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Moving from Resort skiing to backcountry and skiing 14ers

Info, conditions and gear related to skiing or riding Colorado Peaks, including the 14ers! Ski/Ride Trip Reports
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Re: Moving from Resort skiing to backcountry and skiing 14er

Postby RoanMtnMan » Fri Aug 03, 2012 2:25 am

Wow! So given your open admission of ability (a great first step overlooked by many) and then reading the responses, I am guessing that you are feeling a bit overwhelmed. Depending on your personality, perhaps you are even giving up on the idea? Well don't. People over complicate backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering generally. Education is very important to safety but you don't need to read all summer and then spend your entire backcountry ski budget on classes and guides to lay your first skin track. There are numerous 14ers and countless backcountry slopes to have great backcountry fun on in CO without putting yourself in anymore harm than hiking Quandary on a sunny August morning. I would confidently throw a blue square sign up on several 14er descent routes, biodegradable of course. And by the way, most slopes labelled as a "blue square" at CO resorts are not steep enough to avalanche. Which leads to, how do we know what a blue square slope is if there isn't a sign?

The absolute basics are that to have loads of fun and gain experience you need to learn two skills, terrain selection and backcountry travel techniques. The above mentioned books all talk about these, but my opinion is that a day or two of field training from a paid or unpaid pro is much more valuable. An Avy I class will show you these skills and give you the tools to safely have winters of fun. Avy II will reinforce your Avy I skills, allow you to safely enter more dangerous terrain, plus help you to understand the science of how snowpacks develop and when/why they want to hurt us at times. However, my opinion is that Avy II is a waste, unless you have logged at least two seasons of backcountry skiing days (30-60) using Avy I skills.

If you have more questions, please feel free to PM me. I can give you contact info for certified Avy teachers and guides that I personally respect, trust, and call friends. Though to be clear, I have no financial interest in.
Always follow the 7 P's. Proper Planning & Preparation, Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

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Re: Moving from Resort skiing to backcountry and skiing 14er

Postby rickinco123 » Fri Aug 03, 2012 10:15 am

RoanMtnMan wrote:The absolute basics are that to have loads of fun and gain experience you need to learn two skills, terrain selection and backcountry travel techniques.

I just want to reinforce this, there is terrain that cannot slide and ways to get there without crossing terrain that will slide. Intermediate skiing can get the job done. Nice post.
Last edited by rickinco123 on Fri Aug 03, 2012 10:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Moving from Resort skiing to backcountry and skiing 14er

Postby rickinco123 » Fri Aug 03, 2012 11:03 am

Why must people bring that one up?

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Re: Moving from Resort skiing to backcountry and skiing 14er

Postby nkan02 » Fri Aug 03, 2012 11:06 am

RoanMtnMan wrote:I would confidently throw a blue square sign up on several 14er descent routes, biodegradable of course. And by the way, most slopes labelled as a "blue square" at CO resorts are not steep enough to avalanche.

Will it be possible to mark those 14er routes here for future reference? Would be very much appreciated. [-o<

To the OP - coming off from my first year in the BC, here are my initial thoughts. There is a steep learning curve - when you first buy your AT setup, it seems almost impossible to make things work and have fun in the process. However, after a few painfully frustrating trips, equipment seems to start getting dialed in. Skill level is an entirely different story. There seem to be a large gap between resorts (black diamond runs) and steep runs in the BC. I am a reasonably confident skier at the resorts (did Talons challenge at Beaver Creek this past season) but I did not think this prepared me enough for what to expect at the top of the steep chute – obviously, it did not help that the steep back bowl runs which I did a lot last year at A-Basin, Vail, etc – were roped off this season. A lot of it is mental – the parallel for me would be the experience of leading trad vs. top roping (with a competent belayer). In one case you are fully aware of the risks (i.e. the trailhead is 8 miles away and the nearest town is 20 miles away and you got to make this turn), and in the other case you are just having fun. I took the Avy1/AIARE1 and Ski Mountaineering classes (both with CMC) and they helped somewhat, mostly on the confidence level – as you hear and see a lot of dumb things that other people do in the BC and generally get away with it :)
It has frequently been noticed that all mountains appear doomed to pass through the three stages: An inaccessible peak - The most difficult ascent in the Alps - An easy day for a lady. Albert Frederick Mummery, My Climbs in the Alps and Caucasus

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Re: Moving from Resort skiing to backcountry and skiing 14er

Postby benners » Fri Aug 03, 2012 11:29 am

bklapth wrote:What is the best way to transition from being an advanced intermediate resort skier into backcountry skiing and ultimately skiing peaks and 14ers?


