Before we get started it is vital to note that when I say backcountry that I don’t want you to visualize those insane shots of pro skiers skiing chin-high powder in avalanche terrain. I’m talking about whatever place you are comfortable skiing that you had to get to the top of using your own legs. This is an INclusive article for anyone venturing out of bounds (and even for those people who go up the side only to come back down inbounds!).
Super quick clothing tip: you want breathability on the up and weather-resistance on the down. Simple as that. If you are working hard enough you can be in a t-shirt at -20 Celsius.
Tricky to get right, but with experience you will buy the one for you. A great solution is ‘hybrid’ apparel, meaning insulation found in certain areas (think chest and arms) but thin softshell type material in other areas.
– Dynafit Radical primaloft hooded
– Patagonia Nano-air
– Black Diamond Deployment hybrid hoody
Usually only used once at the top (unless the wind is howling), a light, sturdy shell is important for the descent, especially if you are in treed or rocky areas for the protection. Again, I like to go with a hybrid style shell like the Arc Alpha Comp Hoody, but a classic Alpha LT is perfect as well. Other options
– Norrøna Lofoten GTX Pro
– Patagonia Untracked
– Dynafit Yotei
Once you raelize that snow isn’t really wet below -5 Celsius, you will learn to love softshells. And you will never look back in winter
Black Diamond Dawn Patrol shell
Dynafit Mercury 2 DST
Arc’teryx Psiphon FL
Head out into avalanche terrain is just like heading to the après ski bar, you need protection. To continue my crude joke if you are doing either alone you do not need protection (no you cannot dig yourself out of an avalanche if you are fully buried).
Get your self a nice shovel and don’t feel guilty about it. I use it more to dig out my car.
Get yourself a beacon to find those in need. Keep it simple if you are a weekend warrior and not a guide.
Get yourself a probe. Length depends on the terrain you are in and the amount of snow that can release, but stick with a basic model if you aren’t living in Japow.
Get yourself an avalanche airbag. The JetForce from Black Diamond and the Voltair from Arc’teryx are two models which allow you to practice until you feel confident. They are statistically proven to reduce risk of being submerged.
Finally, you should take a look at the Procline boots from Arc’teryx. Their buckle system allows lateral movement when ascending the mountain, adding comfort and traction on off-camber skin tracks. They are light, stiff and come in numerous options based on liner, and stiffness.