Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 29
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    1,500

    Backcountry newbie - how to start?

    I'm interested in venturing out into the backcountry, but am an absolute newbie in this area. So here are my jong questions...

    First a bit of background: I am relatively new to skiing (grew up in the tropics of south Asia, been skiing for 3 seasons now), but have picked it up very quickly. Taken lessons, been skiing (with lots of skiers way better than me) an average of 40 days each season (topping out at just over 50 last winter). Spend most of the time off-piste. Love powder, crud, trees, steeps (e.g. Spaulding Bowl at Copper). Can ski almost all over the Front Range ski areas comfortably (parallel, carving) -- still getting used to really tight trees (the trees off Sleeper at Mary Jane are some of my favorites), and the bumps at Pali are still my nemesis. Would like to slowly start experiencing the backcountry -- would love to get away from the crowds and really experience winter and skiing in a truly natural setting.

    But I have no idea where/how to start. First, I obviously need some avalanche awareness/training and gear. I've been reading Avalanche Safety by Tony Daffern, but obviously need some classroom and on-snow training. Where should I go to get them? Here in the Denver area I found these two classes offered by Boulder Outdoor Center: an avalanche awareness class, and an avalanche certification one. Plus there are the classes offered by FBOP here. Any thoughts on which ones I should go for, or if there are other ones that might be better?

    Also, on the skiing front, I have no idea what kind of terrain I'd encounter in the backcountry. Is there any in-bounds terrain at any of the Front Range areas that would help me prepare?

    Any other thoughts, insights, or advice that might help? Thanks.

    -Fuzz.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    In a cornfield
    Posts
    1,954
    Search function is a good place to start....
    It's 5 o'clock somewhere.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    5,930
    Well you say "I have no idea where to start", but it sounds like you do. You are starting off doing the right things - reading books, doing research on avy classes, etc. Read this book too - Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain. FOBP would be a good starter seminar. Do a lot of beacon practice also. I'd be happy to do some beacon practice with you in the next month.

    Also do a search in "The Slide Zone" forum for more info.

    Here is a good thread: http://tetongravity.com/forums/showt...valanche+Books

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Boulder, CO
    Posts
    2,146
    Go for the avy 1 certification not just an awareness class. There isn't much in bounds skiing on the front range that will prepare you for the back country. Take a trip down to Silverton after a storm rolls through, that will give you an idea of what it is like to travel safely in avy terrain and a taste of powder skiing.

  5. #5
    BLOOD SWEAT STEEL Guest
    I highly recommend the Straitline model 64020 beacon. It's pretty much the Snowbird B/C beeper of choice.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Posts
    398

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    1,500
    I was looking at the Ortovox M2 beacon -- thoughts?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    49
    fuzz- intrigued by your differentiation between off piste and back country.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    1,500
    Quote Originally Posted by killclimbz View Post
    Yup, planning to go the Oct. 24th Denver session.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    1,500
    Quote Originally Posted by hamper View Post
    fuzz- intrigued by your differentiation between off piste and back country.
    I guess I was thinking off-piste as anything that's in-bounds but not groomed (e.g. bowls, trees, etc.). Backcountry would be off-piste out-of-bounds.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Boulder, CO
    Posts
    2,146
    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzz View Post
    I was looking at the Ortovox M2 beacon -- thoughts?
    You can't go wrong with most of the digital beacons on the market, just try to demo several before you buy.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Eagle, CO
    Posts
    2,247
    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzz View Post
    I was looking at the Ortovox M2 beacon -- thoughts?
    Its a nice simple design. I like how the hip belt is also the turn on switch, so that if your wearing the M2 it is turned on. However, I have had the battery connection fail and the beacon was worthless. Just be sure to always check everyone's signal when gearing up and before heading up the mountain.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    London : the L is for Value!
    Posts
    4,589
    Don't be a mug and buy a beacon for fucks sake. If you need to get past patrol at b/c gates you can just use a stud finder.

    edg
    Do you realize that you've just posted an admission of ignorance so breathtaking that it disqualifies you from commenting on any political or economic threads from here on out?

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    CO
    Posts
    5,017
    If you are committed and really want to get into backcountry skiing then here's some basics that I suggest:

    1. Purchase the gear you will need. Yes, it will be expensive, but think of it as life insurance of some sort. Don't skimp out on avy gear. BCA Tracker is great for newbies and the experienced. Buy the longest probe you can find. Again, don't skimp out on gear. Metal shovel, not lexan. Snow study kit (Life Link) with slopemeter, snow crystal cards, termometer, snow pit test card, and snow saw. Finally, get a med kit with the basics in it. These are the basics. Of course you can go even further with ABS packs, an avalung, etc., but those aren't necessary to get started.

