Fourteener skis?

Info, conditions and gear related to skiing or riding Colorado Peaks, including the 14ers!
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Postby lordhelmut » Thu May 24, 2007 2:35 pm


I too have kind of recently grown an interest for skiing in the backcountry. First off, start with the easier terrain and work your way up gradually and I'd recomend going with someone in your early stages who knows how to scout out a face/slope that is susceptible to avalanches.

Second, unless you know how to teleski, the other best way to do it is get AT (alpine touring) gear, which is expensive as s**t but worth it in the end, cause it makes a life a lot easier. I've tried hauling my alpine gear up on my shoulders and it really sucks. I got some black diamond skiis (good for corn snow) for 80$ a steal, but paid about 200$ for AT boots, 275$ for AT bindings(and these were considered decent deals) and borrow skins from my cousin (which usually go for 100-150, but you can get them cheaper). Also, its probably a good idea to invest in some avalanche gear (beacon, probe and shovel) which is another 300$ for the set (I rent mine each time since I only went about 3-4 times this year to ski, you can rent at Bentgate in Golden for 16$ for the whole weekend).

This is just a general overview, there are others on this forum who know about a trillion times more than me about all this stuff, but thats the gear you need and how much it costs atleast. Nevertheless, its a lot of fun, hell of a lot more fun than a resort and an experience hard to describe, you just have to get out there and do it. Have a good one.

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Postby MJKeenan » Thu May 24, 2007 2:40 pm

I thought for a while about how to answer your questions, but I think the best thing for you is to start here:


Proper snow safety training is really important, not to mention the gear involved (beacon, probe, shovel, etc.). It's a lot more than just having the proper equipment and going for it. That said, I HIGHLY recommend backcountry skiing.

Best of luck
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Postby rsincavage » Thu May 24, 2007 2:47 pm

Some places rent AT gear (Neptune's in Boulder comes to mind- also Wilderness Sports in Silverthorne)- rent some for a weekend, try it out, and make sure you like it (you most likely will!) before dropping all that $$$. Spring is a great time to try it out- avalanche conditions are (generally) safer, although you need to watch for wet slides. If/when you get your own gear, make sure the boots are comfortable as you will likely do a fair amount of hiking in them (they are surprisingly good for this).

Quandary's east face is a great 1st timer route to try out- not super steep, but nice and long (you'll appreciate that after hauling all that gear up the hill!). "Front Range Descents" by Haddad and Faughy is a great guide to some nearby spring and summer skiing. Dawson and a few others have put out guide books for Colorado as well.

Have fun!
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Postby jeffro » Thu May 24, 2007 2:50 pm

Just a couple things to consider…

Realize that the slopes at a resort are monitored and controlled. Slopes in the backcountry are wild. Ski mountaineering snow conditions are extremely variable, ranging from wind hardened sastrugi to breakable crust to slide prone powder to velvet spring corn.

Lordhelmut’s recommendation of avy gear is a good one, but it’ll do you no good without avy awareness training, avy rescue training and a good partner who also has the gear and has had the training. Please learn about avalanches…no one wants to get slid or buried.

Remember that in ski mountaineering, you’ll spend most of your day going up and then you get one long run down. It quite different from skiing at the resorts in that regard.

Be safe and have fun!

Climb what you love and love what you climb!!
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Postby BillMiddlebrook » Thu May 24, 2007 2:51 pm

I too always ponder how to answer this question because backcountry skiing requires so many different skills and equipment options. Check out these links, too:

And, of course, do some thorough reading on Lou Dawson's site:
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Postby tmahon » Thu May 24, 2007 2:54 pm

rather than go into all the details here you might want to go into the local outdoor/ski/climbing shop and tell them what you said and then can show you whats involved.
there are lots of choices as to weight, performance, price etc. and there is no single absolute best package. to see it all in person first will be more helpful than to discuss in words.

its a ton of fun to ski down a peak you've climbed- you should give it a try
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rent it first

Postby mtnbikerskierchick » Thu May 24, 2007 3:28 pm

I second tmahon's idea of going to a shop and finding out. Bent Gate in Golden comes first to mind although I do admit having quite a few problems with them in the past involving my own skis. But they do know their stuff. They can show you the gear and rent it to you as well. Neptune's in Boulder works as well.

