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A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

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A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby oldschoolczar » Tue Oct 30, 2012 5:11 pm

I was hoping to get into backcountry skiing a bit this year. I wanted to take the AIARE Avalanche I class but I'm not going to be able to take a day off of work for it. So, I'm probably going to have jack-squat for avalanche knowledge, which leads to my first question..

Are there any mountains in the foothills of Denver that would have skiable lines and almost non-existant avalanche danger (including on the approach)?

Or any good backcountry skiing trails that offer some fun/steep skiing for advanced (non-expert) skiers (also minimal avalanche danger)?

Lastly, is there anwhere you can rent an AT ski setup around town? I tried Larsons..

I wanna try them out and see how I like them compared to downhill skis. Sounds like most people prefer a downhill ski for resort skiing? I don't have either, but only want to buy one this season..

Can anyone recommend a good all around setup.. without breaking the bank?
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby dehrlich101 » Tue Oct 30, 2012 6:27 pm

oldschoolczar wrote:I wanted to take the AIARE Avalanche I class but I'm not going to be able to take a day off of work for it. So, I'm probably going to have jack-squat for avalanche knowledge, which leads to my first question..


I too have yet to take a AAIRE course, but education is key to staying alive in the backcountry. Here are some resources I've used to learn more about avalanches which are generally free, and hopefully you won't have to take work off for.

I've checked it out from the Library several times, and is a great resource.

http://www.rei.com/product/784027/mountaineers-books-staying-alive-in-avalanche-terrain-2nd-edtion

I'd also recommend attending some of the Avalanche Awareness classes. REI has several coming up soon.

http://www.rei.com/event/45776/session/59831

Friends of Berthound Pass also puts on some awesome classes.. Awareness Classes, on snow courses, etc.

http://berthoudpass.org/category/classes/

EDIT: Put in wrong URL for the REI class. Fixed!
Last edited by dehrlich101 on Tue Oct 30, 2012 11:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby Brian Thomas » Tue Oct 30, 2012 6:33 pm

+1 on starting this thread.

This is my first season with an A/T setup. Am not looking to ski the sickest lines, or film the sickest GoPro vids, just to get out in some terrain *without* snowshoes.
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby livetothemax96 » Tue Oct 30, 2012 8:39 pm

really AT skis are pretty much the same as downhill skis, so there shouldn't be too much of a learning curve there. I picked up my AT setup used at sports plus for $200. What I'm on is a pair of K2 Seth Viscous, they are a twin twip (which means almost nothing) and have a waist in the mid 90's. Something along those lines, like the Seth's or Icelantic Nomads, K2 COOMBAcks etc are generally pretty good because in the BC you can be skiing wind-crust and a foot of powder in the same day, so a versatile all mountain ski works pretty great. You can ski wider if you want to, what ski you use is really just up to you as a skier.

As far as places to go, passes (Loveland, Berthoud etv) are pretty good placecs to start, find some people who know the area and go out and ski with them.

Also pick up all the avy gear and read up on it, then practice. That's what I did, I still haven't taken an official class. Get your shovel, probe beacon and head out somewhere and practice the basics. Read up on how to do tests, warning signs to keep an eye out for and just how to be safe around potentially dangerous slopes. Then as said before, take advantage of awareness courses, Friend of Berthoud Pass run a really good free awareness course during the winter.

Hope this helped a little bit, glad to see more people getting into it!
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby Dave B » Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:00 pm

oldschoolczar wrote:Are there any mountains in the foothills of Denver that would have skiable lines and almost non-existant avalanche danger (including on the approach)?


Welcome to the continental snow pack where no such thing as "non-existent" avalanche danger exists. With that said, slopes below 25 degrees (or 30 in safer conditions) will almost never slide. Buy a inclinometer, use it often and understand well that being on not-steep terrain doesn't mean there isn't steep terrain above that can and will slide.

oldschoolczar wrote:Or any good backcountry skiing trails that offer some fun/steep skiing for advanced (non-expert) skiers (also minimal avalanche danger)?


Steep and minimal-danger are antonyms. Terrain and triggers (i.e. you) are two of the (only) three requirements to start a slide. If you want to ski steeps you're going to need to ski at the resort.

