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.

Coyote Buttes, The Wave

Look­ing to have a life-chang­ing adven­ture this upcom­ing year? Unfor­tu­nate­ly, some of the more icon­ic hikes and adven­tures will require you to wait in line or get your per­mit quick­ly. These are the hard­est back­coun­try per­mits to get, and how one might go about actu­al­ly get­ting them.

Things to Know About Adven­ture Per­mits (Even the Easy Ones to Get)
Some gen­er­al tips for get­ting pop­u­lar back­coun­try per­mits include falling all the direc­tions to a tee. If fax­ing your appli­ca­tion is the best-rec­om­mend­ed action, dust off the fax machine and fax away. Flex­i­bil­i­ty is also key, espe­cial­ly if you’re aim­ing for a walk-up per­mit of any kind, and know­ing the alter­na­tive trail­heads and hav­ing back-up itin­er­aries will ensure max­i­mum suc­cess. Also, keep in mind group size; while it’s fun to get every­one out on the adven­ture, larg­er groups have more spe­cif­ic require­ments and can make it hard­er to get a permit.

Last­ly, just because you got the per­mit, doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly qual­i­fy you for the adven­ture. Know your own abil­i­ties, pack the right util­i­ties, and under­stand the envi­ron­ment you are putting your­self in.


Hik­ing the John Muir Trail

John Muir TrailFor many hik­ers, the John Muir Trail (JMT) is the epit­o­me of back­coun­try hik­ing. This is one of the hard­est back­coun­try per­mits to get, and there’s a good rea­son for that. It’s got pic­turesque moun­tain pass­es, serene moun­tain lakes, and alpine inspi­ra­tion to last you a life­time. As a result, there are many avid adven­tur­ers look­ing to make this epic 210-mile hike, and for good reason.

How to Apply
Requests for JMT per­mits have lit­er­al­ly dou­bled over the last five years. As such, total usage of the trail has tripled since the year 2002. This rise in pop­u­lar­i­ty has sig­nif­i­cant­ly increased the impact on the area. As a result, we have the Inter­im Exit Quo­ta Sys­tem. For most hik­ers who are look­ing to start at the North­ern Ter­mi­nus of the JMT (Hap­py Isles & Lyell Canyon), you will need to Apply For Your Per­mit at least 168 days in advance (24 weeks). Apply via fax for your best chances, and believe that they go fast; accord­ing to the NPS, 97% of these per­mits are declined.

Oth­er Options
There are a num­ber of oth­er ways to get access to this moun­tain cathe­dral coun­try, though. And they all require some extra research and time. If you can’t get a per­mit with­in Yosemite, you can start your hike in anoth­er area not man­aged by the nation­al park. Sim­ply put, your oth­er-agency per­mit should grant you access to the trail. Check out these oth­er trail­heads where you could start your jour­ney. If all else fails, there’s anoth­er option. First-come, first-served per­mits are issued begin­ning at 11 a.m. the day before your trip at the near­est ranger sta­tion to your entry point.


Day Hik­ing Coy­ote Buttes, Arizona

Coyote Buttes, The WaveTucked into the south­west sand­stone of north­ern Ari­zona and south­ern Utah is the Paria Canyon-Ver­mil­lion Cliffs Wilder­ness, home to Coy­ote Bluffs and one of the hard­est day-hik­ing per­mits to obtain. Coy­ote Buttes is most known for the geo­log­ic land for­ma­tion known as “the Wave.” It’s a bril­liant dis­play of swirling sand­stone in its pris­tine environment.

How to Apply
Coy­ote Buttes (CB) per­mits are split into two areas: North and South. No mat­ter the direc­tion you enter, the entire­ty is day-use only, with too few water sup­plies to sup­port overnight trav­el­ers. North CB con­tains the famed Wave for­ma­tion, but the South holds its own too. Both areas only allow 20 peo­ple a day, 10 of which are giv­en out via lot­tery (for North CB) or reser­va­tion (South CB) four months in advance.

Walk-In Per­mits
The oth­er 10 dai­ly per­mits are walk-ins. And recent odds of obtain­ing a North CB per­mit through the lot­tery have been as low as 3%. So your bet­ter bet is the walk-in per­mit. Show up at the Grand Stair­case-Escalante Vis­i­tors Cen­ter the day before your desired trip between 8:30—9:00 a.m. Utah time, and put your name in the hat.


