Backcountry basics: how to get started
The call of fresh untouched powder, pristine pillow lines, and majestic tree runs, is all the motivation you need to start exploring the backcountry but with the added risks and danger its important to have the right equipment, and know how to use it. This guide will take you through the backcountry basics, what it means, and what gear you need to get started. Our stores have a wide range of backcountry equipment, so if in doubt, visit us in store and get expert advice from our knowledgeable staff.
WHAT IS BACKCOUNTRY?
Backcountry has become a catch-all term to describe any skiing or snowboarding outside of controlled, maintained, and pisted ski areas. This can include anything from true wilderness to within a few miles or even metres of controlled areas. When backcountry involves a human-powered ascent; using a combination of climbing skins, crampons, or hiking to reach the most difficult terrain and powder, it is most often called alpine touring, or the French 'randonnée'. Riding backcountry is more dangerous as there are no ski patrols checking on snow stability and general mountain safety. Other terms you may hear include sidecountry, slackcountry, or lift-accessed backcountry. This is used to describe backcountry areas that can be accessed from the usual ski lifts and pistes, but carry the same risks as true wilderness. Skiers and snowboarders seeking sidecountry will take a ski lift up the mountain, then use a combination of booting, skinning, and traversing to access their line. Backcountry and sidecountry riding requires an acceptance and responsibility for the risks and dangers involved so it’s important to not only have the right equipment but know how to use it.