I'm not one to insist on Avy I prior to any backcountry excursions. In fact, I spent two seasons in the BC before I took Avy I; I'd read Snow Sense and knew just enough to never really ski anything but Forest Service roads and super stable spring conditions. Mostly, pretty boring.

At a minimum take a Avy Awareness class like those offered through FOBP. Read Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, visit CAIC, understand what the conditions mean, read reports of avalanches and learn from others mistakes.

Of course, this is simply my opinion and I'd imagine others will vary.
Last edited by Dave B on Wed Oct 31, 2012 5:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby mrburns » Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:07 pm

If it's steep enough to ski, it's steep enough to slide.
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby oldschoolczar » Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:22 pm

Nice! $200 for a setup would be nicer... looks like $1500 to get in for new gear (skis/bindings/boots) I'll check Sports Plus. Anybody else have recommendations for other stores to find good used gear?

I think I'll check out those REI classes too.. looks like they had several different free avy classes.
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby Brian Thomas » Wed Oct 31, 2012 4:55 am

My setup was right around $1000, excluding avy gear. Boots were $400 (on clearance + 20% off coupon at Wilderness Exchange) and Dynafit bindings another $400 on sale at Bent Gate. I hope to get several seasons out of these but expect to replace my (used) skis and skins sooner.

Dave B wrote:I'm not one to insist on Avy I prior to any backcountry excursions. In fact, I spent two seasons in the BC before I took Avy I; I'd read Snow Sense and knew just enough to never really ski anything but Forest Service roads and super stable spring conditions. Mostly, pretty boring.

This summarizes my intent for this season, using skis as an approach tool instead of snowshoes, and maybe some less boring stuff later in the spring.
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby Cruiser » Wed Oct 31, 2012 5:55 am

If I was looking to get into skiing I would probably buy my boots first. In a perfect world I'd be hunting for a boot with interchangeable sole blocks that would allow me to clip in to alpine bindings, alpine touring bindings, and tech bindings. That way I could rent a few different types of setups to see what I liked best.


Wilderness Exchange is a great place to shop for discounted ski gear here in Denver. Our craigslist can be pretty good this time of year too. And you can rent at Bent Gate if you want to dip your toe in the pool first before you do a cannonball off the high dive.



Seek out knowledgeable back country ski partners with a risk tolerance that is similar to your own. The bc season is still a ways off here in CO for most of us so you can use this time to try to track down some good boots and do some of the reading that others have suggested. Become a member of the Friends of Berthoud Pass and plan to attend a classroom seminar or 2 of theirs this season. They're a great resource for information and like-minded partners. And remember, no in-bounds or out-of-bounds ski pack is complete without (at least) a couple of PBR tallboys in it... :iluvbeer:
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby ajkagy » Wed Oct 31, 2012 6:39 am

mrburns wrote:If it's steep enough to ski, it's steep enough to slide.


+1 to that...also, if the trees are thin enough to ski through, they're thin enough to slide.

Berthoud is going to be your best bet for snow quality and good safe learning terrain on main runs east/west side. Unfortunately anything steep will be suspect given the conditions. I suggest going with someone that knows the area well or taking the Friends of berthoud avalanche awareness class at some point.

You don't have to spend a boatload of $$ to get a decent AT setup. There is plenty of gear out there that is used or slightly used. Still tons of boots that are brand new but are maybe 1 or 2 year older models that stores are trying to get rid of at 50% or more discount from MSRP. Look around and you'll find it
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby Bean » Wed Oct 31, 2012 6:54 am

mrburns wrote:If it's steep enough to ski, it's steep enough to slide.

This spot isn't steep enough to slide (I assume there exists some absurdly improbable scenario where it could, but let's be realistic).

Image

Although generally if it's steep enough to be fun there's some risk of an avalanche, assuming ordinary Colorado winter conditions (i.e. a total garbage snowpack).
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Re: A few super noob Backcountry Ski questions!

Postby mtnfiend » Wed Oct 31, 2012 7:18 am

Bent Gate usually sells their demo fleet (at least part of it) in the spring. If I remember correctly, the ski/binding combos can run anywhere from $500-$650ish and would make for a great introductory set up (There's no reason why you can't ski in and out of bounds on the same gear). Some of the skis look like they were never used, while you can tell others have seen a few days. But even the more used gear is still in good shape overall.

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