Outdoor Curious | Top Facts and FAQs about Backcountry Skiing Answered by Drew Tabke

hi everybody my name is drew Tab key I’m here in my house in Seattle Washington I’m on the Eddie Bauer guys and athletes team and I’m here to answer the Internet’s most searched questions about backcountry skiing number one big one what is backcountry skiing so backcountry skiing is any time you’re away from the controlled bounds of a ski area you can go up a lift or you can go up by hiking or you can go up by a helicopter a snowcat it’s being out in the uncontrolled snowy high places of the mountains where can ski powder ski spring snow find every kind of conditions imaginable but you’re under your own care and your own responsibility for decision making and traveling around and keeping yourself safe number two how to learn backcountry skiing the best way to learn is to just start with classes there’s lots of local providers around the world so start with entry-level classes and really the best thing is either to go out with an expert a friend who you really know and trust their experience or to hire a guide from a local agency got the guide until you’re super proficient and know you can make decisions on your own what do you need to backcountry ski that’s a great question the list for this stuff can get huge or you can keep it pretty simple besides your regular ski gear no matter how you decide to go up or down the big 3 4 back of your skiing a shovel beacon and probe that’s your rescue gear The Beacon is an avalanche beacon in case you are buried in an avalanche or need to search for someone who was buried in an avalanche the shovel and probe requisites for that self rescue process as well I also carry a personal locator beacon with the GPS signal in case I’m out of cell range so there’s a lot of safety and as well as technical stuff you want to be sure to have when you’re planning you’re planning your backcountry skiing next question is backcountry skiing dangerous backcountry skiing is dangerous if the the whole point of background you’re skiing when you’re an expert or something right is managing risk so we know we’re going into an uncontrolled natural environment like I mentioned before and we know there’s risks out there so it’s a question of how much risk is out there and what kind of risk the group you’re with and yourself is is willing to take the the trick to being a good backcountry skiers is risk management protocols that sounds like kind of a dorky thing but you’re actually applying it something really fun which is skiing so take those classes find a guide and keep it safe and fun next question why do back with why do people backcountry ski I backcountry ski personally because I like unobstructed experiences with nature I think a lot of people are gravitate towards it because it’s the skiing experience that we love but really with nothing obstructing you and in the totally natural winter environment no prepared runs no ski patrol no closures and that feeling of freedom is tough to match next question how do people get to the top while backcountry skiing so that’s sort of the essence of backcountry skiing like I said you can take a lift and leave the boundaries and give it into the backcountry but really when we’re talking about backcountry skiing that’s hiking up to ski down starting at your car putting the skins on your skis or your split board or throwing snow shoes on hiking out to the top of a mountain and skiing back down climbing skins in combination with like a climbing binding on your skis or snowboards make it so that you can ski uphill those came from seal skins going back you know hundreds or even thousands of years when people that would attach animal hides to the bottom of some planks so they’re directional they glide in one direction and the little hairs grip in the other direction so now there’s there is still organically sourced skins like mohair most everything is synthetic they’re cut to the shape of your skis and they have like an adhesive glue like backing on them so when you’re ready to go up you just stick them to your ski bass in the specific direction they’re made to go uphill set your binding to it’s uphill mode so your heel can lift and then you just glide uphill like a pair of old-school across country skis but on your on your regular skis some people don’t don’t like the up they hate me up and they’re in it just for the down personally I enjoy my entire day while I’m out there there’s definitely tough moments on the on the way up when you’re sweating and feet are sinking into the snow and it’s

just you don’t know why you’re out there but there’s nothing like pushing through those moments of low energy and of lack of motivation getting up to a ridge with your friends and getting that reward so sure there’s some tough moments but man it’s always worth it and I actually liked up quite a bit as well how long should sequels be in the backcountry so a great question another gear question a lot of people will use like a special ski pole and then go ask you touring an adjustable pole that you can go really short or it can telescope out to a longer length those can be really handy some of those poles even have like climbing aid like a whippet or an ice axe head so you can secure yourself with it’s steep and icy personally I just use my standard ski pole that I use skiing at a ski area when I go ski touring I think less moving parts are better so I don’t have the extending poles when I normally go out I just like to keep it simple but generally the rule of thumb is um when you have your ski pole at your side and you’re standing upright you want about a right angle with your arm and then any longer than that is starts to be helpful for long distance low angle stuff like Nordic skiing in any shorter than that starts to be helpful when you’re on really steep terrain and you don’t want long poles pushing up on your arms and making it uncomfortable for turning so if you do have those adjustable poles I like to go short