Coming from an alpine skiing background, it took me a few years to warm up to the idea of backcountry skiing. It didn’t help that the guy I learned how to backcountry ski from was wicked-fast, which meant my early outings were exhausting efforts of trying to keep up where all I could think was “I’m cooked. We only made five runs today and I could have done five times that at Solitude.” I kept a season’s pass in reserve until one day we skied Lisa Falls in thigh-deep sub 5% powder, which set the backcountry hook for once and all. Since then I’ve done way more backcountry skiing than riding the wire, and like any addictive substance, the further you get from it, the less you miss it. As cyclist Greg LeMond said “It doesn’t get any easier, you just get faster.”
Mona Lisa Falls Overdrive. You can't get there by helicopter, sled or chairlift. Alex Lowe points the way towards 5,000' of pure fluff.
The key to enjoying the hiking/touring aspect of backcountry skiing is to do it enough that you find your own rhythm and stop fighting the pain. I think of it like mountain biking, trail running or rock climbing – the uphill exertion part is a fun challenge and the downhill is the icing on the cake. Human powered ascent gets easier the more you do it and at some point it becomes fun in itself. Beyond that, when you start to mix in route finding, team work, trail breaking and avalanche assessment, the ascent becomes an intricate challenge with the final skin track becoming a piece of backcountry artwork. Skin tracks are a reflection of the people who put them up, and like reading a good book, a tight skin track makes you want to meet its author. “Hmmm, three people swapping leads with no breaks, full heel pegs, tight switchbacks around the rocks, nice cornice stomping and they avoided that fat pillow – must be Derek and Co. Very nice.”
Tight tracks up Tanners. Skinning and photographic artists unknown.
I love the up.
Help support StraightChuter.com and learn to love the up with Black Diamond Ascension Nylon STS Skins from Backcountry.com. Click on the photo below…
Category: 05 Uphill