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A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Info, conditions and gear related to skiing or riding Colorado Peaks, including the 14ers! Ski/Ride Trip Reports
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby Voodoo302 » Wed Oct 31, 2012 8:26 am

Mostly just echoing what others have said here, but I was in your position a few years ago and from my experience there are a few things that I think are worth highlighting:

Ski with someone you know (who is hopefully not a big risk-taker) and who has experience with BC skiing and especially someone who knows the area. Lacking formal training, a mentor-type relationship like this is the best way to learn (if you're a climber you probably learned how to place trad gear from someone more experienced - same idea). This can obviously propagate some bad habits if your mentor is less than qualified so definitely augment with reading and the FOBP/REI classes.

Check the CAIC (http://avalanche.state.co.us/index.php) page every day, read the weather/avalanche discussion, and note how the forecasts/risk levels change as weather changes and storms pass.

Bent Gate in Golden rents everything you'll need and they have a really helpful and knowledgeable staff. Also they have big rental sales at the end of the season so if you've rented something that you really liked you can probably get it on the cheap if you're willing to wait.

Like hiking, climbing, and many other sports; get your own boots and rent the rest until you know what you want. Not to say you shouldn't try out a few pairs to find what you like but YOUR boots will fit YOUR feet much better than rentals and this will make a big difference in your comfort and (hopefully) performance and enjoyment.

When in doubt, sit it out until you have a better handle on risk factors. Avalanches are obviously a big danger but BC skiing also holds dangers of poor coverage, hidden rocks, downed and un-thinned trees, and all sorts of other surprises that you don't find as much in the resort. Start conservatively and build from there.

Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby Bean » Wed Oct 31, 2012 8:44 am

mtnfiend wrote:Bean - That photo can't be from last year!?!?

December 2010.

A few more from that trip. Just because.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

And the piece de resistance:

Image


Remember: this was mid-December.

Image
gdthomas wrote:Bean, you're an idiot.

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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby USAKeller » Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:10 am

oldschoolczar wrote:Lastly, is there anwhere you can rent an AT ski setup around town? I tried Larsons..

Can anyone recommend a good all around setup.. without breaking the bank?

If you want to venture up here to Boulder, Neptune Mountaineering also rents backcountry ski set-ups; and renting is definitely something I'd recommend (I made the mistake long ago of jumping the gun and buying a set-up without much research or testing). They sell demo packages too.

As for a set-up, I'll echo everyone's recommendations for Dynafit bindings! I've been through several pairs of bc skis and think I've finally found my 'ideal' pair - the Kästle FX 94's, but those cen brek tha bank. I've also heard great things about the Dynafit Manaslu skis. Before the Kästle's, I skied a pair of Black Diamond's newer lightweight ski (the Aspect) and in my opinion, it was too soft for some of the icy/crusty backcountry conditions.
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby Bean » Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:33 am

USAKeller wrote:As for a set-up, I'll eho everyone's recommendations for Dynafit bindings! I've been through several pairs of bc skis and think I've finally found my 'ideal' pair - the Kästle FX 94's, but those cen brek tha bank. I've also heard great things about the Dynafit Manaslu skis. Before the Kästle's, I skied a pair of Black Diamond's newer lightweight ski (the Aspect) and in my opinion, it was too soft for some of the icy/crusty backcountry conditions.

In addition to being ridiculously overpriced, the Kastles are very heavy (but that's what happens when you put metal in a ski) and have a shape that would've almost been considered modern 5 years ago. Black Diamond's lighter touring ski lineup is confusing this year (and IMO not even worth looking at) but there are a number of good, light options out there.
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby EatinHardtack » Wed Oct 31, 2012 10:15 am

Here’s my .02,

I would suggest getting a season pass to a resort this winter (my days last year were 15 resort and 10 bc). You can’t learn to ski in the backcountry and you can’t log a lot of days/lines skied by touring. Learn to ski in all conditions and honestly go to the resorts on bad days (ie icy, bumpy, mank, crusty), you’ll be a better skier in the long run if you can ski in every condition. Find a good group of partners to hook up with for bc tours and education. Classroom settings are great and you learn tons about avalanche mitigation but ‘on the job training’ from a good touring group goes a long way also, so find good partners. Don’t be afraid to speak up in a group either, having concerns or questions are beneficial to the entire group.