Hik­ing Half Dome, Yosemite Nation­al Park

Half DomeWhile most vis­i­tors enjoy the splen­dors of Yosemite Val­ley as a road­side attrac­tion, it is pos­si­ble to get a lit­tle clos­er to the action on Half Dome, and you don’t have to be a seri­ous climber to do it. You do have to be in mod­er­ate­ly good shape though. This 14–16 mile climb gains over 4,000 feet in ele­va­tion and is steep enough to require its name­sake fea­ture. Lit­er­al cables to help your final ascent to the top.

How to Apply
The offi­cial cables of the Cables Route typ­i­cal­ly go up at the end of May and remain there into ear­ly Octo­ber, and you’ll need a per­mit all sev­en days of the week. Yosemite Nation­al Park only issues 300 per­mits to climb a day, and 225 of those per­mits are up for grabs in the pre­sea­son lot­tery from March 1st through 31st. Max­i­mum group size is six, and each mem­ber of the par­ty can apply for your group’s per­mit. To help your chances of land­ing next year’s Cables per­mits, check out the stats on the most pop­u­lar days to apply.

The Oth­er 75 Permits
If you are up for an overnight trek, there are oth­er options. You might have bet­ter chances of obtain­ing a wilder­ness per­mit that includes the Cables route in your jour­ney. Yosemite reserves 75 permits/day for back­pack­ers want­i­ng to do this (with 25 of those reserved as walk-up per­mits). And there is no pre­sea­son lot­tery for these, just apply up to 24 weeks in advance.


Back­pack­ing the Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton Nation­al Park

Teton Crest TrailSee for your­self why Grand Teton is one of the most pop­u­lar Nation­al Parks in the coun­try. Sharp, jagged peaks, lush alpine val­leys, and dra­mat­ic vis­tas that will astound. Overnight trips into these mag­i­cal moun­tains can be hard to get a per­mit for. Pop­u­lar overnight hikes like the 40-mile Teton Crest Trail have a ten­den­cy to fill up with­in days, if not hours. So be sure to act fast if the Grand Tetons are on your radar this upcom­ing season.

How to Get a Permit
A third of all back­coun­try per­mits for Grand Teton Nation­al Park are avail­able for ear­ly reser­va­tion between the first Wednes­day of Jan­u­ary and May 15th. Look­ing to bag a clas­sic route like the Teton Crest Trail? You’ll want to apply as ear­ly as pos­si­ble. Fax­ing in your appli­ca­tion can ensure the quick­est deliv­ery. The oth­er ⅔ of the avail­able per­mits are reserved for walk-ins, which can be secured up to a day in advance. If you do your research and are flex­i­ble with a few back­up plans, you’re sure to find a good time on your next impromp­tu trip out.

Know Before You Go
There a few things to con­sid­er before plan­ning your trip into the Tetons. If you camp with­in the park, expect to not only watch the Required Back­coun­try Video, but under­stand the con­cepts and dan­gers ahead of you. Among oth­er things, also be aware that although the hik­ing sea­son tra­di­tion­al­ly starts in June, snow is near­ly always present, espe­cial­ly in the high­er ele­va­tions, and know­ing how to cross that ter­rain is imper­a­tive to your success.


Back­pack­ing the Bright Angel and the North & South Kaibab Trails, Grand Canyon Nation­al Park

south kaibab trailWhile Grand Canyon Nation­al Park issues over 10,000 back­coun­try per­mits a year, your odds of receiv­ing one for the cov­et­ed Bright Angel and North & South Kaibab trails dur­ing the peak sea­sons (April-May & Sept.-Oct.) are worse than your chances of get­ting denied. Indeed, this one def­i­nite­ly ranks as one of the tough­est back­coun­try per­mits to get.

How to Apply
If you want to hike in the Grand Canyon overnight, request your per­mit by the first day of the month that is four months pri­or to your trip. For exam­ple, if you want to hike April 15th, apply by Decem­ber 1st. Grand Canyon Nation­al Park will begin accept­ing faxed or mailed per­mits 10 days pri­or to the first of the month, and all appli­ca­tions deliv­ered by 5 p.m. on the first will be ran­dom­ly processed. Any remain­ing and late appli­ca­tions will be processed in a first-come, first-served basis.

