What Is This Backcountry Skiing You Speak Of?

So, I’ve picked up this new, dicey hobby from KC and it. is. so. good! Ski touring is probably the most unexpected turn of events in my stay in Canada. Every time I am out touring, I find myself thinking, “Wow, this is so surreal… Am I actually doing this?”

Ski touring is basically skiing without chairlifts. Crazy and unnecessary, I know!

So, on skis all the time, the skier goes uphill (I feel tired just thinking about it) and then skis downhill, in open country. It requires a good level of skill to navigate and travel in the backcountry, manage risks, make wise decisions, and utilize gear and equipment.

Initially, I was reluctant to throw myself into this. I mean, avalanches…scary!! Shocker: one day, I found myself signing up for an Avalanche Skills Training 1 course with KC supplying me the shovel, probe, and beacon I’d need on field day. (KC the Enabler)

 

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AST1 Classmates

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Studying the snowpack and its layers.

To tropical townfolk like myself, it was interesting to learn so much about something so unfamiliar – snow. In class, terms used frequently were: facets, cornices, whumpfs, flagging, surface hoar… Say whut?? Cornice what? And whumpfs? Did you just name the sound after the sound? All the same, it was very informative and, as cliche as it sounds, opened my eyes to a whole new different world. Snow is snow complicated! Heh…

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Extra windy up at Parker Ridge. Snow deposited by the wind was making whumpf sounds. (Ah… Whumpf.. I see now..)

Snow seems so fluffy and nice to fall on, but to be caught underneath it in an avalanche is like being run over by tons of flowing cement (as I’ve read). I’ve been eaten by washing machine waves surfing back home – it is horrible. Imagining that scenario in avalanche debris is making me rethink why I got into this right now as I type. The good thing, though, is that avalanches don’t just happen magically. There is a reason that backcountry recreationists equip themselves with the knowledge and gear – to make sound choices.

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KC breaking trail

Again, I told myself, I’m just dipping my toes into this. I’m not getting the gear, I’ll just rent. I’ll probably go out only 2x during the season. Few days later, I find myself scoring a good deal on a pair of powder skis. Then, for Christmas, I got some nice touring bindings. 🙂 (KC the Proponent)

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And so KC begins to indoctrinate: learning how to clothe in layers, looking like a total fool while figuring out what this piece of gear does, cursing and wishing that I was at the resort and sitting on a chairlift instead of “earning my turns”, fantasizing about sitting in the warm and comfy car, realizing that ski touring is 95% hiking up and 5% actual skiing (like surfing!!), realizing that the 5% is so worth it!! (KC the Pedagogue)

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How did I get here??

 

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I’ve changed my mindset about ski touring. I’ve come to terms with the reality that I’m hiking more than skiing. 

It’s a lot. I’ve been out a few times already but I still find myself consciously going through a mental checklist to make sure I don’t miss a single detail. Before I leave the house, I ask myself, “Do you have your hat helmet sunglasses sunscreen lip balm goggles gloves buff jacket pants socks extra socks puffy jacket boots liners skis skins poles money keys phone camera food water tea compass fire-starter first aid kit duct tape tarp repair kit beacon probe shovel knife headlamp?”. Then, we get to the parking lot, gear up, check beacons, hike up, stop, eat, dig a snow pit, study the snow, decide to ski, then switch to ski down mode so I think, “Okay, put jacket on, boots disengage, skins off ski, skins in jacket, turn binding, boots engage, switch boot to ski mode, tighten boot, tighten some more, oops I can’t feel my leg, loosen boots a bit, leash boot in, pull pant hem down and over boot, put backpack on, take a selfie with partner, put gloves on, grab poles, get really scared of the line, moment of truth, ski down the line, wooooo!!!!”.

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SU quickly learns to never step off his ski… and that it is so hard to extract yourself when thigh-deep in snow.

It’s a lot of work, and I miss a few bits here and there. Things should be more fluid over time, but for now, this is where my head is at. Skiing, snow, moving in the mountains, maneuvering in winter conditions, and a lot more other things are so strange and astonishing to dumbstruck me. I’m really glad to have discovered a great new adventure. (KC the Harbinger of)

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Powder and no crowds = worth it!

 

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