Backcountry skiing is not something to embark on cavalierly. Unlike resort skiing, backcountry is unforgiving and, for some, deadly. To enter into the backcountry safely requires training, gear and acute gumption.
This winter my goal is to rock backcountry terrain.
For me, this is a goal that three years ago would not have been remotely possible. Now it is pretty much all I think about. To the extent that it is not uncommon for me to watch a single ski clip multiple times throughout a day and with each iteration my muscles twitch for action. In reality, my body nor skill set are at the level needed to be successful.
So how does an individual begging prepping for the backcountry experience? First, educate yourself! Learn as much as you can about safety, terrain, avalanche risk assessment and rescue techniques. This endeavor has, admittedly, been a bit difficult for me as I like to learn by doing and that is not safely possible. If you are unsure of where to start I recommend, http://www.americanavalancheassociation.org/.
Conditioning is also immensely beneficial for a positive backcountry experience. Conditioning should include three things in my opinion: cardio, weights, and more squats than thought to be generally rational. Also all conditioning should, if possible, start way before you begin dreaming of skiing. I swiftly learned on my first day in “side country” that although I think I am in decent shape; I am not.
Next, get people involved with your quest. Especially those who have experience and don’t mind spending time helping you figure stuff out. Work out, skill practice and generously thank these people as they are your Virgil in your ski purgatory. Most important: share the stoke! Outdoor experiences have a keen ability to create lasting relationships. Embrace it, these people will likely be lifelong friends.
Another necessary step is to inevitably get the appropriate gear. No longer will just skis, boots, bindings, polls, water resistant jacket and pants suffice. In order to be safe/capable one must now acquire beacon, shovel, probe, skins, touring bindings and possibly different skis and poles. These items are not cheap but can be bought through Craig’s list or eBay at a fairly low-cost.
Once you have completed aforementioned steps it is then time to start practicing skills on undeniably safe terrain. This is my current juncture. Over the weekend I took my first steps into the realm of backcountry terrain. It was fantastic and very educational. In a short amount of time I learned that I have a good bit of knowledge to obtain before being remotely proficient. Best of all though, I was able to demonstrate to myself that my crazy season goal is obtainable. It will take a lot of time, energy and patience but it is obtainable. I can’t wait. Bring on winter 2015-2016!