    2. Sign up for a level 1 class. Alpine World Ascents, High Mountain Institute, Boulder Outdoor Center, and the Colorado Mountain School are all good providers. The FOBP seminars are great too. You can never have too much education.

    3. Read, read, read. Of course the best education is first hand experience, but reading up, especially this time of year can't hurt. There are several great resources out there ranging from Snowy Torrents to Jill Fedstrom's field guides to Snow, Weather, and Avalanches: Observational Guidelines for Avalanche Programs in the United States.

    4. Connect with a friend or someone you trust who is willing to take you out and show you the basics. Again, experience is one of the best forms of education when it comes to backcountry skiing.

    5. Take baby steps. Don't look to hit the super gnar terrain year 1. Keep yourself honest and get a good sense of what you are comfortable with and what you need to work on.

    6. Practice. Find a friend and do beacon searches in your backyard until you can do it with your eyes closed. Practice setting up your probe and running a probe line. Keep running through beacon searches until you have the pattern down to memory.


    These are basics, but will surely help you have a safe and enjoyable experience out in the backcountry.

    Good luck.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    The Ranch
    Posts
    3,652
    Find a mentor.

    I like the book Snow Sense, as it's small enough to fit in your pack, and great to do on-snow training with.
    Last edited by Ireallyliketoski; 10-04-2006 at 10:44 AM.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Down In A Hole, Up in the Sky
    Posts
    24,999
    FIND A MENTOR.
    And listen to him/her.
    And buy them dinner, beer and Bacon for being patient.

    Be humble.

    Be cautious.

    Listen to your fear.

    And have fun.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    The Continental Divide
    Posts
    7,278
    There is a lot of hiking you should be doing in bounds this year before you go out of bounds at all. Stuff like the ridge at Loveland, windows and peak 7 at Breck, the east wall at a basin, etc. Those places are the next step and they are avy controlled which can teach you a lot in itself. Develop your own personal snow sense first and then worry about books and gear and going out of bounds. Then learn the slide patterns of the various places you want to ski. Colorado has a really dangerous snowpack compared to other regions. Don't go where and when it has a history of sliding.

    If it's untracked powder you're wanting, get a pass for Loveland. It's also perfect to prepare for the backcountry because it has every kind of snow and terrain. A lot of deep snow is low angle on chair 4 and 8, but it's a perfect place to learn. And ski during the week ebcause it just doesn't get tracked out like everywhere else.

    My $.02 (and I'm going to delete this in a minute)
    Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.
    Henry David Thoreau

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    LAX
    Posts
    1,115
    common sense goes along way and from your post it looks like you have a fair amount. Like other and you yourself have said research, class, etc etc. Also try hooking up with someone who knows the terrain and has significant knowlegsge of the area your looking to ski.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Trouserville
    Posts
    14,420
    Quote Originally Posted by edg View Post
    Don't be a mug and buy a beacon for fucks sake. If you need to get past patrol at b/c gates you can just use a stud finder.

    edg
    If I'm skiing nearby that thing will beep like crazy though.


    oprah
    Besides the comet that killed the dinosaurs nothing has destroyed a species faster than entitled white people.-ajp

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    Babylon
    Posts
    10,093
    Quote Originally Posted by SheRa View Post
    There is a lot of hiking you should be doing in bounds this year before you go out of bounds at all. Stuff like the ridge at Loveland, windows and peak 7 at Breck, the east wall at a basin, etc. Those places are the next step and they are avy controlled which can teach you a lot in itself. Develop your own personal snow sense first and then worry about books and gear and going out of bounds. Then learn the slide patterns of the various places you want to ski. Colorado has a really dangerous snowpack compared to other regions. Don't go where and when it has a history of sliding.

    If it's untracked powder you're wanting, get a pass for Loveland. It's also perfect to prepare for the backcountry because it has every kind of snow and terrain. A lot of deep snow is low angle on chair 4 and 8, but it's a perfect place to learn. And ski during the week ebcause it just doesn't get tracked out like everywhere else.

