1. Skis/Snowboard/Splitboard

Decide which setup suits you best. Switching from resort riding and interested in a splitboard? Check out more information on what to consider here.

2. Proper AT Boots/bindings

Check out splitboard binding recommendations on our FAQ page here. For alpine touring (AT) boots, it is highly recommended to get fitted at a professional boot fitter before making any purchase. For those looking to buy secondhand boots, get fitted for a variety of brands and models so that you know what to look for. What are backcountry/AT ski boots? Read more here.

3. Goggles/Helmet

There are tons of cool pictures of being skiing in their beanies and sunglasses, but people in Colorado die from skiing into trees in and out of resort every year. If your head and face get warm, bring it in your pack and at least wear it before your descent.

4. Poles

5. Skins

For backcountry skiing/touring, skins are what help you walk uphill in your skis. Skins are usually attached to the bottom of a ski using clips and an adhesive. The skins allow you to slide your foot uphill with each step, but will grip and prevent the ski from sliding backwards. Skins that are made from a combination of synthetic and mohair are recommended for efficiency.

It is recommended to buy your skins new, or if buying used make sure they are truly like-new. This decreases the chance of your skins failing in the backcountry. Always make sure the skins you are buying are compatible with the width, length and any potential attachment mechanisms your ski might have.

6. Backcountry Pack

Having a backcountry-specific backpack is crucial. Backcountry backpacks are designed to hold and give you easy access to your gear, and most importantly, avalanche rescue tools. For Colorado backcountry terrain, especially in avalanche-prone zones, a pack that offers an airbag system can mean life or death. If caught in an avalanche, the airbag system will help you breathe while buried under snow. This adds on critical time for your partner or rescuers to find you. Airbag systems are usually bought separately from the pack itself, so make sure your airbag and pack are compatible. While an airbag is a great survival feature to have, having one does not guarantee safety, and proper training should be undertaken to know how to deploy it in an emergency setting. For an example, check out Black Diamond’s Avalung backpack system.

7. Avalanche Beacon

Also named an avalanche transceiver. An avalanche beacon is one of the 3 must-have pieces of gear when skiing or riding in the backcountry. A beacon transmits a radio signal so that rescuers are able to track the signal and perform a rescue if one becomes caught under an avalanche. Being properly trained on how to use an avalanche beacon is crucial - simply buying one and watching a YouTube video will not do. Practicing using your avalanche beacon so that you are ready to use it in emergency circumstances is also important. Having an avalanche beacon and knowing how to use it is recommended even in low angle, low risk terrain.

One should always have easy access to their avalanche beacon - it should never be stored in your backpack or hidden under multiple layers of clothing. Recommendations include wearing it around your waist, over your shoulder, or clipped in an easily accessible pocket. Remember that an exposed beacon, worn on the outside of your jacket or pants, can get caught on a branch or fall off, rendering it useless.

Buying an avalanche beacon new is highly recommended - having a beacon die on you or act faulty in the backcountry can be fatal.

8. Shovels

Shovels are one of the other 3 must-have tools in backcountry. Avalanche shovels a must-have for multiple reasons. They are used for digging pits to assess snow conditions and for clearing snow in the case of an avalanche. The BCA D2 (EXT) shovel comes highly recommended - hoe mode allows for faster digging out when needed.

9. Probe

An avalanche probe is the last of the 3 must-haves. The probe is a long collapsible pole used for penetrating the snow to find a buried victim after using the beacon to identify their general location. Just like the beacon and the shovel, being trained properly in how to effectively and efficiently use a probe will be vital for digging someone out when they are buried and time is limited. As a preliminary resource, check out 'How to Choose an Avalanche Probe' on

Other Gear To Consider

  • Extra layers (moisture wicking base/mid layers, gloves, buff, gaiters, socks)

  • Extra food

  • Whistle/signaling mirror

  • Ice axe (for intermediate to expert terrain)

  • Map & GPS

  • Matches or a fire starter

  • First aid kit

  • Satellite phone