Extra Tip
The Grand Canyon ranks 2nd on Nation­al Park vis­its per year, and many of those vis­its (includ­ing overnight per­mit vis­its) hap­pen between April-May & Sep­tem­ber-Octo­ber. If you apply out­side of this date range you will have a bet­ter chance of being suc­cess­ful. No mat­ter the sea­son you adven­ture into or around the Grand Canyon, be sure to famil­iar­ize your­self with Desert Hik­ing Tips before you go.


Camp­ing in Glac­i­er Nation­al Park, Montana

Glacier National ParkThere are 65 des­ig­nat­ed camp­sites in Glac­i­er’s back­coun­try, and despite the rugged abun­dance of this beau­ti­ful land, per­mits for those camp­sites do fill up quick­ly. Take a look at Glacier’s Back­coun­try Camp­ing Map to get an idea of the vari­ety of trips avail­able and to help with your trip planning.

How to Apply
New to 2015, Glac­i­er Nation­al Park has stepped into the 21st cen­tu­ry and now only takes reser­va­tions online. The reser­va­tion win­dow opens March 1st for larg­er groups (9–12 campers, max) and March 15th for small­er groups (1–8 campers). Expect the servers to be a bit busy the day of, these reser­va­tions are grant­ed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Yes, it’s eas­i­er than before, but it’s still one of the hard­est back­coun­try per­mits to get. Pay $10 to apply, $40 if you are accept­ed, plus an addi­tion­al $7/night camp­ing fee.

Walk-Up Per­mits
Walk-up per­mits are avail­able at Glac­i­er Nation­al Park, and half of all sites are reserved just for that pur­pose. But don’t let that sta­tis­tic lead you to believe your walk-up per­mit is a guar­an­tee. Long-dis­tance trav­el­ers may have reserved your camp­site long in advance, and it’s not uncom­mon to have to wait a cou­ple of days to get the trip you’re dream­ing of.


Overnight Camp­ing the Won­der­land Trail, Mt. Rainier Nation­al Park, Washington

Wonderland Trail, Mt. Rainier National ParkThe Won­der­land Trail cir­cum­nav­i­gates the base of Mt. Rainier with a 90-mile loop (plus side trails) and con­tin­u­ous­ly chang­ing views of one of the PNW’s most icon­ic peaks. A com­plete hike around the Won­der­land typ­i­cal­ly takes around 10 days. And camp­ing is only allowed in the 21 des­ig­nat­ed camp­sites along the path, all of which fill up dur­ing the no-snow hik­ing sea­son (late July ‑Sep/Oct). This means plan­ning ahead is key to your success.

Obtain­ing a Walk-Up Permit
You can receive a walk-up per­mit the day of or day pri­or to your trip and no soon­er. Must be in per­son and at one of the des­ig­nat­ed ranger sta­tions to obtain a per­mit. Have your logis­tics in mind, and flex­i­bil­i­ty if you can afford it. That will strength­en your chances of get­ting a walk-up per­mit for the Won­der­land Trail.

In con­clu­sion, lay­ing your hands on one of the hard­est back­coun­try per­mits to get isn’t real­ly impos­si­ble, but you’ll have to be strate­gic, and you’ll most like­ly need to plan ahead. Do just that, and you’ll be so glad you did.

©istockphoto/ultramarinfoto

Tired of expen­sive tick­ets and long lift lines? Check out these clas­sic back­coun­try adventures.

Berthoud Pass, ColoradoBerthoud Pass, Colorado
When you’re tired of the crowds at the Col­orado resorts, find snowy soli­tude just 70 miles west of Den­ver. Berthoud Pass, with 1,000 acres of diverse ter­rain, is a back­coun­try skier’s dream—and the area’s best-known back­coun­try tour is a five-mile, all-day tour from the Sec­ond Creek Drainage to Win­ter Park Resort. Be pre­pared for altitude—the area’s base is at 11,300 ft—and brush up on your avalanche skills and/or ski with an expert, because the snow­pack is noto­ri­ous­ly unstable.

Sawtooth MountainsSaw­tooth Moun­tains, Idaho
For an off-the-grid adven­ture, Idaho’s the place to go. With back­coun­try ter­rain that ranged from gen­tle rollers to near-ver­ti­cal couloirs, the Saw­tooths are the per­fect des­ti­na­tion for skiers and split­board­ers to incre­men­tal­ly build their tour­ing skills. The clas­sic route: a three-day adven­ture from the Red­fish Lake gate to the Bench Lakes Hut, which includes a 1,500 ft descent down an angled couloir on the 10,299 ft Mount Heyburn.