    My $.02 (and I'm going to delete this in a minute)
    GAPPS
    lots of good info above..
    I would also recomend just getting out and touring with a friend after you get some basic knowledge. Low angle and no angle is a great place to start learning your stride on skins and looking around at snow and features. learning that one of the ups to getting out is just getting out.
    leave your ego at home
    So many people get into BC when they are already good skiers and low angle stuff bores them.
    they go after peaks and big faces and cant figure out why they cant get the hang of skinning and route finding.
    practice with your beacon and then practice some more.

    then do everything you can to never use it.

    but what do i know I live in new york

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    942
    SheRa's ideas are a great way to get started in the backcountry. There is another way to get started which worked for me. Use everyones advice of taking a class, getting the gear, and finding a mentor. Then start finding some safe areas with little to no avalanch danger and start using all that stuff out there alot. I first toured in areas where you didn't really need a beacon.(use one anyway!) This stuff tends to be pretty low angle and treed areas, but can still be tons of fun. Get out there in this kind of terrain and start to recognize start zones, runout zones,snow history,and terrain traps so you have that information when you are ready to step it up. It seems like jumping straight out into the side country could cut off a section of your learning curve. Have fun, learn your shit but don't get too caught up in it (ha!).

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    1,500
    Thanks for all the great info! I am no rush to go out-of-bounds without the proper preparation.

    Obviously the books and classes are my first steps to get some avalanche awareness/training. As SheRa mentioned, I'll have to start doing lots of in-bound hiking. I hike quite a bit in the summer and some snowshoeing in the winter, but hiking with a pair of skis through snow in ski boots is an altogether different proposition -- so have to get used to that.

    And once I have some of the basics, hopefully I can find some mentors within the great Colorado maggot community (after all, it's the awesome TR's by folks like iskibc, SheRa, and others that got me looking into the BC). Most of my regular skiing buddies have little or no desire, knowledge, or equipment to go out-of-bounds.

    All this in preparation for our intended move to Summit County next summer -- with all the great winter landscape right outside, it would be a crime not to enjoy it (carefully of course!).
    Gallery || Facebook || Instagram
    Go that way, really fast...if something gets in your way, TURN!

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    1,500
    Quote Originally Posted by soylent green View Post
    Then start finding some safe areas with little to no avalanch danger and start using all that stuff out there alot...This stuff tends to be pretty low angle and treed areas, but can still be tons of fun.
    So what would be some areas like that in CO? Berthoud and Loveland Passes? Obviously I have no intention of trying even the "safest" areas without the right stuff (if an avalanche doesn't kill me, my wife will!).
    Gallery || Facebook || Instagram
    Go that way, really fast...if something gets in your way, TURN!

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Boulder, CO
    Posts
    2,146
    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzz View Post
    So what would be some areas like that in CO? Berthoud and Loveland Passes? Obviously I have no intention of trying even the "safest" areas without the right stuff (if an avalanche doesn't kill me, my wife will!).

    There are some fairly safe places at Loveland and Berthoud but there are also lots of unsafe places at both of those spots.

  25. #25
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    The Continental Divide
    Posts
    7,278
    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzz View Post
    Thanks for all the great info! I am no rush to go out-of-bounds without the proper preparation.

    Obviously the books and classes are my first steps to get some avalanche awareness/training. As SheRa mentioned, I'll have to start doing lots of in-bound hiking. I hike quite a bit in the summer and some snowshoeing in the winter, but hiking with a pair of skis through snow in ski boots is an altogether different proposition -- so have to get used to that.

    And once I have some of the basics, hopefully I can find some mentors within the great Colorado maggot community (after all, it's the awesome TR's by folks like iskibc, SheRa, and others that got me looking into the BC). Most of my regular skiing buddies have little or no desire, knowledge, or equipment to go out-of-bounds.

    All this in preparation for our intended move to Summit County next summer -- with all the great winter landscape right outside, it would be a crime not to enjoy it (carefully of course!).
    Well nice - you didn't say you were gonna be a neighbor.

    I'll be up on Loveland Pass every thurs-sun morning at dawn if my winter schedule works out the way I want. It is perfect sidecountry learning terrain and I definitely get my thrills skiing the steep woods. You're more than welcome.
    Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.
    Henry David Thoreau

Similar Threads

  1. What do you all think about dogs in the backcountry? (Terrifying experience today)
    By Judge Smails in forum General Ski / Snowboard Discussion
    Replies: 51
    Last Post: 04-26-2006, 07:01 PM
  2. Sugar bowl Backcountry avy
    By AltaPowderDaze in forum The Slide Zone
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 02-27-2005, 10:26 PM
  3. AVY DEATH IN SUGARBOWL BACKCOUNTRY
    By gageyk in forum General Ski / Snowboard Discussion
    Replies: 21
    Last Post: 02-22-2005, 01:24 PM
  4. Colorado Backcountry Conditions
    By Foggy_Goggles in forum The Slide Zone
    Replies: 18
    Last Post: 02-19-2005, 08:45 PM
  5. Backcountry Elitist Snobs TR Video
    By Trackhead in forum General Ski / Snowboard Discussion
    Replies: 24
    Last Post: 02-16-2005, 04:08 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •