Dreaming of Snow: Backcountry Skiing

Thanks for everyone that chimed in on yesterday’s CrossFit post. Obviously, it’s a hot button of controversy, but I do appreciate that no one called me names over my opinion. So that’s good.

Other than getting feisty on the interwebs, I’ve been turning my head towards the mountains quite frequently. Why? Ladies and gentlemen, we have snow!

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Photo Credit to Silverton Mountain

It’s nearing that time of the year where I start kissing my beloved hiking trails goodbye and turn my attention towards the fluffy stuff falling from the sky. I get that people in other states dread the approach of the cold and the ice, but in Colorado, it’s practically a national holiday.

And no, I’m totally not kidding!

Even better? I think this year is going to be a fun-filled winter of exploration and adventure for me and my two planks. Why? Because I’m diving into backcountry skiing!

Skiing

You see, I’m a longtime inbounds skier. My mom put my sis and me in lessons when I was four and I’ve been skiing ever since (excluding a few years in my teens when I was too cool for life in general…or so I thought). I grew up skiing at Loveland, Winter Park, and Copper Mountain, and took amazing skiing for granted without realizing how fortunate I was to have world-class slopes within a few hours. We moved to Maine and I got to experience east coast powder at Sunday River and Sugarloaf before returning to my beloved Colorado.

I moved to Steamboat in fall of 2006 and immediately signed on for a season as a kids’ ski instructor. I spent all winter chasing toddlers down the mountain and honing my patience levels! After returning to Denver to begin my graduate program, I realized I missed the instruction side of the mountain, so I spent the next few seasons as a volunteer adaptive ski instructor through the National Sports Center for the Disabled.

Skiing in Utah last year

My M.Ed was focused on outdoor sports for at-risk populations, so this experience was priceless as I worked with a variety of kiddos and adults. I learned how to fit ski boots on a child with Down Syndrome; how to encourage a child with autism to branch out and try new ski runs; how to secure an epileptic onto the ski lift; how to convince a blind skier to trust me; and how to communicate with an ex-war vet suffering from PTSD. I even began training so that I could work with para and quadriplegic skiers on a sit-ski, but unfortunately, grad program got in the way and I had to quit volunteering.

I’m hoping to find another adaptive program this winter (maybe one that is closer than a 2 hour drive?), but I am also excited to explore the Colorado backcountry on my skis. You see, Will and I have decided that the 2013-2014 ski season will be dedicated to adventuring in the out-of-bounds snow in the mountains. After (finally) taking our Av 1 course last winter, we both feel prepared. I’ve been backcountry skiing a handful of times, but never committed for two reasons: I hadn’t taken the course and I didn’t have the proper gear. Well, I took the course and Will bought me the gear for Christmas last year, so I’m ready!

My friend Steve on that same trip

We’re even so sure of our decision that we decided to completely eliminate a season pass this year. May not sound like much but that is a HUGE deal to me! We are buying a 4-pack to Copper Mountain so that we can ski with my mom and maybe some friends, but that is it. We even have a scouting day set up with a new friend at the end of October. We’re going to hike up to a few peaks and check out the ski potential for later in the winter.

Honestly, I’m really looking forward to the experience! I get tired of lifts and people at resorts, but more importantly, I’m thrilled at the prospect of an even more peaceful experience on skis. Imagine grabbing fresh tracks with only you and a few friends in the immediate area. Pretty amazing. And is it even more weird that I think I’ll enjoy every quad thrashing-lung burning-sweat inducing climb?

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Do you ski or board?

Inbounds or backcountry?

21 Comments

  • Reply Efo at

    Totally rad. Be safe, my friend! I know you are (and will be) but I always just have to say that to all my backcountry skier buds. I’ll miss these CO winters! GAH the move feels so real now that bloggers are talking about CO snow!

    • Reply heather at

      You’ll have to come back and visit so we can hit up some snow!

  • Reply Rachel at

    I can’t wait to read about your backcountry adventures! I might try to get into some backcountry snowboaridng in Montana this year. Do you XC ski at all? I started getting into it last year and want to buy the gear this year but I am pretty clueless. Let me know if you have any recommendations!

    • Reply heather at

      I do, but I’m not very good 🙂 Will is a great XC skier so he is going to help me get better this winter– we’re planning on hitting that up in Yellowstone in January!

