Do you love to ski or snowboard, but can’t stand the crowds and high prices of a ski resort? Have you heard people rave about the amazing trips they have done in the backcountry? Do you enjoy exploring out in nature? Are you a fiend for fresh powder?
Chances are you said yes to at least one of these. If so, and you have never tried backcountry skiing (AKA “ski touring”) or snowboarding (AKA “splitboarding”) then you are missing out on a whole world of opportunity that will blow open your idea of where you can go in the winter.
It’s Easier Than You Think
It’s surprising how many people think that you can only travel downhill on your skis or board. But with the latest equipment innovations we are able to climb uphill. For skiing you need special touring bindings that unlock the heel. Snowboarding is a bit more technical in that you need a splitboard that can split in half and special splitboard bindings that also unlock the heel. Both setups then require “skins” that stick to the bottom allowing the ski/board to grip the snow, allowing you to travel uphill. Sounds kind of complex in writing, but it’s actually pretty easy to get the hang of.
More Terrain Than You’ll Know What To Do With
The backcountry provides virtually limitless options. When you are at the peak of your favorite ski resort, odds are you are in the thick of a big range with other peaks around. Why just stop at one mountain that everyone else is on? Backcountry skiing or snowboarding allows you to explore everything around you, giving a lifetime of exploration near and far.
The feeling of skiing or riding through powder is as close to flying as I’ve ever found. Ski resorts, especially in this day and age, usually get tracked out so fast that powder days can sometimes be stressful as you rush to get to the snow before everyone else. This isn’t the case in the backcountry where there is plenty of room for everyone. Of course this is condition dependent and a bad snow year won’t help the case. But even during an average winter you can usually find fresh snow a long time after the latest storm.
Risk Management Skills
The Backcountry is true wild nature. As such there are many hazards out there that must be treated with respect and care.
Only with proper gear and knowledge should you take a trip without a qualified guide or someone more experienced.
But the learning process is part of the fun, and it’s a lifelong pursuit. So don’t be intimidated by a lack of knowledge, there are many guides and schools out there ready to show you the ropes.
Silence and Solitude
Getting out into the backcountry you really begin to feel small. Without so many people around, you get a new perspective of nature that doesn’t happen around on the ski hill. It takes time to slow down, and the backcountry serves as an ideal venue to get away from it all.
Backcountry skiing or snowboarding can be tough work. The climb up can sometimes take hours of physical exertion to get to the top. When just starting out it can feel overwhelming until you get into shape. But then something happens—your body adapts and you begin to crave those moments on the uphill when your whole body is working as a single unit. Your heart and lungs are active and so are your muscles. When you reach the top, your brain is charged with endorphins and dopamine—not just from the climb, but from the satisfaction that you reached the summit under your own power. It’s a feeling of accomplishment that simply can’t happen using mechanical means.
So get out and try this amazing lifelong pursuit. You don’t have anything to lose and everything to gain: good health, deep powder, and a renewed connection to our natural world. Just remember, don’t head into the backcountry without prior knowledge, a guide, or an experienced compadre.