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BackCountry/Uphill/AT/Touring - skiing support thread for newbs!

DeweySki

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
dlove's comment about gloves is spot on. You will get warm on the up, and the idea is to stay as dry as reasonable. I wear a pair of wool liner gloves for the up, then my heavy gloves for the descent. I like Hestra's with the trigger finger--warmth of a mitten with the dexterity of gloves. If it's windy during the climb, I typically also have a pair of softshell gloves by OR that I love--they block the wind but keep your hand reasonably warm. So I tend to carry 3 pairs of gloves--sometimes 4 (2 pairs of liners in case one gets soaked, they weigh nothing). I also carry an extremely warm down jacket that I use during transitions and then keep for emergencies only. It packs into a small pillow size, and fits just fine into my pack. For the weight and warmth, it beats synthetic. I use synthetic (the Atom LT jacket and a hardshell) to ski in.
+1 to a lot of this.
I also tend to carry 3 pairs of gloves--liners, lightweight gore-tex, and full leather. That essentially gives me 5 different combinations of warmth + some spares.
like @TeleChica I have been wearing my Atom LT and then carrying my Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer (800 down fill I think), which packs up super small, for emergencies and "just-in-case" warmth. At EVERY avalanche awareness session/class I have been to, the instructors have emphasized the importance of carrying an extra puffy jacket.
 

Ringrat

Angel Diva
Yep, my down is always in my pack. Rarely do I wear it except when I'm stopped for a long break (a.k.a. lunch), but I never go without it. I also carry a ton of stuff most people don't, since I'm a SAR member and mostly ski with SAR members. We try to remember to share the gear, but it would be very rare to find our group without a stove, shelter-building materials, fairly extensive first aid gear, etc. For handwear I carry 2 pairs of liners (they get wet), and then a set of mitts that are a waterproof shell and also a warm, poofy liner mitt.

I was reminded during my 3 days of touring this weekend just how out of shape I am!!
 

echo_NY

Angel Diva
i went uphill again this weekend, another 1700 ft but it took longer b/c we had some falls. i had planned to go Sat Sun and Mon but it was pouring on Thu and Fri and conditions on Sat were way too icy, and Sun was also quite icy. so we set out on Mon. both the hubs and i fell on an icy patch. i lost about 15 ft or so, he lost about 6. i had stepped and it seemed to hold - but when i put my weight on it, it didn't, and i slipped b/c it was such a drastic movement it dislodged my other foot. in any case, it was scary. i'm glad i stopped but it was hard to get skis in place against the hill b/c the heels weren't connected. i decided i really really hate falling.

i did get to try a kick turn and was able to execute but boy did i feel very strange/exposed while doing it. i know what you mean if a kick turn going wrong is scary.

in any case, all scary things aside, i was pretty stoked to go up hill on some steep stuff and try it out. i would prefer easy blue stuff to go uphill on. i really do not want to go up any steep stuff but i imagine it's the only way to access some things so having that knowledge is good. i just don't think i'm ready for it - at least not yet. i don't know.

while we were going down, hubs had a mishap with his new AT skis and boots. while making an aggressive turn, a ski popped off. i'm thinking his din settings weren't set appropriately. so he had both a fall on the uphill and on the downhill too. i helped him retrieve his ski.

my transition at the top was more measured and well thought out - so was the packing of my stuff prior to that. so i was pleased with that. but i was still slow on the transition as i was figuring things out. it was hard b/c it was windy and about 3F at the base, so i imagine even colder when we were at the top. just not ideal conditions for learning how to transition well. we were at a really flat spot so i didn't have to practice transitioning on a hill but i'm sure i will need to know how to do this in time. i have to review all your notes to make sure i got this right!

one thing i noticed, i do not like my skis on corduroy or groomed runs. but on fluffy new snow (which we got fresh tracks on) it is awesome. it's just lightweight so very chattery on groomers.
 

echo_NY

Angel Diva
i'm practicing trial runs at my home mountain - downhill - where hubs teaches and where LO and i have seasonal programs (downhill) - Hunter. however i am doing an AIARE course in Stevens Pass / Leavenworth area this weekend and early next week!
 

skiwest

Certified Ski Diva
A few notes (mostly gear-oriented) from my recent AIARE Level 1 class in Tahoe:

