If you want to start backcountry skiing there are some basic steps you need to take to get yourself going. One essential step is getting the right gear that will not only keep you comfortable in the field, but also help keep you, and your party safe in case of an emergency.A recent comment from an Unofficial reader has prompted this checklist:
“Hey Brennan I’m keen to go out and buy a touring setup and start earning turns rather than spending every weekend waiting in the lines at Squaw. A post on how to get started would be really cool, and probably appreciated by the other people that read blog posts like this and wish they were out there. I’m mainly interested in what gear to buy (split up into what’s essential when you are starting off, what’s good to have once you know what you are doing, and then luxuries that you’d buy if you were out there every day – which you seem to be), where to learn some skills so you don’t put lives in danger, and some good places to start out. cheers”
My response is listed below. Before I get started I want to make mention that interest in the sport, and advances in backcountry skiing gear has exploded in recent years. At no other time in the history of the sport has so much quality gear been available to the consumer. However, backcountry skiing remains a dangerous activity, and is predicated on the reality that it is the users responsibility to take caution when engaging in this sport. Serious injury and death can come as a result. On the flip side, a safe day in the backcountry is like nothing else. Few things in life are as beautiful as spending a day lapping a mountain with fresh snow and a few of your closest friends.
What follows is a subjective perspective of advice that is useful for a beginning backcountry skier, informed by my own personal experience based on time spent in the field, assisted by the gear I have used and tested, and experiences that have come as a result. If you don’t know how to use your gear, how to read/interpret an avalanche forecast, or travel safe in avalanche terrain this gear won’t be as empowering as it is meant to be. That said, this piece is solely meant to provide a basic list of gear one should own before starting off on the golden road to backcountry skiing.