Backcountry Skis:

While there are not as many choices in the strictly backcountry category as there are in the general alpine category, there are more ski options these days than ever before. Begin by realizing that there are many different conditions to ski and many different styles of skiing. Couple this with multiple manufacturers who must produce new and better models every year and the choice can be overwhelming. If backcountry skiing is your focus then having a relatively light ski may be important. Look at manufacturers weight statements per 10 cm to get a feel for differences. This can be a time consuming process but worth it if your next adventure involves a ten mile trip and/or 10,000 vertical. Where and when you are planning to ski makes a difference as well. If you are a powder hound then you will want a longer fatter ski than if you are predominatly a spring tour corn snow farmer. The differences can be extreme. I have a lightweight 160cm race ski that I use in the spring for distant tours in moderate terrain. Today in the deep powder cycle that the northern Rockies has been experiencing I have a 185 fat ski underfoot for maximum flotation. When the snow has settled out and is ankle deep powder mixed with breakable crust and windswept, ridge top, icy sections then a mid fat all mountain ski between these extremes fits the bill well. This mid fat all mountain ski works best for a quiver of one and should be your first choice if you are looking to ski a variety of conditions throughout the full season.

Here is the succession of different skis from powder specific at top, to mid fat all mountain performance, and light weight spring hard snow at bottom. These three ski manufacturers build skis in Salt Lake City for Voile in a small powder centric factory, to Austria and a major European manufacturer for Atomic, to Chinese made American designed ski from K2. All good skis that perform well within their conditions specific design. As might be expected I ski the Atomics more than either of the others combined as they work better in a variety of conditions from hardpack to knee deep powder.

Ski Skins:

If you are planning to do any real backcountry skiing a high quality pair of skins that match your skis well is another very important, mandatory piece of equipment. Ski skins attach to the bottom of the ski usually with a special adhesive/glue and enable the user to grip the snow for the uphill climb with the outfacing "skin." This functionality is made possible by the bristle fibers in the skin pointing at an angle away from the direction of travel. Like the animal skins they were originally made from--goat and seal predominated--new skins are smooth in one direction and rough in the other. Having the tips of the fibers pointing toward the rear of the ski allows a certain amount of glide and good stick.

Skins attach at the tip and tails of skis via a variety of wire metal loops, clips or cord. Tails can be unattached or snugged for a confident fit with another clip of sorts. Investing in a pair of skins the width of the tip of your skis and trimming them to fit carefully the sidecut profile of your ski allows a very effective method of climbing with little slip on sidehills or on icy old trails.

For further grip and security on icy spring and summer tours attaching a pair of ski crampons is a wise choice.

Full length and width fitted skin.

For climbing and ski mountainerring a pair of lightweight boot crampons from Camp (a Manufacturer) is an excellent tool in addition to the ski skins/crampons.

Backcountry Ski Poles:

Regular ski poles can be used or adjustable length poles by Black Diamond or Leki are popular as well. Make sure to have powder baskets for the deep snow and a comfotable grip for the uphill is nice on the wrists. For spring steep skiing safety it can be a very good idea to carry at least one self arrest pole grip where a self arrest ice axe pick is manufactured as part of the grip. If you fall this pick may save your life or limbs if you are quick and know how to use it properly for self arrest. Sometimes having a dedicated ice axe may become necessary but not generally if you have the self arrest pole.