IMO there can't be enough said for finding good partners who know what they're doing. When I first started out, after I purchased the basic gear needed for a ski tour, I focused on finding a solid group of BC skiers that were stronger/better than I was. After successfully working my way into a group, I learned a ton and improved my skills dramatically just by being around them, asking questions, and getting out there on progressively harder stuff. If you combine getting out with experienced people with a personal commitment to learning everything you can on your own, you'll be on your way. Another piece of advice that maybe goes without saying: when you head out for your first peak, make it an easy one during a stable period so you can spend more time sussing out the basics of ski touring and less time worrying about terrain and timing.

As for skiing itself, I found that having solid fundamentals and leg strength are the main requirements for safely skiing difficult snow/terrain. I will be the first to admit that I'm nowhere near some of the skiers I ski with in terms of pure skill/ability to make it look easy, but at the same time I've been able to hold my own with them due to solid fundamentals. As others have said, practice basic turns (stem christie, jump turn, and even side sliding) in less than ideal snow (ice, crust, crud, etc) in order to build up skills that will translate to the difficult snow you'll likely find in the BC. Challenge yourself whenever possible when skiing inbounds and you'll find skiing in the BC to be much friendlier. And go skiing a lot too.

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Re: Moving from Resort skiing to backcountry and skiing 14er

Postby rickinco123 » Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:11 pm

To me the real lesson of that thread was that when someone tries to invite others into a life threatening situation, let's not be coy about it. Smack 'em down hard. A year or 2 after this there was another thread involving a hiker who was repeatedly putting people on here in danger and no one wanted to say what needed to be said.

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Re: Moving from Resort skiing to backcountry and skiing 14er

Postby RoanMtnMan » Fri Aug 03, 2012 1:04 pm

benners wrote:IMO there can't be enough said for finding good partners who know what they're doing. When I first started out, after I purchased the basic gear needed for a ski tour, I focused on finding a solid group of BC skiers that were stronger/better than I was. After successfully working my way into a group, I learned a ton and improved my skills dramatically just by being around them, asking questions, and getting out there on progressively harder stuff.


This is an important point Ben. I'll lay out what I think the progression steps should be.

1. Buy, borrow, or rent the gear. Spend as little as possible on your first setup because you will destroy it soon enough.
2. Take an Avy I class.
3. Integrate yourself into a more experienced group that have similar goals as yourself. Perhaps even classmates from Avy I.
4. Go log as many days as you can on what you learn to be the "safe terrain" in Avy I.

Then take the craft to whatever level you choose.
Always follow the 7 P's. Proper Planning & Preparation, Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

"An adventure is misery and discomfort, relived in the safety of reminiscence.” --Marco Polo

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Re: Moving from Resort skiing to backcountry and skiing 14er

Postby RoanMtnMan » Fri Aug 03, 2012 1:27 pm

rickinco123 wrote:To me the real lesson of that thread was that when someone tries to invite others into a life threatening situation, let's not be coy about it. Smack 'em down hard. A year or 2 after this there was another thread involving a hiker who was repeatedly putting people on here in danger and no one wanted to say what needed to be said.


I disagree. The real lesson is don't advertise your mistakes on the internet unless you are willing to pay the price. I know the argument that it educates others, which has validity and certainly is a sign of either tremendous courage or a lack of forethought. I also fully recognize the multitude of mistakes that he made, as I am sure he does now. But I have yet to meet an experienced outdoor adventurer that doesn't have at least one or two stories of the like on their record. What keeps a lot of us out of future troubles is the "I will never do that again" moments. However most of us are smart enough to never post them on the internet. To me, the benefit of sharing my bonehead rides up learning curves isn't worth people ridiculing me 3 years down the road. It's also a partner limiting move.