- It was raining almost the entire time (and there wasn't much snow to begin with), which made conditions very challenging. On the second day, we did a short tour (more of a meadow skip than anything) and then on the third, we did a pretty rough tour that involved bootpacking in the mud and lots and lots of rocks and branches. Quite the introduction to backcountry skiing, but it was still fun in a Type II way.
- I was pleased with the performance of my Marker Baron bindings. Although they are quite heavy and I could really feel it on the uphill, transitions were smooth and I didn't have any problems like others in my group who had tech bindings did.
- I was also pleased with my Black Diamond skins. One came off the tip at one point, but other than that, they held up well in the wet conditions and did their job on the uphill. They also dried out overnight with no problems.
- I wore a Smartwood 250-weight baselayer and an Eddie Bauer shell on the uphill and was very hot despite temps at or above freezing (and with windchill in day 3). I would tour in the 150 weight baselayer next time with the shell or use the 250 weight without the shell (not an option on this tour because of the rain).
- My legs were also hot in silk-weight Patagonia long underwear and regular North Face pants (resort-oriented - can't remember the model). I will probably try to replace these eventually - any recs?
- I used a rental Black Diamond Dawn Patrol pack and was pleased with it. The helmet carry attachment was useful and I was able to A-frame my skis easily. However, my clothes in the gear pocket did get wet from shoving my skins in there. Are there any packs with dedicated pockets for skins out there?
- I didn't carry them on me, but having extra gloves was ESSENTIAL. My gloves got soaked the first day and if I hadn't had a spare pair ready to go for the second, I would have been miserable. I would definitely prioritize gloves when packing for a multi-day tour. My helmet, socks, buff, jacket, and everything else got soaked too and didn't entirely dry out, but it was easier to make those work on day 3.

Would love any gear recs for pants or packs as noted above!

ETA: I was less than pleased with my Rossignol Temptation 100 skis. I think they're just too long and wide for me - they weren't nimble, it was hard to make quick turns on the sketchy downhill, and they weren't responsive in the wet, heavy snow. I'm not looking for miracles in bad conditions, but I definitely skied better on my older skis.
 

DRG

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
So much good advice here . . . not sure if I'll be adding anything new or just repeating what is already here, but I love chatting with other beginner backcountry ladies! 2014/2015 season was my first backcountry ever - I was living in Telluride that season and had more than 100 days on skis in high altitude terrain - most of my BC experience came after the lifts stopped turning. In fact - we did a 5 state drive over the first two weeks of May and did at least a short tour almost every day (Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana). I think I learned more of what I know about backcountry in those 2 weeks than I did the rest of the season!

Clothing: I've seen several tips on gloves already. I like to have at least 2. I go bare-handed uphill on bluebird days, liners if my hands get cold and then switch to some of my good leathers for downhill. If you end up investing in a hardshell pant, make sure to get some with zipper vents. Even if small - they make a huge difference for me on the way up. Same goes with the jacket. I always throw a warm headband in my pocket - I get too hot to wear a full hat or helmet on the way up, but my ears are always cold - this gives me warm ears without overheating - and they take up almost no space

Tools: Carry a leatherman or some kind of utility knife/tool in your pack (even if your partners have them - at least have a small one for yourself.) These can be lifesavers! One example for me was on a really cold day. It was a long uphill skin and when it came time to transition, ice had worked its way into part of my binding so firmly that it would not go back into ski mode. I had to use my knife like an icepick for about 15 minutes to get it clear. Tip of ski pole was way too big to do the job. While thinking about tools - never hurts to have ducktape - a small section in your pack or a wrap on one of the ski poles works.

Tips: Do as much practice as possible in places where the failure penalties are low so that things seem more natural when you get out on wild snow. Play with binding transitions in the living room. Practice steep angle kick turns - I've even done it in random places near the parking lot just to get the sensation. I have a fear of heights and these still give me a bit of vertigo in the wild! Try breaking trail every so often to see the difference in energy output when leading versus following. Pay attention to where you are - I have an excellent sense of direction but it is easy to get confused on a long day with blowing snow and low light. Don't let your skins get wet on the way up! If you see snow pushing underneath, pay attention - once they are wet, you're done. I learned the hard way - which included having to post-hole through waist deep snow for a half hour. (Almost every tip I give is related to some "learned the hard way" experience!)

Figure out when you need to switch from skinning to bootpacking because of the steepness. And practice bootpacking with skis on your shoulder. Sometimes the summit requires it - and doing it on a steep face can play with your balance.

Don't worry about your speed - based on your numbers, you'd already be faster than me! I'm slow up on the uphill - and I've gotten comfortable with that fact.

Most of all - have fun!
 

DRG

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Oh - I forgot to mention. I use Gecko skins. I have two sets that I can use on three different pairs of my skis. love them - they are so easy to get on and off without having to put muscle into it. Some people aren't crazy about them - and the only weakness I have found is that their tip/tail connectors are not great. But if you have a good shop - they can swap the connectors out with some traditional metal ones.
 

WaterGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Anyone have suggestions for adjustable poles with a smaller grip for small hands?
 

elemmac

Angel Diva
- My legs were also hot in silk-weight Patagonia long underwear and regular North Face pants (resort-oriented - can't remember the model). I will probably try to replace these eventually - any recs?

