Frequently Asked Questions

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Me

How do I backcountry ski?

Getting into backcountry requires extensive education, research and training. It is generally recommended that skiers and riders who are looking to get into backcountry at least be able to master resort skiing at a black diamond or double black diamond level. However, those looking to get into backcountry skiing should never venture out alone, no matter how experienced they are at a resort level. You should also be familiar with a variety of snow and weather conditions, i.e. skiing in deep powder and skiing on ice. Having or working to build up cardiovascular endurance is also highly encouraged. Bluebird Backcountry in Kremmling, CO is a new designated backcountry 'resort' that offers rental equipment and classes.

How do I find backcountry ski partners?

The Colorado Backcountry Ski & Snowboard and Colorado Backcountry Ski/Ride Partner Finder Facebook pages are great resources. Note that you must be AIARE 1, or equivalent, certified to join the Ski/Ride Partner page. Taking an AIARE course will also introduce you to other individuals in the area hoping to get into backcountry skiing, snow boarding and splitboarding.

Can I backcountry ski with my dog? Should I put a beacon on my dog?

Some resorts allow uphill access with dogs. For backcountry, it is best you check the rules and regulations of the forest area you'll be skiing or snowboarding in. Backcountry skiing or snowboarding with a dog can be dangerous. A wandering dog is a wandering avalanche trigger. However, if you are inclined to bring your furry friend, you are able to put an avalanche beacon on them for their safety. Never ever put a human avalanche beacon on a dog. A dog should wear an off-frequency beacon (human beacons are set to 457khz). The concern is that avalanche rescuers might dig up a dog before others thinking it is human. Pieps and Ortovox have secondary frequency beacons.

Gear

What gear do I need to get started in the backcountry?

Check out our gear basics page.

I just got an avalanche beacon - where can I go to practice or test my beacon?

You can test your beacon at one of the designated beacon parks below. Please note parks are only open in the winter and calling ahead to ensure accessibility is recommended.

  1. Frisco Adventure Park, located on the peninsula in Frisco, has a designated beacon training park. For opening days/hours, call (970) 668-2558.

  2. Hidden Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) has an avalanche beacon training park. For opening days/hours, call (970) 586-1206.

What are tips for buying my first touring set-up?

  • Don't skimp on avalanche gear (always have a beacon, probe and shovel).

  • Buy a beacon and boots new, additional gear can be purchased secondhand with proper due diligence. Some people suggest buying new skins too to ensure durability; the last thing you want is your skins to become unusable while you're in the backcountry.

  • Research the difference between AT bindings vs. frame bindings. Most people prefer AT specific.

Favorite brands?

Suggestions taken from the Colorado Backcountry Ski & Snowboard Facebook group.
  • SB Bindings:

    • Spark R&D

    • Phantom

    • Karakoram

  • Splitboards:

    • Weston

    • Venture

  • AT Bindings:

    • Dynafit

    • Tyrolia, Attack

    • Marker, Duke or Tour

    • Salomon, Shift bindings are popular, but problems with ice accumulation have been reported

What are good resources for purchasing second-hand gear?

Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are good resources for secondhand gear. New gear can be found heavily discounted at the end of the season and especially during Labor Day sales. The Colorado Backcountry Ski & Snowboard Facebook group also allows secondhand gear sales.

Twin or directional splitboard?

Directional splitboards are recommended for BC. Twin would work better for those who plan on riding switch, even in the backcountry (which is uncommon).

Should I size up my AT boot for comfort/feet swelling?

Generally, no. While some people's AT boots may be a size larger than their downhill boots, this could be due to a difference in fit or sizing standards. Most people purchase the same size. With that being said, you should always go to a professional boot fitter to make sure you're getting the right boot for your feet size and shape. A boot that is too large provides less control and can cause blisters. A boot that is too small can be excruciating and make you lose your toenails. If you're on a budget, you can get sized/fitted and then go to other Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist for secondhand options. Some Front Range boot fitter recommendations:

  • Bent Gate (Golden)

  • Neptune Mountaineering (Boulder)

  • Larry's Bootfitting (Boulder)

  • Foothills Ski Life (Denver)

  • The Custom Foot (Denver)

Myth: A thicker sock will keep my feet warmer if I'm boot packing.

It might sound counterintuitive, but thin socks will keep your feet much warmer during a day of skiing. Bulky ski socks also tend to bunch up and can cause rubbing, giving you blisters. Those wrinkles can easily reduce circulation to your feet, making them very cold.

Locations

I'm a beginner - Where can I go to get some easy, low angle turns?

Where do I go to backcountry ski? A big part of backcountry is figuring out where to go. This requires extensive research on ideal routes, weather, snow conditions, and more. Coloradans are tight-lipped about their favorite spots, but there are some great online and guidebook resources in the answer to the next question below. As a beginner, it is generally advised to not go out alone. You can also check out our beginner locations page here. You can also submit recommendations here.

Alternatively, Bluebird Backcountry is a backcountry 'resort' opening February 15, 2020 in Kremmling, CO. It offers a designated, preserved backcountry area that is avalanche mitigated. They also offer lessons and equipment rentals.

What are good websites I can use to find backcountry routes?

Check out our locations page for a list or Front Range Ski Mountaineering.

What are good guidebooks I can use to find Colorado backcountry routes?

Classic Colorado Ski Descents, Colorado Mountain Club

Backcountry Ski & Snowboard Routes: Colorado (2017)

Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, Bruce Tremper

Making Turns in Colorado, Fritz Sperry

Beacon Guidebooks, various authors

Avalanche Courses

Suggestions for avalanche courses?

Top recommendations include:

  • Colorado Mountain School, various locations

  • Colorado Adventure Guides, Breckenridge

Check out upcoming classes here.