For the avid resort skier and snowboarder, getting out in the backcountry seems like all you need is safety gear, a class and touring gear and you’re good to go! While we would love for that to be the case, it does take a little more to be a happy backcountry skier/snowboarder. And, the more you dive into the little details the better experience you are going to have. While the descent down is always amazing (that’s the main reason why we do this), you have to remember that you will be spending much more time hiking up to the top of the mountain than riding down it.
Here are a few things that will make you happier with your ski tour
Sunglasses: Don’t hike with goggles! Always sunglasses for the way up. Forgetting sunglasses can be as bad as forgetting your goggles on a blower powder day at the resort. It can be very bright touring on wide open snowfields and not having sunglasses can be very damaging to your eyes. And, if you have interchangeable lenses, switching to a yellow or clear lens on snowy or windy days will make your eyes much happier.
Gloves: Always at least 2 pairs. Bring one thin pair for touring and one pair for riding. Some people like to throw in a third extra warm set of puffy mitts in case it’s really cold out.
Hat: A sunhat is nice for both snow and sun. Sometimes any additional shade that you can give yourself will help out a lot in the long run.
Puffy jacket: These are nice because they can be your mid layer instead of using a heavier traditional mid layer that doesn’t pack down. Even on warmer spring days, it’s nice to have a puffy in your pack in case it’s cool and breezy at the top of the mountain. Check out Patagonia’s Micro Puff Jacket
Gore-tex full zip or side zip pants: No insulation here. When you are on the hike up you want to be as ventilated as possible. If you are hiking and sweating your body is working twice as hard to cool you down. Check out Patagonia’s Triolet Pants
Gore-tex Jacket with pit zips: Same idea as the pants but you want a jacket that will either pack down to stuff inside your pack or that can strap onto the outside of it without getting in your way. If its sunny out, chances are you are not touring with a jacket on. Check out Patagonia’s Ascensionist Jacket
Goggles: This is the time to switch out the sunny day lenses to something more universal to lower light. If you are going for cold snow it’s going to be on north facing aspects that will be shady. If you are out for the corn harvest, stay with the sunny day lenses!
Sunscreen: Don’t forget the sunscreen! Even on cloudy days you can still get burned.
Baclava: Assuming that you wear a helmet, these can double as a hat if its cold and also fit under your helmet if its really cold.
Emergency Kit: Your emergency kit should include not only some medical stuff just in case, but things that you need to fix your gear like: extra screws, bolts, zip ties, G3 Tension Straps, duct tape, and anything that you think you may need to rig your gear up to get you out of the backcountry if you have to. An inReach is nice, too, not just for emergencies, but for also alerting friends or family that you will be running late because you needed to score 1 more powder run before sunset.
Skin Wax: Yes, you need to wax your skins, too. If you are going out after a fresh snowfall and its sunny, skins tend to glob up. Rubbing a little wax on the bottom of your skins can help reduce the glob and the slog for that matter. If you remember before you head out, wiping the top sheets down with a little Rain-X can help with snow sticking to the tops of your skis or snowboard, too. G3 Skin Wax
Small Plastic Scraper: It can be difficult to get the ice off of the top and bottom of your skis sometimes. For a splitboarder, ice on the topsheet can make it feel impossible to get the board back together. Ice on the bottom feels like velcro on the snow. A little plastic scraper can eliminate a lot of frustrations out there.
Pocket Knife: You never know when you are going to hit a rock and render your ski or snowboard virtually unskiable. Having a knife to clean up a core shot on your base can be the difference from having a bad day to wanting to take a few more laps.
Water: A full nalgene of water or some sort of water canister that is leak proof and reliably leak proof.
Snacks: You can never have too many snacks out there. You’re burning a lot of calories and you don’t want to skimp with a light lunch.
Backpack: You want a backpack that comfortably fits all your gear with a separate avalanche safety gear pocket. Don’t get something too huge or it will get sloppy on your back when you are skiing, but you do want everything to fit inside it for the descent down. You don’t want to have gear strapped to the outside of your pack or that will turn into missing gear. Preferably a pack with an A-frame ski carry. Other types of ski and snowboard carries on backpacks are nice but an A-Frame keeps the weight closer to your core and reduces the pull of skis or a snowboard on your shoulders and back. Not that you have intensions of boot packing but sometimes you need to walk a rocky ridge or a road when you get to the bottom. Check out Osprey’s Sopris 30