Stevens Pass, WAStevens Pass, Washington
Just two hours from Seat­tle, High­way 2 winds into the Cas­cade Moun­tains, bisect­ing one of the country’s biggest back­coun­try play­grounds. Start by get­ting a feel for the snow at Stevens Pass Resort, then point your ski tips into the moun­tains. “You can lit­er­al­ly dri­ve the high­way look­ing for fun lines,” says one local guide. “Pick a pull-off, stretch on your skins, and go. It’s choose-your-own-adven­ture out here.”

Purcell Mountain Range , British ColumbiaBoul­der Hut, British Columbia
The Pur­cell moun­tain range isn’t well known, but only because locals work hard to pro­tect their secret: inte­ri­or British Colum­bia boasts some of the best pow­der in North Amer­i­ca. And the 6,500-ft Boul­der Hut—which is heli­copter-access only and sleeps up to 12 people—is the per­fect jump­ing-off point for explor­ing the area on skis or a split­board. Nes­tled between Mount Hig­gins and Mount Levesque, the area offers diverse tour­ing options. You’ll find tree ski­ing, bliss­ful glades, tech­ni­cal moun­taineer­ing objec­tives, and—in most years— con­sis­tent­ly fluffy pow.

Teton RangeCom­mis­sary Ridge, Wyoming
No West Coast back­coun­try round-up would be com­plete with a shout-out to the moun­tains of Wyoming, which offer down­right ridicu­lous lines. The oppor­tu­ni­ties for explo­ration end­less: there’s cham­pagne pow­der for days, the jagged, breath­tak­ing beau­ty of the Tetons, and nobody will judge you if you ski in a cow­boy hat. Look­ing for a place to start? Check out Teton Back­coun­try Guides, who have been oper­at­ing yurts in the Tetons since 1986.

When­ev­er you ven­ture into the backcountry—especially in avalanche terrain—make sure you have the gear, edu­ca­tion, and skills to trav­el safe­ly. When in doubt, seek qual­i­fied instruc­tion: take an avalanche course (or two!), hire a guide, or find expe­ri­enced partners.

bear

While it may seem to out­siders like a walk in the park, back­pack­ing is seri­ous busi­ness. It requires real sur­vival skills and it places humans back in the food chain; back­pack­ers expose them­selves to the very real dan­gers of the wilder­ness. How­ev­er, giv­en our of years of intel­lec­tu­al and tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment, we have devel­oped strate­gies for avoid­ing many of the dan­gers of rur­al adven­tures. Hike at your own risk!

bearBears: Food Safety
When trav­el­ing in the back­coun­try, or even near towns in cer­tain areas such as the Sier­ras, bears pose a very real threat—particularly giv­en how used to humans they have become. Before you trav­el, do a bit of research to find out if you will be in bear coun­try. If you will be trav­el­ing through lands poten­tial­ly occu­pied by these hulk­ing beasts, food aware­ness is key. When you go to bed for the night, you will want to keep all food, includ­ing food waste, and good-smelling items, such as lotions, sun­screen, deodor­ant, and tooth­paste in a bear-safe con­tain­er, such as a bear can or bear bag, and hang it at least 100 feet from where you will be sleeping.

Bears: Avoid­ing and Address­ing an Encounter
While hik­ing, you should make noise or wear bear bells to warn bears of your pres­ence to avoid an encounter, though the effec­tive­ness of bear bells is debat­ed. You can fur­ther pro­tect your­self from curi­ous or starv­ing bears by car­ry­ing a can of bear spray while you hike and keep­ing it handy in your tent. This is a high­ly effec­tive means of ward­ing off a would-be attack at close range. If you encounter a bear at some dis­tance, and/or you do not have bear spray, assess the sit­u­a­tion, slow­ly retreat while keep­ing your eyes on the bear (but not eye con­tact), and if it stalks, approach­es, or charges you, attempt to climb a tree and/or pre­pare to fight back. How­ev­er, if the bear is a griz­zly, play­ing dead has also been proven effec­tive in deesca­lat­ing the sit­u­a­tion or reduc­ing the damage.

wolvesWolves: Address­ing Encoun­ters and Food Safety
While much less com­mon, wolf pop­u­la­tions have been ris­ing in the Unit­ed States, so an encounter could hap­pen. Just as with bears, being aware of and pro­tect­ing your food is impor­tant for avoid­ing wolves. If you encounter a wolf in the wild, what­ev­er you do, don’t run. Also, do not make eye con­tact, but do not show fear. If you can find a rock face to back against, do so, and try to scare them off by mak­ing your­self look big, make a lot of noise, and throw stones. If they attack, cov­er your head and face.

raccoonRodents: More Food Safety
A very real dan­ger in the wilder­ness is star­va­tion, so it is impor­tant to keep your food safe. Rodents, such as mice, squir­rels, and even larg­er ani­mals, such as rac­coons, will try to steal your food if giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty. Hang­ing your food up in a bear can is also effec­tive for pro­tect­ing it against pests if sealed properly.