AT gear is expensive for sure. It's best you rent it before commiting to it. Another option is that you mount your skis with an AT binding but use your regular alpine boots. I did this for quite awhile before I got a full AT set up. This way you only need to buy new bindings and skins for your skis. Don't get Silveretta bindings. They will only frustrate you. Go with Naxo or Fristchi.

I highly recommend reading up on avalanche safety ("How to stay alive in Avalanche Terrain" and "Snow Sense" are good books) and taking an avalanche course. They usually offer those in December through March or so. Having the avy gear is one thing (don't go out w/o a shovel, beacon, probe), but it's worthless if you don't know how to use it. More important is that you know how make wise choices in your route to avoid avy danger in the first place. All of this can be expensive, but remember, it's worth it for the sake of making wiser choices that will most likely ultimately save your life.

I also second the idea that you go w/ someone who can show you the ropes a bit. They can give you techniques in how to use your skins more effectively and also in route-finding. Maybe they will give you insight as to how they plan a trip based on the weather, ect. too.

Remember, Colorado has one of the most dangerous snowpacks anywhere in the US. Educate yourself on it. Then go out and enjoy it!
"The greatest thing in life is doing what people say you cannot do."
--Walter Bagehot
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Postby jwproulx » Thu May 24, 2007 3:52 pm

After the safety issues, which are of foremost importance, you should think of what kind of skiing you want to be doing. Backcountry skiing is not one single activity, but a broad range. Do you want to do easy ppring corn on moderate slopes? Winter hut tours? Extreme big mountain lines down couloirs or cliffy faces? Snow-season mountain climbs with some skiing mixed in (perhaps for the approach)? All backcountry gear is a compromise between weight, functionality, and versatility. I have telemark gear, and I see is as having mediocre performance, but useful for pretty much all of these activities. Other gear may be better, but also more expensive, or heavier. I would suggest trying out various setups and seeing what suits you best. No matter what you do, it's a lot of work, but really worth it. Have fun!
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Postby BillMiddlebrook » Thu May 24, 2007 4:13 pm


You mentioned you have been reading the ski trip reports... Just be careful not to judge a 14er ski route based solely on what you see in a trip report. There are exceptional bc skiers that post on this site, TGR, SummitPost... you have to know your limitations. As lordhelmut said, start with a known "easy" route but keep in mind that it may not be easy (at first) for you. Also, don't take those first few routes lightly. The East Ridge on Quandary can be a pleasant corn run one day and frustrating crust the next. So, "easy" is relative.

Also, to start, there are plenty of other non-14er locations that are more accessible, shorter, and will give you a good taste of skiing in the backcountry.
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Postby skier25 » Thu May 24, 2007 5:46 pm

I'd say that all the avy training is required (you know how dangerous it is). Also, it's mandatory that you ski with avy savvy people (sorry). Start early and make sure you can ski hardpack, ice, corn, and powder without falling because as the day wears on, conditions change (I think it's a little bit too late for any real powder...). Preparedness is the key. Never go outside your personal boundaries; only you know what you can handle. Make sure to have an ice axe, and make sure you know how to use it because it's useless if you don't. Before heading out, get a couple practice sessions in at the various passes. (Loveland, Berthoud) These are important so you can get a feel for all the techniques you will be using. I mean, when you buy a tent, you don't pay for it then immediately go on a backpacking trip; you set it up first in your yard to see if it will work! :D
I get acute mountain sickness when I am away from the mountains.
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Postby gb » Thu May 24, 2007 6:34 pm

You've gotten a lot of good advice here. Take a course, get the avie gear, and go w/ people who know. As others have said, you better feel confident in lots of different snow conditions.

One other cheap way to get into it is to stick with your alpine set-up and buy skins and alpine trekkers. You could get a used pair of trekkers for cheap on ebay. They have drwbacks, they are heavy, they can break, but you can bc ski with the skis and boots you are familiar with and start out cheaply. (Alpine trekkers snap into your regular alpine bindings and allow your heel to be free like a cross-country ski on the way up. Get to the top, click the trekkers out, and click into your alpine bindings as normal)
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Postby Bean » Thu May 24, 2007 7:24 pm

If you go the tele route, I suggest spending a season in a resort learning the ropes. I took it up this year, and I've been doing a decent job of killing it this spring. Quandary, James, Dead Dog, a few shorter tours, and ending it this weekend on Missouri.

It's a blast, go for it.

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