1) Carry a Repair Kit
This is a commonly forgotten item for backcountry skiers. Breaking a ski or a binding in the backcountry is a big deal. At least one person on every team should have some kind of repair kit. And it should be able to pretty much repair anything.
I broke my binding several years ago, miles from the car. Thankfully, we had the equipment to fix it...!
A backcountry ski repair kit.
(click to enlarge)
The repair kit should at the very least, include: a multi-tool, duct tape, ski straps, a pole splint, a skin tip, an extra pole basket, zip ties, bailing wire, hose repair clamp, lighter, scraper, cordellete and a binding buddy with extra screws.
2) Skins Inside Jacket
It's not uncommon for backcountry skiers to take short laps. This is sometimes referred to as yo-yoing. Short laps tend to mean quick transitions without much of a break. Instead of taking the time to take off your backpack, fold up your skins and put them inside your jacket...
3) Carry a Hydration Bladder
Skinning is hard work. It's not uncommon for you to want something to drink while making your way up a steep hill.
"But the tube on my hydration bladder will freeze," you say.
You're right. It will. Unless you take care of it.
To keep your tube from freezing: 1) Get a tube insulator. 2) Put the bite-valve down the neck of your jacket when not in use. 3) Blow the water back into the bladder after your finished drinking. 4) And finally, if it's super cold out, use a "backpack-style" bladder, and wear it under your jacket.
4) Wax the Tops of Your Skis or Snowboard
Obviously, everyone waxes the bottoms of their skis. But the tops?
Yep. This is a great way to keep snow from bunching up on top of your skis.
5) Put Your Downhill Ski on First
When standing on a slope, place your downhill ski first and step into it, and then your uphill ski. This will give you more stability as you get your skis on.
6) Don't be too Aggressive
People tend to ski somewhat aggressively in-bounds. There are a lot more things to be worried about when you're in the backcountry. As such, it's important to make sure that you take it slow and don't get overconfident.
7) Ride with a Partner
If there's an accident, you will need help. If there's an avalanche, you will need help. Backcountry skiing is dangerous and if you don't have a partner with you,
8) If Skiing Adjacent to a Resort, Know the Uphill Rules
Some resorts allow backcountry traffic to skin uphill inside their ropes. Other resorts don't allow this at all. It's important to know and follow the rules if you're near a resort. If you don't and you cause a problem for downhill traffic, it can have a negative impact not only on you, but on other backcountry skiers who might wish to use the area.
9) Beware of Tree Wells
After a big dump, tree-branches can create a hollow area beneath a tree. This area can be a trap for skiers or snowboarders, especially if they fall into it head first. The snow on the tree branches can come down and suffocate you. It is a very dangerous place.
It's important to become educated on tree wells. You should understand how to avoid them, and what to do if someone gets caught in one. To learn more about tree-wells and how to manage them, click here.
10) Take an Avalanche Course and Check Conditions!
An AAI Guide describes the snow layers on an Avalanche Course.
There is nothing more important than understanding avalanches and how to avoid them. To do this, your best bet is to take an avalanche course. Additionally, you should always check with your local avalanche forecaster to determine if it's worth it to go out on a given day...!
--Jason D. Martin