Splitboard touring in the backcountry

Splitboard touring in the backcountryDo 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.

Unlim­it­ed Powder
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.

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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.

Amaz­ing Endurance
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.

dog skiing

dog skiingYou’ve been ski­ing for years and you’re pret­ty good at it. You know the resorts and back­coun­try well, but now it’s time for a new adven­ture: ski­ing with your dog. Maybe you’ve seen the adorable videos of avalanche dogs bound­ing bliss­ful­ly through fresh pow­der and it’s inspired you to take your best friend along. What­ev­er the rea­son, ski­ing with your dog can be a ful­fill­ing expe­ri­ence that allows you to deep­en the bond with your ani­mal and, as long as you fol­low some sim­ple tips, you’ll both stay safe and have a blast.

Off-Leash and Snow Train­ing First
Just because you’ve been ski­ing in the back­coun­try for ages doesn’t mean your dog is ready to dive right in with no train­ing. Con­sid­er the fol­low­ing activ­i­ties to get your dog ready for run­ning along­side and stick­ing with you when you ski.

  • Off-leash hik­ing
  • Swim­ming (This will keep your pup strong and help them “swim” through the powder)
  • Run­ning along­side you when you are bik­ing or rollerblad­ing (Yes, rollerblad­ing. It’s still a thing. Kind of.)
  • Off-leash snow­shoe­ing

These activ­i­ties allow your dog to prac­tice stay­ing with you (par­tic­u­lar­ly when you are mov­ing fast) and allow your ani­mal to come into con­tact with the ele­ments. All good prac­tice for a back­coun­try snow day.

Pay Atten­tion to Their Paws
No mat­ter what breed of dog you own, you are going to want to pay close atten­tion to their paws. Even Huskies and Mala­mutes (dogs bred to with­stand frigid tem­per­a­tures) can have issues with their pads if allowed to romp in the snow for too long and with­out build­ing a tol­er­ance to the cold temperatures.

If you find that their paws are sen­si­tive, con­sid­er invest­ing some dog booties. Not only do they pro­tect your animal’s paws but they are also ridicu­lous­ly cute.

If you find that your dog’s paws are becom­ing cracked and dry from play­ing in the snow, Bag Balm oint­ment or petro­le­um jel­ly can help.

Watch for Wildlife
Even in the win­ter, you and your dog may catch sight of wildlife such as moose, elk, fox­es, or rab­bits. If your dog has a strong prey-dri­ve, they may try to pur­sue any ani­mal they see. This, obvi­ous­ly, could be very dan­ger­ous for them and, poten­tial­ly, for you.

As such, try to ski in areas where you have hiked and snow­shoed before that show lit­tle sign of ani­mal life. Watch for tracks, skat, and rub­bings on trees.

Most impor­tant­ly, make sure that your dog is always under voice com­mand and will come to you when called regard­less of the distraction.

Ski­ing in Avalanche Prone Areas
It is not rec­om­mend­ed that you take your dog in areas where avalanch­es could be trig­gered. While you may know what lines to cut and how to avoid trig­ger­ing an avalanche, your dog does not. That said, take them along on eas­i­er to mod­er­ate ter­rain and save the steep stuff for you and your friends.

garmont-shogun-featuredAlpine tour­ing skiers are going to like the Gar­mont Shogun. Here’s a boot with com­fort, stiff­ness, and flex­i­bil­i­ty. The com­fort comes from the ther­mo-mold­able lin­er. It con­forms to your foot to ensure a per­fect fit. Then there’s the stiff­ness. The four buck­les and the pow­er strap allow you to ratch­et down when you’re about to drop into a tech­ni­cal chute, and the beefy exte­ri­or rein­forces the areas beg­ging for sup­port. But per­haps the great­est asset to alpine tour­ing skiers is the boot’s light­weight flex­i­bil­i­ty. It has strength where it’s need­ed and flex where it’s not. The result is that it gives your feet sweet relieve for long days of moun­tain assault. 

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