Backcountry bootprints… What lies beyond the chairlift?
There’s a new breed of skier that’s quickly multiplying throughout resorts in Europe. You’ve seen them on the chairlift... Fat skis, rucksack, face flecked with snow, big grin. And then, when you reach the top, you quickly realise that this is not quite the top of the mountain, because those other skiers are going further, on foot. Up, beyond and out of sight.
If you’ve ever considered following these mysterious trails of snowy footprints that wander beyond the piste, then perhaps it’s about time you acquired the know-how in order to take the next step in your freeride career. Those hike and ride hustlers know where to find the goods, and with a bit of research you could beat them to it.
But why bother going further up, when you can easily access off piste terrain from the top of the chairlift? Some might argue you’ve got to earn those turns, and they’ll feel that much sweeter. For others, simply standing on the true summit of a mountain, with an alpine vista all around, is more than worth the effort. Whatever your motivation, you’re guaranteed to escape the crowds, bag a longer descent, discover a little slice of wilderness and hopefully find some fresh powder snow ripe for the taking.
If that sounds like your kind of day, read on… You’re going to need to brush up on your backcountry skills:
You should be well practised using your safety equipment. Once well away from easy access side country, you’re that bit more exposed to the elements and the responsibility is all your own.
Where To Go
Get yourself a map and talk to local skiers, ski patrol and the lifties, these people know the resort inside out. If it’s your first time in resort, then spend a day or more with an instructor or guide getting comfortable with your surroundings, find out the routes that might suit your ability and learn about the recent history of the snow pack.
Know The Conditions
This doesn’t just mean the weather forecast. The snowpack is constantly changing, so a face that’s safe today, won’t necessarily be safe tomorrow.
We’ve spent some time working on our own backcountry ski skills over the last few years, here are a few of our favourite routes to get you started.