When I see people so fervently pick on the outdoor mistakes of others, my first thoughts are they must quickly forget their own, or they probably haven't spent much time broadening their ability and risk horizons.
Always follow the 7 P's. Proper Planning & Preparation, Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

"An adventure is misery and discomfort, relived in the safety of reminiscence.” --Marco Polo

www.CalebWrayPhotography.com

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Re: Moving from Resort skiing to backcountry and skiing 14er

Postby rickinco123 » Fri Aug 03, 2012 1:55 pm

RoanMtnMan wrote:
rickinco123 wrote:But I have yet to meet an experienced outdoor adventurer that doesn't have at least one or two stories of the like on their record.

Do they usually then go find someone to go out and repeat it with them? I'm sure there are people who read these threads that would have been ready to head out there with him. Who cares about some ones ego under that circumstance?
Last edited by rickinco123 on Fri Aug 03, 2012 2:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Moving from Resort skiing to backcountry and skiing 14er

Postby lordhelmut » Fri Aug 03, 2012 2:27 pm

A lot of good points in here.

I'd say, atleast for me, I've felt the most comfortable in the backcountry when I think back on the inbounds/out of bounds and have to really think hard about the # of times I fell (based on user error). Having confidence, along with knowledge, is extremely important. Don't think you are "above" inbounds/resort skiing, there is always room to get better. More times than not, you'll run in to some guy who will only ski backcountry, and say so with a tone that makes it sound like they are too good for resort skiing. Resort skiing, despite the crowds and the prices, is essential for your improvement. You can't gain that doing 200 foot laps at Berthoud Pass.

Get a pass, doesn't matter which one, get to the point where you can ski any run at any mountain and with confidence, and then transition your skills to the backcountry. And yeah, go with people who are experienced.

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Re: Moving from Resort skiing to backcountry and skiing 14er

Postby RoanMtnMan » Fri Aug 03, 2012 3:24 pm

rickinco123 wrote:
RoanMtnMan wrote:
rickinco123 wrote:But I have yet to meet an experienced outdoor adventurer that doesn't have at least one or two stories of the like on their record.

Do they usually then go find someone to go out and repeat it with them? I'm sure there are people who read these threads that would have been ready to head out there with him. Who cares about some ones ego under that circumstance?


I've played the internet climbing partner game just like many others, sometimes I have met lifelong friends and other times I call it a day 10 minutes from the TH. Unless you are guided your choices and actions in the backcountry fall solely on your own shoulders. If one can't figure out that the person they are with is about to get them into a bad spot, then they would likely make the exact same mistake on their own. Who is the greater bonehead, the guy that walks off of a cliff or the guy that follows him? I don't need a TR to figure out if someone doesn't know what they are doing. I also don't see the benefit of harping on someone's mistakes "for the betterment of others". If one feels that they want to better or protect others in the outdoor community then they should volunteer their spare time to one of the many outdoor education programs available to both kids and adults. Seems a lot more constructive than pointing out that Mr. Waffles made some very inexperienced decisions 3 years ago at age 19.

Nothing personal rickinco, just differing opinions I guess.

Back on topic, education is the key to safety out there. Go get that Avy I class and enjoy the powder.
Always follow the 7 P's. Proper Planning & Preparation, Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

"An adventure is misery and discomfort, relived in the safety of reminiscence.” --Marco Polo

www.CalebWrayPhotography.com

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Re: Moving from Resort skiing to backcountry and skiing 14er

Postby rickinco123 » Fri Aug 03, 2012 3:56 pm

Nothing personal taken. I would prefer that post not be dredged up, its painful, albeit funny, to read. I just think if someone posts "I'm going to walk off a cliff this weekend, wanna join me?" there should be some negative feedback. This is a public forum that is read by non-members ( like me for about 2 years ) as well and I wouldn't count on every reader being aware of how dangerous the situation was. I would feel pretty bad if someone like that found a partner who was then injured. An uninformed person could have reasoned that because the area already slid it was now relatively safe to retrieve the skis. The fact that he was even able to go back and forth to the spot where he triggered the slide without triggering another is one among many amazing aspects of that story.

I've seen similar situations come up here on this site, I won't dredge up any more examples, but people should be quick to point it out. I'm amazed in the internet age, how quickly people are going from no outdoor experience to getting into some high risk mountaineering.

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