Rodents: Avoid­ing Disease 
When peo­ple think of ani­mal-human com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases, they often think of rabies. Of course, avoid approach­ing ani­mals in the wild, but if you do get bit­ten, wash the wound with soap and water as soon as pos­si­ble. Then, if you have it, rinse the wound with alco­hol or iodine and head straight to the near­est hos­pi­tal for treatment.

How­ev­er, anoth­er dis­ease lurks in back­coun­try wildlife. Believe it or not, the bubon­ic plague is alive and well and exists in the Unit­ed States. It is, just as dur­ing the dark ages, trans­mit­ted by rodents through their feces, bod­i­ly flu­ids (dead or alive), and the fleas they car­ry. While back­pack­ing, avoid all dead ani­mal car­cass­es and try to stay away from rodents as much as pos­si­ble. Thank­ful­ly, we can now treat bubon­ic plague with antibi­otics, but they should be admin­is­tered with­in 24 hours of the first sign of symp­toms, so if you feel like you have a flu com­ing on while hik­ing and you know you were recent­ly exposed to rodent drop­pings or were bit by a rodent, head straight to the hospital.

©istockphoto/ultramarinfoto Tired of expen­sive tick­ets and long lift lines? Check out these clas­sic back­coun­try adventures.

Berthoud Pass, Colorado
When you’re tired of the crowds at the Col­orado resorts, find snowy soli­tude just 70 miles west of Den­ver. Berthoud Pass, with 1,000 acres of diverse ter­rain, is a back­coun­try skier’s dream—and the area’s best-known back­coun­try tour is a five-mile, all-day tour from the Sec­ond Creek Drainage to Win­ter Park Resort. Be pre­pared for altitude—the area’s base is at 11,300 ft—and brush up on your avalanche skills and/or ski with an expert, because the snow­pack is noto­ri­ous­ly unstable.

Saw­tooth Moun­tains, Idaho
For an off-the-grid adven­ture, Idaho’s the place to go. With back­coun­try ter­rain that ranged from gen­tle rollers to near-ver­ti­cal couloirs, the Saw­tooths are the per­fect des­ti­na­tion for skiers and split­board­ers to incre­men­tal­ly build their tour­ing skills. The clas­sic route: a three-day adven­ture from the Red­fish Lake gate to the Bench Lakes Hut, which includes a 1,500 ft descent down an angled couloir on the 10,299 ft Mount Heyburn.

Stevens Pass, Washington
Just two hours from Seat­tle, High­way 2 winds into the Cas­cade Moun­tains, bisect­ing one of the country’s biggest back­coun­try play­grounds. Start by get­ting a feel for the snow at Stevens Pass Resort, then point your ski tips into the moun­tains. “You can lit­er­al­ly dri­ve the high­way look­ing for fun lines,” says one local guide. “Pick a pull-off, stretch on your skins, and go. It’s choose-your-own-adven­ture out here.”

Boul­der Hut, British Columbia
The Pur­cell moun­tain range isn’t well known, but only because locals work hard to pro­tect their secret: inte­ri­or British Colum­bia boasts some of the best pow­der in North Amer­i­ca. And the 6,500-ft Boul­der Hut—which is heli­copter-access only and sleeps up to 12 people—is the per­fect jump­ing-off point for explor­ing the area on skis or a split­board. Nes­tled between Mount Hig­gins and Mount Levesque, the area offers diverse tour­ing options. You’ll find tree ski­ing, bliss­ful glades, tech­ni­cal moun­taineer­ing objec­tives, and—in most years— con­sis­tent­ly fluffy pow.

