How to Plan a Backcountry Ski Trip

When you have a mountain as large and diverse as Mammoth Mountain in your backyard it’s hard to imagine needing to go anywhere else to scratch your skiing and snowboarding itch, but if there were lines into the Eastern Sierra backcountry then skiers and snowboarders would line up for a chance to ride it.

Unlike Mammoth Mountain though, the only lines in the backcountry are those that you choose to hit. Combine the freedom of backcountry riding with the beauty of the Eastern Sierra and you can see why people from all over the world venture here just for a chance to get lost. As great as the backcountry is though, there are several steps you need to take to plan a successful and safe backcountry trip. To help out, the ASO Mammoth team has created a guide to planning a safe trip into the backcountry! Check it out before your next trip and have a great time!

 Educate Yourself

 While the untouched snow is one of the biggest draws for backcountry skiers and snowboarders, the most important component of backcountry skiing is the awareness of the dangers involved.

While resort regulars who venture beyond the groomed runs will be familiar with tree wells and cliffs, the one part of the backcountry that you won’t find at any resort is avalanches. They’re also the most dangerous. Being a safe backcountry skier doesn’t have to do with your skill level or the gear you on your back. What’s much more important is the ability to spot potential avalanche areas, avoid them, and to know what to do if one occurs whether you’re the one in the path of an avalanche or it’s someone you’re with. Find a certified and trustworthy class to learn more about avalanches and backcountry riding, the gear needed to ride outside the resort, and other backcountry dangers before you even think about riding in the backcountry.

 Find a Buddy

 No matter how experienced you are in the backcountry, you should never ride alone.

There are simply too many unknows that even the pros can’t avoid when riding outside of a resort, and if you ride across one by yourself then you have no chance of help finding you before it’s too late. An easy way to find a buddy to ride through the backcountry with is to hire a trusted guide with knowledge of the area you’re riding in. You can also ride with a group of friends too, or if you can’t find anyone to ride with then go online to find a Facebook group or online forum where backcountry enthusiasts discuss and plan trips. Once you have a few buddies to ride with, you can start the fun part of your trip and plan where you’re going to ride by using a tool like Caltropo.

 Get in Shape

 You may be wondering what else you need to ride in the backcountry if you’ve educated yourself, hired a guide, bought the right gear, and found buddies to ride with, but any seasoned backcountry skier knows just how important physical fitness is to a successful trip.

You may see people being shuttled around by helicopters and snowmobiles in the backcountry in films, but that’s only a quarter of the picture. Before you ride the backcountry you must be able to not only climb through heavy snow with your gear strapped to your back, but you must do so and have enough energy to ride back down afterwards. Riding down sounds like the easy part, but if you don’t have the energy to be aware of your surroundings and ride your best then you could be in danger. Focus on cardio and strength training in your legs to get into backcountry shape!

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