if I’m climbing up something steep or long if I’m crossing like a three mile wide lake and I’m basically cross-country skiing or for myself I just keep it simple regular speed poles they do the job what is a good backcountry ski probe setup the most important thing in choosing a probe I don’t get too hung up in the different brands that are out there these need to be durable so you want to avoid the cheap ones they need to be at least like two hundred and fifty centimetres preferably more like close to three metres long some of the some of the intro ones will only be two meters long so when you’re using these for is searching for somebody who may be buried under the snow and the familiarity thing is huge I’ve taught a few Avalanche classes and taken a few Avalanche classes where you’ll realize the alumni or the people you’re going skiing with haven’t practiced with their stuff yet and the avalanche probe something that if you didn’t stow it properly or haven’t taken it out recently or don’t know how it works some of the cable mechanisms that lock this probe into place after you fold it out can get tangled it can cause you know cause you to lose minutes in your response time so it’s another great part about practicing because it keeps you up to speed with your equipment and make sure your equipments in good shape as well as making sure your partners know how to deploy it when when it’s time to go so make sure you’re familiar your stuff as well as your partners because it’s a real team sport when your other backcountry ski at night is there a good way to find a backcountry ski partner when visiting somewhere for me it’s really important to have a really trustworthy relationship with somebody so either that’s a word-of-mouth recommend from a friend or that’s a reputable guide service so I don’t want to dissuade people from meeting meeting people and going out with people they’ve met online but it’s really important to know the capabilities and knowledge other people you’re skiing with before you go out so just exercising caution if it’s a new friend and start them up start conservatively if you want to go further out into the mountains somewhere new it’s definitely a time to look for a guy Google next question what gym exercises are good training for backcountry skiing listen I’m not gonna lie I do not spend too much time in the gym preparing for backcountry skiing it’s a it’s a tough sport to cross train for because you have a very specific stride as you’re skinning you also have weight attached to your feet so you could you know go on a jug add weight add ankle ankle weights to your jog targeted more towards aerobic fitness rather than explosive like powerful Fitness and that’s kind of the thing you find when you’re transitioning from say resorts came to backcountry skiing is resort skiing does require you know strong glutes strong quads you want to have pretty powerful legs to support lap after lap from the trail lift with backcountry skiing since you’re carrying your weight up the hill meeting your equipment and your but these are robic focused kinds of fitness are way more important than the explosive power because yeah you still need to ski down but it’s about being to feel light on your feet and move through the mountains all day so target that however you feel feel like you can next question how to stay hydrated backcountry skiing personally I’ll drink 1 to 2 liters of water during an average day out in the mountains sometimes I’ll bring a hydration bladder and a Camelback so I can sip constantly sometimes out I’ll bring a 1 liter thermos of hot tea if

it’s a cold winter day know your body stay hydrated definitely don’t end the day with the full water bottle because that’s weight you carry that you didn’t need and yeah drink water cool the next question something I’m really passionate about how to learn at lunch safety and education for backcountry skiing typically you might start with something as easy as just like a couple our awareness chat up to a level one where you start to learn more about actually recreative and going out into the mountains and reading forecasts up to being a pro observer where you you’ve got years of experience and you can go out in the mountains navigate safely and submit what you see to your local avalanche agency snow is a really beautiful natural element that we haven’t figured out completely so just feels like there’s always something new to learn and the science keeps growing so every couple years when you take a new course there’s new research there’s new technology and it’s just something fun to be involved with because it’s not perfect and it’s a mystery but a really cool community surrounds it and it’s it’s awesome I really recommend taking a course to everybody how to pack for backcountry skiing there’s definitely some tricks to it and you just you don’t want to over pack but you need to make sure you can respond to an emergency so a lot of times people have very big packs when you go out with them and it’s a good thing if you’re with a new partner or people you’re not totally familiar with to go through your pack at the trailhead it’s a good time to check that all your safety gear is present and functioning then also go over in any group gear that maybe you have duplicates of it’s really important to have a first aid kit when you’re in the backcountry but you could probably don’t need three so if you’re out with a group of people make sure you have you know one first aid kit maybe one makeshift rescue sled which is a cool rescue product that’s out there maybe some rope or a space blanket distribute them through the group and try to cut back on weight in general while making sure you got all your bases covered for the essentials so me personally I have a small small first aid kit small repair kit I’ll bring an extra layer for emergencies like a small down jacket my food and water the other rescue gear I mentioned but really since you’re more active when you’re backcountry skiing than your