I've found that having vents on the inner leg and the outer leg fairly mandatory when hiking, and shell pants are definitely preferable. I have two pairs of Flylow pants that I absolutely adore; the Nina pant, and the Baker bib (men's). Both have a huge zip on the outside leg (with two direction zippers), and a good size vent on the inside. Neither have any type of mesh, so the ventilation is incredible.

- I used a rental Black Diamond Dawn Patrol pack and was pleased with it. The helmet carry attachment was useful and I was able to A-frame my skis easily. However, my clothes in the gear pocket did get wet from shoving my skins in there. Are there any packs with dedicated pockets for skins out there?

I've had a Osprey Kode pack for the past...6ish years. It has a back panel entry to the main compartment, easy to get into without removing skis, and allows you to get into your pack without putting the straps/belt and back in the snow. The front has a separate compartment for wet gear, avalanche safety gear and other items you don't want touching your dry clothes. Has a nice helmet carry as well as a fleece goggle pocket. Carries ski diagonally or in an Aframe, also carries snowboards vertically (mandatory feature for my needs). Has an internal reservoir pocket, and an insulated sleeve to help your hose from freezing. Mine is a 30L, which was the only one they made at that time; I believe they make the pack in multiple sizes now. Highly recommend.

Anyone have suggestions for adjustable poles with a smaller grip for small hands?

I've been using Armada's TL adjustable carbon pole for the past couple seasons, no complaints. Super light. I would say the grips are on the smaller side, but fairly average. They also have an extended grip, so just below the normal grip is also padded...really helps if you're hiking on various levels of steepness, you just slide your hands down instead of adjusting them.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Anyone have suggestions for adjustable poles with a smaller grip for small hands?
I have adjustable poles that are for women. No problem with the grips. They are REI brand since I'm not using them for BC, but just short hikes in-bounds.

Have tried basic junior poles for resort skiing and those don't fit as well. The poles themselves are skinnier and so are the grips so I have to close my hand more than with adult poles.
 

echo_NY

Angel Diva
i am using my husband's old stuff and some new stuff he got for me. also using black diamond adjustable poles. they are heavy! but apparently one of the lightest ones on the market.

so i just got back from Steven's pass. it was amazing. it snowed each day i was there (Fri - Tue) and stormed yesterday as we toured. the snow was seriously coming down. they have a 100 inch snowpack right now and with today's dump it's sure to climb another 10+ inches (they had 1 to 1.5 inches of precip forecasted which would translate to about 10 inches of snow roughly). who knows, maybe even 20+ !

so sorry @skiwest that the course was rainy! i think it helped that i did some uphill practice at the resort to just get used to what layers i actually need.

it turns out i really needed that hardshell pant in the cascades. it was SO snowy and wet that anything else would have been miserable. i'm glad i followed their advice despite knowing that softshell pants would work for most other places and days on hill. nope, not at steven's. you need a hardshell in January.

AIARE level 1 was quite a lot. i was really glad with the school i went to. it allowed for lots of bathroom breaks, a dinner break and some other things. the instructors were really great. going out in the field was helpful too, as well as practicing companion rescue. i did companion rescue alone, then in a group of 3 two different times. then in a group of 6 once at the end. it was eye opening - although i've done it before a backcountry tour in Jackson hole, it's not the same thing as taking the course i would say. in the field we took a look at terrain and would evaluate the hazards as well as taking into account the avy problems for the day.

Then later in my long weekend, while touring, i learned to read the forecast and lay out the avy problems for the day, which aspects and types. then learned to plan a route based off the avy forecast (to not enter avy territory). then we'd take weather obs while touring. there was storm slab risk everywhere b/c it had been dumping for several days so we were always testing the snowpack and doing a weather observation in our blue books - also evaluating terrain, say taking out an inclinamator to check slope angles.

transitions, apparently i complicate things by doing too much or fiddling with too much. the less to do the easier my life is. also the faster we move and the more we get to do. we got some great powder runs. it was amazing. as we traversed on ridges well below treeline it was really eye opening to see the guide pick safe routes to access safe terrain. there's so much i need to learn. he had to break trail quite a bit b/c there was just snow everywhere. we'd circle back to do the same run maybe pick a different line, and the snow had already buried our track.

one thing is clear, i need more experience skiing various types of snow. crust, powder, just everything. i have mostly soft snow and groomer experience and not much else. after this long weekend i now have powder experience. but it's not easy to learn when you have a pack on you! i realized the pack makes a huge difference, it can easily make your day miserable if you have a pack that doesn't fit you. also packing it / not over-packing it is super important. but making sure you have everything you need.

