Winter is coming! How to Prepare for Backcountry Ski Season

How to Prepare for Backcountry Skiing

What do I do to plan and prepare for the backcountry ski season? I get an exciting feeling this time of years the leaves change colors and the temperatures drop, I begin to think about skiing!  I am a skier to my soul, and I enjoy all forms of skiing, but Backcountry skiing is what really gets me excited!

3 steps I take to get ready for Backcountry Skiing

1. How to prepare mentally for backcountry skiing:

Mental preparation and getting into the backcountry mindset is important and necessary in order to do steps 2 and 3.  This time of year is when we get our stoke up!  The new ski movies are on tour and we see our first snow in the mountains.  This is also the time of year that many avalanche centers have their annual fundraisers.  As backcountry skiers, we rely a lot on the forecasts put out daily by our local Avalanche forecast center s, donate to your local forecast center.  Attending fundraisers and reconnecting with the backcountry community is a big step toward preparing mentally for your backcountry ski season.

Another big part of mental preparation is to educate yourself.  Educating yourself means taking

or refreshing your Wilderness First Responder and signing up for avalanche courses, attending avalanche workshops like the Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop, and refreshing your avalanche knowledge by reading and listening to blogs.

As a professional , I start paying attention to the snowpack beginning with our first snows.  On my trail runs, I run into areas I like to ski.  I take note of where snow persists and time and weather between snowfalls.  Areas that hold early season snow are often our problem areas when the first big dump hits. It’s also great knowledge to see the terrain you want to ski, when it is snow free.

2. How to prepared physically for Backcountry Skiing:

I mentioned trail running to check out snowpack and terrain. Running is possibly one of the best ways to build your endurance and improve cardio for those long days in the skin track. Cardio and endurance are not really the same thing, switch up your workouts between sprints (all out effort) and runs (the long slow burn). besides running, biking and hiking are all good and keep it

Fresh.

For the downhill, it’s much more about power.  To build my strength and increase my power I recommend interval strength training, doing things like step-ups with weights and jump turns.  I really like exercises that strengthen the balancing muscles of the knee, like squats on a Bosu ball, or lateral jumps.

Core strength is a key component to staying injury-free for a long ski season.  Planks and

Burpees are two basic exercises that will work on those core muscles. Skiing with a pack is not normal for many people and a tight core will keep you on top of your skis and not let you pack throw you around.

3. How I prepare my Gear for Backcountry Skiing:

Before you head out for backcountry skiing in the backcountry, be sure you have the right gear. Typically, it’s not possible to ski over to the ski shop to get something prepared, or even step inside to stay dry in a storm. Weight is important when you are putting in 1000’s of feet of climbing. Dead batteries could mean a life and a broken buckle or pole can turn a day ski tour into an epic. Everything I carry has a purpose, and each item needs to function as intended.

One of the most important pieces of equipment to look at is you avalanche beacon. Many of the newer beacons have firmware updates, most manufacturer’s have these available on their websites. If you forgot to take the batteries out of your beacon at the end of the last season, check the leads for corrosion. Even if there is no corrosion, its a good idea to put in fresh batteries.

How did the glue on your skins survive the hot summer? The last thing you need is to have your first day back skiing you have skin failure half way up the skin track. If need be you can apply some skin glue and or clean some of debris from the skin. Make sure your bindings are functioning properly and all the mounting screws are tight. Give your skis a wax and clean up the edges.

Clean and organize your med kit, make sure you replace any old items or the band aids you used last year. Same for your repair kit, look through it a replace anything you took out for summer use.

Pack your backpack with essential items. I get my pack ready to go well before my first day out. I pack my Shovel and probe, after checking that they are in good order. Put my small med kit and repair kit and a light rescue tarp into the bottom of my pack. I put goggles, helmet, gloves and hat in a known place.

The last thing is pray for snow!

About Todd Passey

Todd is America’s 62nd IFMGA licensed mountain guide with more than 20 years of experience. His guiding has taken him across the globe, from the Arctics of Svalbard to Antarctica’s South Pole.

Todd has guided all the “Seven Summits” including 2 Everest summits, 22 Denali summits and 22 summits of Antarctica’s Mt. Vinson. Todd has 10 first ascents in Antarctica’s sentinel range, and climbed test pieces like Denali’s Cassin ridge and the Walker spur on the Grand Jorasses.

Todd is an accomplished skier who’s stomping grounds include Valdez Alaska, the French, Italian and Swiss Alps, Norway and of course his backyard, Utah’s Wasatch mountains.

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