than when you’re skiing inbounds you can typically dress a little bit lighter then you then you’re used to in the winter because it’s an aerobic sport so there’s a trick to learning how you can be lightweight and efficient as well as covering all those safety bases I don’t want to make backcountry skiing seem like inaccessible because really with whatever gear you already have as long as you have the appropriate safety gear and an expert to take you out there you don’t need to get all new stuff whatever you are comfortable with in the winter is gonna work personally now that I backcountry ski a lot during the year I have a separate kit of stuff for backcountry skiing versus any other kind of skiing that’s like softshell pants and softshell upper layers a little bit lighter weight everything in general because it’s an aerobic sport I’m kind of moving all day so I know that I don’t have to dress as warm or as heavy as if I’m riding a chairlift in a blizzard for example but make sure to always keep those emergency layers spaced point gets tough like that stuffed in the bottom of your pack should should things go sideways and you gotta build a snow cave and spend the night out in the woods all right next question what’s the difference between backcountry skiing and touring definitely a lot of different words out there especially depending on the say what country you’re in or what era you got into this sport so backcountry skiing touring randon a skiing ski mo side country side country you know there’s a lot of sort of buzzwords get then get thrown around really backcountry skiing and ski touring are the same thing touring is going to imply that you have to have to hike uphill you know you attach those climb your skins to your skis you hike uphill you ski down backcountry skiing you could you could do it that way or you could get into the backcountry via your local Ski Areas chairlifts and then out through the backcountry gate by leaving the boundaries but they’re the same thing and they’re awesome cool a next question hop to behave backcountry skiing let me think how I would like my partner’s to be able backcountry skiing the first thing that comes to mind is safety so knowing when is the time to space out because you’re in a place of elevated hazard and when is a good time to group back up that maybe means if you see somebody in the bottom of a valley you don’t want to ski down right above them some people really like the solitude of the backcountry some people like to play music on a boombox I’m fall somewhere in between so I definitely will bring a Bluetooth speaker out into the backcountry once in a while for some jams but also if there’s other groups around I like to try to be a little more respectful and a

little more quiet so people love their dogs in the backcountry some people don’t just be aware of the group you’re with and the other groups around you that you might be affecting like I said the backcountry is so great because it’s a place of a lot of freedom and there’s not a lot of rules and not a lot of people to tell you what to do so enjoy yourself but just be aware when you’re in crowded areas that what you’re doing could put other groups at risk or it could affect other groups experience next question one of my favorite topics what are good snacks for backcountry skiing I’m not necessarily a nutrition expert I just I just go skiing and grab what I can find I do know that the more protein I bring the better I feel through the day rather than just eating sugar and sweet snacks all the time stuff that’s dense and calorie dense so that it packs well and is durable and you get a lot of calories per weight so yeah I just think stuff that’s dense durable heavy and then try to lean towards those proteins and away from the sugary snacks as much as possible even though a bag of Skittles does taste delicious when you’re in the backcountry is backcountry skiing expensive I personally would like to believe that backcountry skiing is a way to make skiing more accessible to everybody don’t need you know $200 a day lift tickets to to go back country skiing there’s there’s no day price for backcountry skiing there is maybe an initial investment for people to get the new gear to get the safety equipment to get the appropriate layers so there’s definitely an investment as well as the cost that might take to take a couple of courses but if you’re really into it and it’s something you think you’d have a passion for it’s totally worth getting past those initial investments because once you have some expertise and some gear that amount you pay to get into the sport it’s gonna take you pretty far compared to those day tickets so there’s some initial investment with backcountry skiing but I think one of the things that makes it such a cool sport is that once you have the basics for gear and for knowledge it’s actually basically free how good do you need to be before you start backcountry skiing so that’s an awesome question and one I think more people should ask themselves before they start you can be a total novice skier and take an avalanche class take a backcountry skiing class get the stuff and go find an easy to ski destination and you’ll be fine totally suggest people learn to ski first but that if that’s not what you’re into I’m not going to force anybody to 2-mile if tickets get into the backcountry and learn to ski out there just know that those variable conditions you’re gonna find make having somebody that can help you pick conditions and pick good terrain to learn on pretty important even more important than for experienced skiers okay the next question is about what you wear on your other how to layer from backcountry skiing I live in the Northwest so it’s a little bit milder than say like Colorado or Montana or a continental mountain range starting at the bottom I’ll have very thin socks a lot of people were thick socks I go with the finish socks possible that’s so they fit in my boots as well as if I could be sweating all day