When I tell people I like to ski, they always ask “where do you go?” They think that I ski in the resort and have the Icon pass or a Sundance pass.
I tell them that I ski in the backcountry and usually go above Aspen Grove or in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
And then they usually say something like “oh so you snowshoe up and ski down?!” Or like “oh so like cross country skiing?” Or they just don’t know at all, or sometimes they actually know what backcountry skiing is.
My hope is that after you read this you’ll understand what backcountry skiing is.
Like the name suggests, it’s skiing in the backcountry.
Backcountry is defined as areas outside of ski areas. Outside of the safety of ski patrol, avalanche control, and outside lift access terrain.
The skiing part is pretty similar to skiing in the resort. You ski the same way, on the same skis, the only real difference is that you ski wide open pow most of the time.
So how does it work?
Skis: The skis are made to be lighter than the skis you would use in the resort, because you hike up with them on your feet. They come in all shapes and sizes, and they look the same as the skis you’d see at whatever ski resort you go to.
Bindings: The bindings are completely different. The toe piece has two pins that pop into two holes on the sides of your boot. This allows a simple attachment for the uphill and keeps you from carrying around any unnecessary weight.
The heal pieces are all a little bit different, but the general idea is that they can spin the heel piece and have different walking modes and a ski mode. Ski mode, flat mode, medium steep hiking mode, and steep hiking mode. You spin it based on what you’re doing. For ski mode there are two teeth that poke out that connect to your boot for a normal ski descent.
Skins: You stick what are called “climbing skins” to the bottom of your skis to hike up the mountain with. It’s kind of like direction carpet that slides up and grips back, so you can hike up. Most skins have attachment pieces for both the tip and tail and then glue along the whole thing that sticks to your ski.
Boots: Everyone who has skied in the resort knows how difficult it is to walk around in their boots. It’s kind of the worst. Backcountry boots are so much better. They have a walk mode and a ski mode. In the walk mode they basically just feel like a normal hiking boot, with a big range of motion, and they’re super light. In ski mode they lock in and are stiff like a downhill boot. They don’t have as much power, but are still plenty capable.
On the toe and heel of the boot there is a metal connection that makes it so you can connect with the ski.
The toe are the two metal holes that the pins connect to in the front, and the heel looks like this:
Poles: the poles are either adjustable or longer than normal with multiple grips. You want it longer for more leverage on the uphill and shorter for the pole plants on the downhill.
So now you know! Let me know if you have any questions.