Com­mis­sary Ridge, Wyoming
No West Coast back­coun­try round-up would be com­plete with a shout-out to the moun­tains of Wyoming, which offer down­right ridicu­lous lines. The oppor­tu­ni­ties for explo­ration end­less: there’s cham­pagne pow­der for days, the jagged, breath­tak­ing beau­ty of the Tetons, and nobody will judge you if you ski in a cow­boy hat. Look­ing for a place to start? Check out Teton Back­coun­try Guides, who have been oper­at­ing yurts in the Tetons since 1986.

When­ev­er you ven­ture into the backcountry—especially in avalanche terrain—make sure you have the gear, edu­ca­tion, and skills to trav­el safe­ly. When in doubt, seek qual­i­fied instruc­tion: take an avalanche course (or two!), hire a guide, or find expe­ri­enced partners.

©istockphoto/AJ_WattBecause there’s more to life—and camping—than instant oat­meal. Just don’t for­get the coffee!

Alpine Scram­ble
For mul­ti-day back­pack­ing trips, noth­ing beats a good break­fast scram­ble. Use dehy­drat­ed hash browns as a base, then add what­ev­er inspires you: chopped sausage, bacon, ched­dar cheese, and hardy, easy-to-trans­port veg­gies like onions, zuc­chi­ni, pep­pers, and cab­bage. Then add eggs. If ambi­ent tem­per­a­tures are cold and you’re rel­a­tive­ly close to home, you can car­ry real eggs (out of the shell) in a small water bot­tle. If you’re on a longer trip or tem­per­a­tures make car­ry­ing real eggs unsafe, pick up some pow­dered scram­bled huevos at your local co-op or out­door store. Mix all ingre­di­ents in a fry­ing pan, scram­ble until everything’s cooked, and blow your adven­ture part­ners’ minds.

Break­fast Burritos
The best recipe for an overnight week­end adven­ture: bur­ri­tos! Make them at home with your favorite ingre­di­ents, wrap each bur­ri­to in alu­minum foil, then freeze in a Ziplock bag. If you take them out of the freez­er on a Fri­day night, they’ll be per­fect­ly ready to reheat on Sat­ur­day morning.

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Pop Tarts
Toast­er pas­tries are a clas­sic for a rea­son: they’re stur­dy, deli­cious, and ready to eat. Pop Tarts aren’t a nutri­tion­al pow­er­house, but because they pack a hardy punch of calo­ries and sug­ar they make a great sum­mit-morn­ing snack, and they warm eas­i­ly in a pan or skil­let over a camp stove, fire, or toast­er. To add a hearty dose of pro­tein and heart-healthy fat, top with almond or peanut but­ter. Look for organ­ic ver­sions, too.

Chi­laquiles
If you’re car camp­ing, opt for a south-of-the-bor­der break­fast casse­role: chi­laquiles! All you need is a pack­age of stale (or fresh) tor­tillas, a can or two of beans (prefer­ably black), chopped toma­toes (either fresh or canned), and shred­ded cheese. Tear tor­tillas into chip-sized chunks, then mix with beans and toma­toes and heat slow­ly over a camp stove until the tor­tillas are soft. Top with shred­ded cheese. For added piz­zazz, add jalapeños, avo­ca­do, fresh onion, canned corn, sal­sa, or hot sauce. To add a pro­tein kick, top with a fried egg.

Upgrad­ed Oatmeal
For a healthy treat, skip store-bought pack­ets of instant name-brand oat­meal and make your own! All it takes is quick-cook­ing oats, a sprin­kling of brown sug­ar, and some fun addi­tions: chopped nuts, cin­na­mon, ground gin­ger, dried berries, coconut flakes, nut but­ter, etc. Pack­age serv­ings indi­vid­u­al­ly in sand­wich-sized zip bags. If your camp­ing part­ners are handy when you’re pack­ing, let them select their own ingre­di­ents for a do-it-your­self gourmet mix­ture. Try cin­na­mon-cran­ber­ry, coconut-wal­nut, or blueberry-almond-ginger.

©istockphoto/amygdala_imagery

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A quick Google search will yield tons of recipes for tasty and healthy home­made treats for the back­coun­try. But let’s face it: you don’t always have access to a ful­ly stocked kitchen when you’re head­ing out for an adven­ture, par­tic­u­lar­ly if your trek involves travel. 

That’s why it’s good to have a vari­ety of snacks that can eas­i­ly be found in main­stream gro­cery stores. For starters, you’re going to want snacks that pack a nutri­tion­al punch and won’t go bad after a few days. You’ll also want to make sure they aren’t tak­ing up unnec­es­sary space or weight in your pack. 

