My First Backcountry Ski

My first time riding the backcountry

I first skied outside a ski resort with my friend Ian back east in the winter of 2009-2010 in upstate New York in the Adirondacks. I was still snow boarding back then. I hauled my snowboard up on my pack using a pair of snowshoes borrowed from the Clarkson university outdoor club’s equipment room. This was the first time I’d seen anyone using climbing skins on their skis or using Telemark bindings.

I was hooked – this was so cool. Backcountry skiing provided a way to get out into nature in the winter and provided access cool terrain without lift lines. This trip planted a seed in my mind: re-learn to ski, then learn about this whole backcountry thing. Little did I know that it would be 6 years until I would ski in the backcountry again.

Beth and I got Married in 2011 and moved to the San Fransisco Bay Area the same year. This was during one of the worst droughts in California history which, combined with my obsession for rock climbing translated into very few days skiing in the Sierras (maybe 3 days in the first 3 years I was in the Bay…)

In the winter of 2014-2015 (I think) I decided to rent a pair of skis to see if I could still do it (I had been snowboarding since I was 14 but skied as a kid for maybe 6 years before that). To my surprise, I was still able to do it. That spring, thanks to the terrible snow conditions, I was able to buy a decent pair of skis for a low price – I got a pair of K2 Shreditor skis with plastic full-frame Alpine Touring bindings (the heels can release to allow you to walk with your skies).

In 2015 we moved to Tahoe. I skied exclusively that winter with the goal of becoming proficient enough to ski in the backcountry. Beth and I had taken a AIARE level 1 avalanche course in 2014 on snowshoes so I already felt reasonably comfortable with the decisions required in winter backcountry travel.

Beth and Dane climbing Avy Gulch

The next winter (a record year for snowfall) Beth and I took a backcountry skiing course with a guide (and friend) Dane with Shasta Mountain Guides at Mt. Shasta. We got some good practice skinning and skiing in powder along with some good practical tips about what to pack and how to use our equipment effectively.

With climbing skins on our skis, we ascended up the popular Avalanche Gulch route on the southern side of Shasta. Beth stopped at about 9,000 feet but Dane and I climbed another hour or so to Helen Lake. From there we got warm, got fed, and got moving (thanks Dane!). The skiing down was great due to the several inches of fresh snow that had fallen the day before.

This trip was combined with a trip to Oregon to see a couple of good friends who live near Mt. Hood. We did some skiing and hiking up there as well. Can’t wait to get out into the backcountry again!

  • Beth and Dane at Bunny Flat

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