i've decided that i want a bag with separate compartment for the skins + shovel + probe, and another compartment for stuff like headlamp, skin wax, extra gloves, food, water. also a bag that fits me. i was using hubs' 45L mammut pack that he used to climb mt. rainier. it kept hitting me in the back of my head... not really ideal!!!

i also dropped my skins in the snow by mistake. i just wasn't thinking. but there's a way to warm up the glue and get the snow off - warm it by "scraping" it on your butt. the hardshell pant scrapes snow off for you and it warms up the glue as well. my husband taught me to scrape it against the ski edge, but the guide i was with said that it scrapes off the glue too which you don't want. it worked well! afterward, also pressing that skin onto the ski totally helped.

thanks @DRG and everyone for your learned tips and advice. this is all really helpful.

i also brought ski crampons but didn't need it. i haven't bootpacked with skis, but i've done it before at Jackson Hole with a snowboard.

i don't remember what skins i have but they're red white and blue with a 3 in the name. the connectors to the ski are really great and easy to get on and off. i like it. my husband and the ski guide have black diamond skins. it's not as good with the attachments as much but they tend to last longer (the glue lasts longer).
 

echo_NY

Angel Diva
Would love any gear recs for pants or packs as noted above!
i got the arcteryx theta SV. they are a lot, they cost more than my course and one of my days on hill with the guide! but they performed so well. really light weight and not warm. they run much colder than a resort pant. when i went to try things, i also really liked the shashuka pant, but it's not as burly/weather protectant as the theta SV. i got a bib pant b/c in snowy conditions, you don't want the snow getting inside...!

as for skis, i have the moment balance touring skis with light rocker. they were so floaty and fun and they are SUPER light to go uphill with. i would recommend.
 

DeweySki

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Anyone have suggestions for adjustable poles with a smaller grip for small hands?
I asked for and got these for xmas: https://www.rei.com/product/872080/black-diamond-trail-pro-shock-trekking-poles-pair-womens

I don’t remember where I had read about them, maybe here, but decided on them after some research. The handles are definitely smaller dimension both I length and circumference. I haven’t used them on a BC trip yet because of course my SO forgot his adjustable poles on our first trip out after the holidays, so I let him use My brand new poles and I took my fixed-length inbounds poles. Freaking snowboarders!
 

WaterGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Wondering if I should start another thread about specific back country set up/ skis/ boots? i.e. whats your set up? Im trying to find narrow 98 last boots for low volume feet and demoing skis -- not going to be scarpa thats for sure!
 

elemmac

Angel Diva
Wondering if I should start another thread about specific back country set up/ skis/ boots? i.e. whats your set up? Im trying to find narrow 98 last boots for low volume feet and demoing skis -- not going to be scarpa thats for sure!

Depending on how narrow of a foot you're talking about...the Salomon Women's Mtn. Explorer, is narrow and very low volume. I have a low volume foot, but I guess they're not THAT low volume, because the Explorer was too tight when I tried it. I ended up with the Dalbello Lupo AX 110 W, even though my alpine boots are a 98 last...this 100 last fit me quite well, a little extra room in the toe box (which I like for hiking), but perfectly snug in the heel.
 

WaterGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
..the Salomon Women's Mtn. Explorer, is narrow and very low volume.

Going to try the Salomon hopefully next weekend. I was in Scarpa F1 which I didn't realize had a 102 last. I was skiing very "balanced" to say the least. Demo wise, its either Scarpa which has wide last, sportiva which didn't seem to be a good match or the Salomon (hope they still have in my size).

My research found the Salomon, the Tecnica Zero G (99) Atomic Backland W or Hawk Ultra XTD (98) are the more narrow lasted boots.
Anyone know of others?

I'm currently in last years Tecnica Mach 1 LV 22.5 with minor tweaks. I can get into DD's Hawk Ultra 22.5 but I would need a few punches for sure. I think the 23.5 would work better. Of course they are sold out of the XTD, not sure they have a Backland I can try on. I can also try on the Tecnica Zero G, and Dynafit TLT7

Dalbello Lupo AX 110 W
I did see this as an option also - do you remove the tongue for uphill?

Of course now I'm spoiled with the weight of the F1.... would like light weight w/ more focus on down hill, and concerned 90 flex of some boots too soft.
 
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elemmac

Angel Diva
I did see this as an option also - do you remove the tongue for uphill?

I just got them this year, so have only skied them on the resort a couple times thus far. Due to the nature of east coast conditions currently, I don't foresee going uphill anywhere off resort anytime soon :frown:. Really hoping February bring some snow. I do plan on removing them for hikes...they're really easy to remove and the range of movement without the tongue is incredible. For really short jaunts, I could see just leaving them in too, as the range of motion is still decent.
 

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