Here are some easy back­coun­try snacks to keep you fueled up while you’re on the go.

Trail Mix
Trail mix is an obvi­ous one, but there’s a rea­son it’s so pop­u­lar. Choose a mix with a vari­ety of foods—nuts, seeds, and dried fruits—for a snack that offers dif­fer­ent nutri­tion­al ben­e­fits. Bet­ter yet, head to a bulk food store to mix and match your opti­mal con­coc­tion. Think beyond good old raisins and peanuts, and toss in some macadamia nuts, pump­kin seeds, dried apple rings or what­ev­er else tick­les your fan­cy. Keep your bag of trail mix near­by, and grab a hand­ful when you need an extra boost.

Fruit Leather
Fruit leather is real­ly just dehy­drat­ed fruit puree, so it tastes deli­cious (kind of like Fruit Roll-Ups from your lunch­box days) but it also pro­vides some much-need­ed ener­gy while you’re out on the trail. It’s not easy to get vit­a­mins and fiber from fresh fruit and veg­gies on longer trips, so be sure to bring a few fruit leathers with to get your fix. 

Ener­gy Bar
Ener­gy bars offer the ulti­mate con­ve­nience. Sim­ply unwrap, shove in your mouth and feel your body soak up the nutri­ents and calo­ries. There are so many brands and fla­vors out there that it’s easy to find some­thing that tick­les your fan­cy. A few par­tic­u­lar­ly deli­cious options: PowerBar’s Choco­late Mint Cook­ie bar and the Nutz Over Choco­late Luna Bars. Mmmm…

©istockphoto/amygdala_imagery

Cheese
Cheese on the trail is a deli­cious, del­i­cate lux­u­ry. Of the items on this list, it’ll prob­a­bly be the first to go bad, so enjoy it dur­ing your first few days on the trail. Plain old cheese sticks usu­al­ly keep pret­ty well, as do indi­vid­u­al­ly pack­aged Baby­bel cheeses. Tip: as tempt­ing as it is to peel off the wrap­per pre-trip to avoid extra garbage, don’t do this. The wrap­per helps keep the wax case from crumbling. 

Keep your cheese away from heat, and you’ll have a few days worth of treats to keep you happy.

Cured Meats
Whether you’re a pep­per­oni stick kind of per­son or a beef jerky buff, cured meats are deli­cious, salty, and packed full of pro­tein. They’re typ­i­cal­ly pret­ty easy to find, and they’re a nice change from the usu­al nuts and gra­nola. Not to men­tion they pro­vide sus­tained ener­gy while on the trail. 

Choco­late
There are a mil­lion rea­sons not to bring choco­late with you, includ­ing the fact that it’s like­ly to melt, that it takes up space that could be used by some­thing healthy and hearty, and that it doesn’t have much nutri­tion­al mer­it. But noth­ing tastes bet­ter than your favorite can­dy bar after a long day on the trails. It’ll give you more than just calories—it’ll give you the men­tal spike you need to set up camp and make a fire when all you want to do is col­lapse. Just keep it out of the heat, or it’ll get every­where.

Eating Well

Eating Well

We’ve all suf­fered through mediocre meals in the name of back­pack­ing. Here’s five ideas to help spice up your camp­site cook­ing routine. 

 


Rosemary1. Fresh­en up

Fresh herbs like basil, rose­mary, and pars­ley can last for days in your pack. Lay­er herbs between paper tow­els and store in an air­tight bag. Add to your meal or chew on a basil leaf for a refresh­ing taste.

 


 Cheese2. Get Cheesy

Stock up on high-qual­i­ty hard cheeses like parme­san or romano, which can go unre­frig­er­at­ed for extend­ed peri­ods of time. Eat with crack­ers or shred over oat­meal for a savory breakfast.

 


 Pasta Salad3. Trust the pros

If you don’t have the tools to dehy­drate your own meals, or don’t trust your cook­ing to keep you sat­is­fied, try jazz­ing up ready-made meals. Re-pack­age boxed pas­tas with addi­tion­al freeze-dried veg­gies and sala­mi for a reliable—and delicious—dinner.

 


 Egg Carrier4. So long pow­dered eggs

Organ­ic eggs from pas­tured chick­ens are safe at room tem­per­a­ture for a few days. Invest in a three-dol­lar egg car­ri­er and for­get about pow­dered egg omelets. Just make sure you trust the farm where the eggs are com­ing from, some organ­ic sources are still sus­cep­ti­ble to salmonella.

