming conditions are basically fair - maybe I could put plastic bags around the boots, so they didn't get too crazy cold, but, I mean, if I were carrying them in the backpack it's not like they'd be warm, exactly, so short of wearing them perhaps it's not that big a deal (i.e., wearing the boots up that you're going to wear down is clearly the best option - viz. AT approach - so anything else is a compromise).  Nevertheless, a comprise I'm currently willing to make in order to get out there.

 

Thanks again!

I hear ya.  Try snagging some of those disposable shower caps next time you are at a hotel. They should work fine.  As for temperature, it isn't ideal but you won't be in them for the down very long and when you stick your feed in them after the up you should be roasting with heat after all that climbing. You could also toss a few heat packs/glove warmer thingies in the boots as well for the up.
 

post #23 of 23
Thread Starter 

Good thoughts - thanks for the advice.

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