Skiing the Bozeman backcountry.
by Jay Pape
Tired of buying lift tickets and skiing laps at the resort? Are you up for a winter adventure with the opportunity to explore some untracked lines? Then backcountry skiing should be high your list of must-do winter activities.
In its purest form backcountry skiing simply involves getting up some hill under your own power and skiing down. Think of it as “earning your turns”. You can find a snow-covered slope next to the road and hike up as many times as your legs will carry you; or you may choose to pend most of the days climbing some far-away peak just to make a single, glorious run all the way back to the car. Either way, backcountry skiing is about getting out and enjoying some of Montana’s wildest places in winter. And the climb up is at least half the fun.
Sure, you can strap regular alpine ski gear to your pack and lug it up some hill. But to truly enjoy the climb you will need either alpine touring (AT) or telemark equipment. Lighter in weight, this gear allows you to walk up a hill with skis that pivot at the toe. The use of fuzzy climbing skins attached to the bottom of your skis will keep you from sliding backwards. Once on top you shed the climbing skins, point your tips downhill and drop in that bowl of untracked bliss.
Oh yea, before you head to the hills in search of powder, you need to become familiar with something called an avalanche. Yes, they are real and they can kill you. Avalanches occur on slopes between 30-45 degrees in steepness—and that is exactly the type of slopes we like to ski on. So before you put you or buddies in danger, take an avalanche safety course and always carry an avalanche transceiver, probe, and shovel. If you don’t have these three things, you will not be able to locate and dig out your buried partner.
If hard work and the thought of being buried in an avalanche have not scared you away, earning your turn just might be the latest addition to your quiver of winter activities in the mountains surrounding Bozeman.
More backcountry skiing info here: http://www.outsidebozeman.com/activities/skiing/backcountry