 


Candy Bar5. Indulge

Do you secret­ly love pack­aged moon pies and kit kats? Pack ‘em. You’ll be thank­ful for old favorites out on the trail. Just make sure to bal­ance treats with high-pro­tein, whole-grain meals to avoid burn­ing out.

Valhalla

This incred­i­ble trail­er hits you like a face-full of fresh pow­der. With “VALHALLA,” Sweet­grass Pro­duc­tion Com­pa­ny dares to break new ground with­in the ski and snow­board video indus­try. Beau­ti­ful imagery and nar­ra­tion col­lide along­side amaz­ing footage of huge big-moun­tain rid­ing on remote peaks in Alas­ka and British Columbia.

Like a shaman on a vision quest, you’ll see things you nev­er thought pos­si­ble. So shat­ter your view of real­i­ty on what an action sports video can be and take a cos­mic ride through the back­coun­try of your mind. 

VALHALLA pre­miers Sep­tem­ber 13th, 2013 at the Para­mount The­ater in Den­ver, CO 

Score tick­ets or pre-pur­chase the DVD and Blu Ray  at: sweetgrass-productions.com/shop/

Check out Trail­er 1: vimeo.com/backcountryski/valhalla

The Ultra­light Snow­board and Ski Car­ry­ing Sys­tems by Func­tion are undoubt­ed­ly a good idea. They’ve been pos­i­tive­ly reviewed in Out­side mag­a­zine and by Gear­junkie. They’re basi­cal­ly just nylon straps rein­forced with hypalon to pro­tect the web­bing from sharp edges. Buy­er Brett Cas­sidy and I took their ultra­light snow­board and ski car­ry­ing sys­tems up to Mt. Hood to see how this good idea worked on the moun­tain. Here’s what we found.

Brett Cas­sidy: Ultra­light Ski Car­ry System

Pack­a­bil­i­ty – The best thing about Function’s Ultra­light Ski Car­ry Sys­tem is that you photo (2)can store it in your jack­et pock­et, and com­plete­ly for­get that it’s there until you need it. I skied groomers with mine stashed in a pock­et all morn­ing, and then took it out when it was time to do some inbounds boot­pack­ing. The packed sys­tem takes up no space at all, and the tyvek pouch seems real­ly durable.

Pur­pose-Built – This is a tru­ly stripped-down sys­tem that does one thing and does it well: it car­ries your skis. With a lack of super­flu­ous fea­tures, the ski car­ry sys­tem is sim­ple and easy to use. A lot of gear on the mar­ket these days is over-engi­neered, but does not solve a real prob­lem. This is not that gear – it is pur­pose-built for seri­ous skiers who like to explore the fringes of inbound ter­rain, and it’s very easy to use. It’s even great for car­ry­ing your skis to the lift from the back of a deep park­ing lot.

Design – You can tell the guys at Func­tion geek out on good design. From the print­ed instruc­tions inside the pouch, to the mag­net­ic clo­sure, to the bright­ly col­ored tyvek (mine match­es my orange Patag­o­nia ski bibs – BONUS!) and col­or cod­ed buck­les each design detail is thought­ful and thor­ough. This is func­tion­al gear, ele­vat­ed through great design.

Tim Gib­bins: Ultra­light Snow­board Car­ry System

photoUsabil­i­ty: I didn’t watch the instruc­tion­al video on how to use it prop­er­ly because I want­ed to see how easy it was to fig­ure out. Even with the straps flap­ping in a strong wind, it made imme­di­ate sense. The one col­or­ful Func­tion logo on one of the back­pack straps let me know which way was up, and after that I was gold­en. It’s a super intu­itive light­weight system.

How it felt: When back­coun­try rid­ing I’ve always used a photo (3)back­pack. I was real­ly impressed by how much lighter the board felt when it’s snugged flush against my back instead of on the out­side of a back­pack. Also, with it being tight to my back, the board didn’t catch much wind. It was the most secure feel­ing car­ry­ing sys­tem I’ve ever used.

Best use: This is a side coun­try dream. I kept the sys­tem in my jack­et pock­et all day long and nev­er once noticed it. Then once we decid­ed to hike, we strapped in and were ready to go.

 

Mem­bers, you can shop our Func­tion event here.