Planning Your First Ski Trip into the Backcountry This Year? Here’s What You Need to Know

For most people 2020 hasn’t nearly gone as expected, and unless COVID-19 suddenly disappears then the 2020/21 winter season will be the same as ski mountains try to operate while keeping their guests safe.

While we have an idea of how ski mountains will handle COVID-19 this season, if you’re worried about a reservation system or capacity limits keeping you off the snow at your favorite mountain then you may be taking a trip into the backcountry for the first time. While backcountry skiing and snowboarding is something everyone should experience, first-timers need to know about the dangers of skiing outside of the boundaries. The ASO Mammoth team has put together a basic list of what you need to know for your first backcountry trip below to get you started. Check it out and stop by ASO Mammoth on your way to the mountains for the best ski and snowboard rentals in Mammoth Lakes!

Take a Backcountry Course

One of the best things about Backcountry skiing and snowboarding is the fact that you can go where you want, when you want, with little to no one to get in your way. However, once you learn about the backcountry you’ll quickly see why that type of thinking could get you into trouble fast.

While there are other dangers like tree wells that you need to know about, the main danger of backcountry skiing and snowboarding is avalanches. While most people know what an avalanche is, in order to know the conditions they occur in most commonly you’ll need to take a course or clinic. Fortunately, you can find courses through local backcountry guides as well as through large retailers like REI. Backcountry clinics will also give you a good idea of if your skiing and snowboarding skills are advanced enough to enjoy runs outside the boundaries.

Make Sure You’re in Backcountry Shape

You’ll never appreciate a ski lift more than after your first backcountry tour.

When you’re hiking through snow, in cold weather layers, at high elevation, you must be in good shape if you plan on enjoying the turns you earn. If you want to get into shape ahead of your backcountry tour, then focus on your core and lower body muscles. These are what you’ll need to hike to the top of the run and balance on your ride down. You’ll also need to work on your cardio and endurance in order to make it throughout the entire day.

Find a Friend or Guide to Ride With

One of the basic rules of backcountry skiing and snowboarding is that you never set out for a tour alone.

Even the most experienced skiers and snowboarders never tour alone because there are too many unpredictable factors, and when you’re in a remote area in cold weather all it takes is a small accident to put you in serious danger. Even if you’re ducking the ropes and riding just outside of the resort boundaries, take a friend with you in case of accidents. We also recommend hiring an experienced guide for your first tour.

Buy the Right Gear

You’ll learn more about what gear you need when you take a backcountry class, but other than your skis, bindings, and splitboard you will need an avalanche probe, avalanche shovel, and an avalanche transceiver.

This guide only scratches the surface of backcountry skiing and snowboarding, so use it as a jumping off point for your research ahead of your first trip into the backcountry!