      • Reply Rachel at

        Nice! I actually work for Yellowstone General Stores. Let me know if you want to get into some ice climbing while you’re in the area.

  • Reply Justin Fricke at

    Being a life-long surfer, snowboarding is the complete opposite and I could never get the hang of it. That means you can find me on a pair of skis during the winter.

    Never been backcountry skiing, since they don’t really have a backcountry in North Carolina. You can bet it’s on my bucket list though and something I’ll probably get into when I move out to Colorado.

    • Reply heather at

      You’re moving here?!

  • Reply Amy at

    I think this is going to be an AMAZING snow year in Colorado! We went camping last weekend and were going to hike up to Crystal peak, but it had snow and we did not have the proper gear. Enjoy all your backcountry skiing. I am too afraid of banging up my legs to do too much backcountry stuff. We got the Winter Park/Copper pass and I am going to use it a lot!

    • Reply heather at

      I’m hoping so too! The snow is hitting pretty early and temps seem to be quickly dropping…fingers crossed!

  • Reply Sara at

    I’m so jealous of your snow. Leaves are barely changing here in Michigan and we don’t have mountains to get early season snow like you Coloradoans! I’ve been skiing since I was 2, alpine racing since I was 14. I am really itching to get out this year, especially since we have had horrible seasons the past couple years, we are even planning a trip to Colorado in March to ski, which will be my first time out west! I did Killington in Vermont in high school, but that’s it on the big hills.

    I’d love to try backcountry skiing, but I’d have to adjust my technique for sure. I’m a on-piste skier, simply for lack of other options here!

    • Reply heather at

      Last year’s snow definitely wasn’t great here either 🙁 Hoping for more this season! And alpine racing? That is awesome!!

  • Reply John Sills at

    I board, and have never been in the backcountry. Equipment cost is a factor, split boards are not cheap, not to mention a the price of a beacon. I keep trying to get into the Avy 1 class at the Community College in Tahoe to try and offset some of the expense, but it fills up too fast. Someday I will get out there and most likely be hooked as well. Not paying for a pass is an enticing perk.

    • Reply heather at

      Yeah, the beacon/probe setup is the last big cost that we’re going to have to get in the next month or so. The initial cost is massive but here’s to hoping it lasts for a bit! (We actually found Av 1 Groupons last year that made the course much more affordable!)

  • Reply Christy at

    I cross country ski and dream of doing it out west someday!

    • Reply heather at

      Where do you live now?

  • Reply Cassie @ Rural Running Redhead at

    True story: I’ve lived in Colorado for all of my 28 years and have never been skiing. I tried boarding once, when I was 15 and still incredibly clumsy anyway, and decided that if I was going to slide down a hill on my butt all day, I’d go sledding. Maybe it’s time to try again. 🙂

  • Reply Kayla @ kpLOVINGit at

    EXCITING!!!!

  • Reply Alyssa at

    WOW. This is intense. My aunt and her husband back country ski out there! Maybe you’ll see them, haha. I skiied once on a girl scout trip when I was 12 and I fell and hit my head. My idea of a winter sport is wrapping Christmas gifts with a nice hot cup of coffee while watching the snow through the window.

  • Reply @stevewweiss at

    There is nothing like hiking for turns and skiing lines that are filled with untouched powder from top to bottom, that’s for sure. And not getting a pass seems like a good idea to force yourself but I would still get one. I did the same last year, and on those day-after-the-storm powder days I couldn’t go ride because the avy conditions were too sketchy. The snowpack changes too drastically forcing you to stay off the mountain. So when my friends were safely enjoying the resort I was forced to stay off the Mtn and had to wait til the pack changed. AND being in Colorado you guys have the cheapest passes around and one of the most variable snowpacks. Anyway, I just want to make sure you don’t miss out on any pow days…because that’s what friends do. Pow days aren’t epic until you can share em. Stay safe, have fun, and lets get a trip to the San Juan’s together to hit some of the terrain down there.

  • Reply Heidi @BananaBuzzbomb at

    Although I can dig a good snowfall I wish I could love it as much as ya’ll. I’m sure that’d be different if I could actually stand upright on skis though. 😉 Excited for you and looking forward to hearing about all of your adventures!

  • Reply Aryn Hill at

    I just moved to Colorado from Ohio so it will be nice to snowboard a real mountain (not the little hills we have back east)!

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