In 2017, I realized that I didn’t like riding the trainer all that much. I also didn’t love bundling up and riding outside. Because of this I started paying more attention to alternatives. I discovered Andy Dorais. The guy skied all the way through June, and then hopped on the bike for about a month and then got 8th at Leadville, one of the biggest endurance mountain bike races in the country. I reached out to him asking what he thought about using backcountry skiing as cross training for cycling. He said, “Backcountry skiing is the only way to go in my opinion for a cyclist in winter!” That was all I needed to give it a go.
The beginning of the 2017-18 winter season I bought my first setup. I scoured KSL to find something cheap. I was really looking for a “side country” setup because I was still skiing in bounds a lot and thought I wanted something that I could use for both. I bought a pair of 2013 Rossignol Super 7’s with Marker F12 Frame Bindings, with a pair of Scarpa boots. The set up was heavy, big, and fun to ski downhill, but not that fun for skiing uphill.
I barely got out that winter. I remember my first tour, Spencer Stevenson and I headed out of the backcountry outside of Cathrines Pass. We had no idea what we were doing, and we were so bad at skinning that we ended up booting a few runs in the wolverine cirque. I knew there was something more to ski touring, and that I was just scratching the surface.
We even went to one of the Tuesday night Skimo Races at Brighton. With the F12’s you have to take off the ski completely to transition, and so even though I managed to get up the hill fairly quickly with my heavy set up, I spent 10+ minutes on transitions. Crazy to think about. I eventually bought some new skins, because mine were thrashed. I bought a pair of BCA Magic Carpets. They’re really grippy, but don’t slide super well, and they’re big and bulky. They did what I wanted them to do though, so I couldn’t complain.
The following fall in 2018, I was sitting in the pit zone after the first Nica race of my last Nica season where I had snapped my seat post (a story for another time). While I was there I was talking to someone about backcountry skiing and that was when everything changed. Either I said something or he said something to me. But I found out that John Jonas skied in the backcountry. That was when my desires to ski in the backcountry started to become a reality.
I had a really flexible schedule my senior year of High School. I took two AP classes during the first period of the day, and so I could miss the rest of school super easily. So anytime it would snow I would text John something like this:
“It’s snowing, want to go skiing?”
“Yes, meet at my place at 10.”
I remember at one point in February we skied nearly every day for two weeks. I was hooked, even with the heavy set up. On February 20, 2019 we skied Heavens Halfpipe. It was amazing. Partway up one of my f12’s had something snap. I ended upheaving to Voile strap my binding to my boot so I could ski down.
At some point probably a few months later, the Jonases gave me an older pair of Dynafit speed turn bindings, and I ended up buying a pair of K2 boots which were even heavier than the Scarpa’s, but had a lot of control and were good to ski in bounds as well.
John and I were perfect ski partners. We were both flexible with our schedules, and pretty much the same speed at everything. It made for a lot of fun days exploring a new passion. And it’s just kept growing.
In 2020 I left on my mission after a little bit of early skiing that winter. Then Covid hit and when I came home I went right back to the mountains. It helped me to have a good experience during a time that could have otherwise been really difficult. We had some really good days that spring in upper LCC, and it was super awesome to have a ton more backcountry terrain that we could ski with the resorts being shut down.
Then in 2022 when I got home from my mission I wanted to keep skiing as much as possible, but my schedule wasn’t the best. I got out when I could, but it also wasn’t the best winter and so I spent more time biking.
Then this summer when Austin Jonas left on his mission, I bought his old setup. Black Diamond Helio’s with Dynafit Speed Turn Bindings, and Dynafit TLT 7 boots. It was my first time having true backcountry equipment and it was incredible. Going uphill was so much more enjoyable, and the downhill was still excellent. We went from averaging around 2k feet a day to 4k feet a day. It’s like we switched from DH bikes to XC bikes.
But I knew there was still more. I started toying with the idea of getting an even lighter setup. I know how much of a difference having a nice bike makes, and I assumed it was the same with skis. I then realized I could potentially still get a good amount of money out of my old setup (the rossignol super 7’s). So I posted them just to see, and someone bought them the same day that I posted them, and later that week I bought the Solomon X-Alps.
The X-Alps, mounted with a pair of Dynafit Super Light 2.0’s and race skins are super awesome. They’re 170 length with a 79 waist. Now I have two pairs of skis, and they’re both excellent in the backcountry.
I’ve only ridden my bike 4 days since October. They were for two different Spry Camps in St. George. Other than that I’ve been putting my theory to the test: skiing is a more effective way to build an aerobic base than biking. And it’s way more fun.
I have John to thank for helping me get into he backcountry and making it possible to actually go regularly. My parents have also been supportive, even though it scares my Mom. It’s now something that will almost certainly be a big part of my winters moving forward.
It’s crazy to think about how much has changed. From skis, to what I wear, to where I go, and what I’ve skid.
My conclusion is that:
Better uphill performance + More skiing > Better Downhill Performance.
It’s a no-brainer. If you’re thinking of getting into the backcountry, lighter is better. Get something in the 78-95 mm waist with lightweight tech bindings and light boots with a large range of motion. You’ll ski way more, and the whole experience will be way more enjoyable.
Again, thank you John for helping me so much in my journey with the backcountry.