so thick socks generally just make four more blisters friction and soggy feet thin socks made with a change of socks in the pack for my legs I’ll just go with a soft shell ski touring pant without even having long johns unless it’s a colder day those pants are great you might feel a cold first thing in the morning at the trailhead but once you’re moving and once the Sun comes up that’s about the weight that I like to use and then if it’s wet or very cold then I might add you know a base layer a merino base layer or a shell pant but ideally softshell pants for touring up to the top I’ll have a thin merino base layer a thin synthetic or down mid layer and then normally a a soft shell like a sandstone shield which is one of the heavy Bauer soft shells I really like if it’s wet then I’ll switch that to a full hard shell but basically it’s a merino base layer synthetic or down mid layer and then a shell whatever’s next to your skin needs to wick moisture when you’re sweating and then you want to be able to protect yourself from the elements whether that’s your soft shell hard shell or whatever your outer layer is and then warmth less then you might expect you need because of all the aerobic exercise but always keep that down jacket stuffed in the bottom of the pack in case you get chilly in case somebody else in your group is cold cool next question what is the most important thing when backcountry skiing the most important thing whoo that is a tough one keep it simple the most important thing when

backcountry skiing is getting back to the trailhead at the end of your day safe with your entire group safe as well Safety’s first backcountry skiing like I’ve said a few times you’re in an uncontrolled environment you’re your rescue should anything go wrong is up to you and your group better to avoid any mishaps keep it safe get down safe because when you’re backcountry skiing you’re a team so just because you might have more experience than the new guy if you get into trouble that new guy is the one that’s gonna have to help you but it’s just a good strategy to keep everybody safe and feeling respected and just adds a better flow to your day next question back on here how to use an air bag backcountry skiing so like skins ski touring bindings boots all this stuff air bags have become a huge part of this sport in the last five to ten years an air bag is a backpack with a compressed air cylinder or a high-powered battery operated fan with a handle where if you’re caught in an avalanche you pull this handle and a big air bag will inflate out of your backpack the effect is like the Brazil nut effect which is in this tumbling flow of an avalanche bigger particles of lower density float to the surface so once that air bag is pulled in almost every case the person wearing it will float to the surface of the eyelash and end up on top or near the surface instead of buried in the bottom so how to use an air bag backcountry skiing I mean it’s great you know if you pretty much have to use a backpack when you’re backcountry skiing the one most important thing to mention with airbags and backcountry skiing is to get the education first to know about rescue first and then add that airbag on as sort of your contingency plan you don’t want having an airbag being a driving factor to make any decisions or as a replacement for any of the other you know shovel beacon probe and education steps that we need to take so get all the other basics dialed in 100% and then look at those airbags it’s like you’re your last resort you never want to to pull that handle shouldn’t have that as part of your plan but it’s great technology that you should definitely check out what are the best places to go back country skiing it’s what everybody wants to know right we get into back on your skiing because we like this experience of being free out in the mountains and we also want to ski really great snow there’s no way around it we want to come back safe like I said that’s our number one goal but we also want to find the best possible snow and get the best skiing out in these beautiful mountains that we go skiing and so the best places to go skiing it’s going to depend on your region and then the better you are at skiing and backcountry skiing the better you’re going to be at picking where exactly on the map at what elevation at what aspect at what time of the day you’re gonna find the best snow so personally I live in Washington I love skiing at Crystal Mountain that’s probably my preferred place to ski in this area it’s just at a great elevation has a bunch of really nice to rain and snowfall for this Washington region we’re in if I’m in Europe I just I love skiing on the Italian side of Mont Blanc through the tunnel from Xiamen II you know in Europe a lot of times that’s going to be taking up a tram to then leave the boundary and then go ski touring and maybe ski to another village the options are limited this is an impossible question to answer because the best places to go back country skiing are wherever you are in the world and if you’ve got the gear the knowledge you can go wherever you want so it’s an infinite question call your local guide office find an expert and get out there and explore I love this stuff I just I love this sport so much there’s just so much to learn and even though I’ve been doing it say mm and even before that with my parents I just get more and more motivated to learn about it as the knowledge and the equipment gets better so get the knowledge get the training remember it’s all about coming home safe so you can go out another day it’s the freedom and the experiences out there on some skis and climbing skins in the backcountry is like nothing else that concludes it those are the most searched Internet questions about backcountry skiing be sure to LIKE and subscribe Eddie Bauers channel below and we love hearing from all of you out there tell us your favorite place to ski I’m always looking for a new spot to go so thanks for watching and catch you