As for gear, well, buy good boots that are comfortable. Your ski selection will be your preference. Personally I prefer a stiff ski. I’ve been happy with all my pairs of G3 skis to date, buy them at the end of the season and you can find a great deal. Your binding selection will depend on your application in the backcountry. Bentgate will be your friend this year and they will price match anything.

Ski Mountaineering=Dynafits
Ski Mountaineering+Berthoud+Resort=Freerides
Berthoud+Resort=Marker

Have a very healthy respect for avalanches and enjoy.
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby rickinco123 » Wed Oct 31, 2012 11:12 am

oldschoolczar wrote:Are there any mountains in the foothills of Denver that would have skiable lines and almost non-existant avalanche danger (including on the approach)?

The Denver foothills generally do not get reliable snow but keep your eyes open.
oldschoolczar wrote:Or any good backcountry skiing trails that offer some fun/steep skiing for advanced (non-expert) skiers (also minimal avalanche danger)?

The advise above about slope meter and knowledge reading topos is good advise. 25% slopes are approximate to a blue run at a ski resort.
Jones Pass, Second Creek off of Berthoud pass and Vail pass all have great areas where you can ski powder safely on low angle terrain but you must learn to read avy terrain or you can get yourself in trouble. Steep=avalanche potential.
oldschoolczar wrote:I wanna try them out and see how I like them compared to downhill skis. Sounds like most people prefer a downhill ski for resort skiing? I don't have either, but only want to buy one this season..

If you are going to focus on any one aspect look at weight. I started skiing deep powder on 205cm GS skis, not ideal but it got the job done. Pretty much any ski manufactured in the last 15 years blows away the old equipment.
The focus now days for backcountry seems to be how to float people on the powder. While it makes it easier you also lose some of the "Zen" of skiing powder. I much prefer to sink in powder and build my own platform in my turn, kind of a porpoise effect. Different strokes for different folks but everyone can probably agree they don' t want to lug a heavy rig. Backcountry skiing, more often than not means skiing at least some wind blown hard pack, sastrugi, sun cups, slush, ice, chunked up snow... etc. Since you are starting, I would recommend a ski that would also be useful in the resort. For all I know the entire Mid to late winter snow pack will be high to extreme avy danger meainng you will want to stay at the resort until spring.

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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby cheeseburglar » Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:12 pm

Years ago I skied with a couple who later died on a forest service road. They got avalanched from above.
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby Bean » Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:17 pm

cheeseburglar wrote:Years ago I skied with a couple who later died on a forest service road. They got avalanched from above.

Watching out for what's above you is huge - as important if not more as what you're actually on. Road cuts are also great triggers - this photo was on a "low" danger aspect per the CAIC.

Image

Those are all cracks, not tracks.
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby Carl » Wed Oct 31, 2012 1:05 pm

mrburns wrote:If it's steep enough to ski, it's steep enough to slide.


Perhaps this was supposed to read "if it's deep enough to ski, it's deep enough to slide."

Many folks ski in the backcountry exclusively on terrain that isn't steep enough to slide. 90% of what my wife skis in the backcountry is under 30 degrees, and it's generally not steep enough to slide. The trick is being able to recognize it. Take this photo for example, the terrain in the background rarely has tracks because its a prime avalanche zone (wind loaded convexity at about 36 degrees), whereas the terrain above and on both sides of this danger zone is 23 to 28 degrees, and usually safe. I'd love to hit those cliffs in the middle of the photo, but I've never been to this particular area at the right time.

Image

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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby oldschoolczar » Wed Oct 31, 2012 6:36 pm

Man, thanks for all of the replies! I think I am going to invest in a good pair of AT boots and then just check out some gear from Bent Gate.
So you can get good AT boots that will fit randonee and alpine bindings? Someone mentioned a heel block? Looks like Dynafit makes some quality boots and bindings... I think I'll check out Bent Gate and Wilderness Exchange this weekend.
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby DaveSwink » Wed Oct 31, 2012 7:55 pm

I am still trying to figure it out too, but I am planning to go to the Boulder Nordic Club expo & ski swap 11/14 at the Boulder High cafeteria. Seems like a good event to learn more about gear and maybe pick up a deal.

Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby livetothemax96 » Wed Oct 31, 2012 11:51 pm

Hey, I'm not sure what your shoe size is, but I have a pair of Garmont Adrenalins (I think a mondo 26.5) if you're interested. The sole is in pretty good shape and they are pretty light. Drop me a pm if you're interested in them!
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