Planning a backcountry skiing trip? Whether you are new to backcountry skiing or a pro, it is essential to pack an extensive list of gear. Although an enjoyable pastime, skiing locations can boast brutal weather conditions so it’s best to ensure that you are fully prepared to face the elements and have a fun experience!
Base Layers: To keep yourself comfortable, be sure to selection the appropriate top and bottom base layers. These are the clothes that will be in contact with your skin so don’t wear heavyweight clothing that will collect too much sweat. Instead, wear lightweight synthetic or wool apparel.
Second Layer Top: Wearing a lightweight fleece or wind shirt will help you stay warm while hitting the trails. Wearing one with a pocket can be especially handy.
Outer Jacket & Pants: Since these items will be your first defense against the elements, be sure to purchase a comfortable and resilient jacket and pants. Make sure these both are waterproof, lightweight, and have a soft shell insert. Wearing clothing that is flexible to meet your needs is important and can give you a better overall experience. If it isn’t too wet and it’s a warmer day, ditch the waterproof covers and just sport the soft shells. Run into nasty weather and you’ll be prepared to stay warm and dry with your full layering. Don’t forget to pick a jacket that has a hood and several chest pockets as well.
Gloves: You are going to be gripping ski poles throughout your trip so be sure that these gloves are not only dexterous, but insulated enough to keep your hands warm.
Hat: Don’t let all your heat escape through your head by not wearing a hat. Make sure it is thick and warm. Hats made of fleece, wool, or windstopper work best. You could also consider wearing a balaclava.
Socks: Always make sure you have two pairs of socks for a day hike. Many skiers also like to wear a thin liner sock underneath the thicker wool or synthetic sock.
Buff: A skiing buff is another useful item to bring that can protect your neck and lower part of your face from the cold.
Extras: Always ensure to bring additional insulating clothing in case you need it. Also, if you are going on more than just a day trip, you’ll want to consider an extra jacket that is a heavier weight to fight off inclement weather.
Ski Boots: It is extremely important to purchase a pair of boots that are both snug and warm. Make sure they are also flexible and that you’ve taken the time to break them in before taking them on a long trip.
Skis: When backcountry skiing it is better to bring softer, more flexible skis. Stiffer skis are more for hard packed snow.
Ski Poles: Standard ski poles are acceptable but adjustable poles can also be nice to have. Just make sure you get poles that are the correct height so you are not hunched over during the trip.
Helmet: Your helmet will keep you safe in the event of a crash (which are very common in backcountry skiing). Wear one, you won’t regret it!
Ski Pack: The most important thing to remember about your ski pack is that it should fit well and not shift when skiing downhill or make quick cuts through the snow. A loose or wobbly pack can throw off your balance. Select a pack that is waterproof and has sufficient straps to secure your gear.
Shovel/Multi Tool: You’ll never regret bringing a foldable shovel and multi tool on a backcountry skiing trip. It is helpful for adjusting gear, for building shelter in cases of an avalanche or snowstorm, or even if you want to carve a seat out of the snow for yourself.
Avalanche Beacon: It is not recommended to go backcountry skiing without an avalanche beacon. Be sure to know how to use and that it has been tested before you go out too far from your starting point.
Food: Skiing can be exhausting and you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere without any way to get food if you are hungry. Bring lightweight, protein rich items such as energy bars to conserve space.
Water: For a day trip you should plan on bringing at least 2 liters of water. If it is a colder day, your camelbaks or water bladder will need a insulating jacket to keep it from freezing.
Personal Medical Kit: Accidents happen, and when they do it is better to be prepared. At least bring medical equipment to treat cuts, blisters, scrapes, and you can never go wrong with duct tape or sunscreen (including lip balm).
Sunglasses/Goggles: It is recommended that you have both of these when on a trip, because goggles are really only necessary for windier, snowy weather. Make sure that they are polarized and offer UV protection.