TIPS FOR BACKCOUNTRY BEGINNERS
This year, more than ever, people are planning on heading into the Australian backcountry on skis, snowboards and snowshoes. Despite the low avalanche danger and decent phone reception in the Australian snowy mountains, there is still risk, danger, and things you need to know before heading up into the mountains. It comes with doing any extreme sport, skiing an snowboarding puts you at risk of injury whether you're riding on piste, in the park or going touring.
Since Covid 19 has caused many issues with resorts by limiting overall capacity, skiers and snowboarders are taking their riding to the next level and investing in snow touring equipment like touring skis, snowshoes, and split boards. But with this, comes a new level of understanding and personal responsibility that NEEDS to be taken into consideration.
You need to consider before spending the money and taking the time to get into the backcountry
its not easy
There is a reason people say ‘earn your turns' and thats because touring in the backcountry is not as easy as riding downhill. Think: rollerblading but uphill with heavy skis, on soft slippery snow, wearing a pack and all of your ski gear. Be prepared to sweat, cry and probably scream bad words at your friends more than once. There is definitely a huge feeling of accomplishment once you reach the top but it doesn’t come without a whole lot of effort just for a 5-minute ride down.
its not cheap
If you're reading this then you already know that skiing and snowboarding isn't a cheap sport. Think about what you’ve already spent on your current gear, and then double it (maybe even triple it). A new split board or ski touring setup will cost you around $2000 including skins and poles. Apart from the equipment that you strap to your feet to go up, there are 3 extra pieces of gear you need to include that are essential for surviving in the backcountry. These are a beacon, shovel, and a probe that might set you back about $1000 for the set but could potentially save your life, in the long run.
you need to get a clue
Yeah yeah yeah, we don’t really get avalanches in Australia, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened before and wouldn’t happen again. If you’re planning on heading into the backcountry, you should consider partaking in an Avalanche Awareness course where you learn about Australian snow conditions, how to spot dangerous areas, and how to rescue someone in the event of an avalanche. Most Aussies know how to read the surf, spot a rip and rescue someone in the ocean, so why wouldn't you want to know how to prevent an emergency situation. It's also important to check the weather forecast and snow conditions so you know before you go.
Always ride with a buddy and let people know where going
It's easy enough to go riding by yourself when you're riding in Resort because there are other people riding around you. You also have the reassurance that ski patrol and resort staff are there to help you out in an emergency. But if you’re out in the backcountry and an accident occurs, will your phone have battery and reception? It's also highly important to tell other people where you're going and what time you plan on being back, just incase.
Practice using your equipment and know when to say no
Touring equipment is expensive and sometimes a bit fiddly, so its important to learn and practice using it so you don't break it. Test out your beacon with friends so that you are familiar with using it in the event of an emergency. Practice kick turns on your splitboard so you don't damage your new board. It's also imperative that you know when to say no if the conditions are not looking safe.
Backcountry comes with a new level of understanding and personal responsibility that NEEDS to be taken into consideration.
There are lots of options for beginners in the backcountry. Rent your gear so you can have a go and see if you're ready to commit to the backcountry. Do an AST1 course so you can understand and identify avalanche terrain and rescue someone in the event of an emergency.