Backcountry Ski Snow Safety Essentials

Backcountry Ski Gear

There is still plenty of snow to be found this season for some great backcountry ski and snowboard adventures. Even with the slow start to the winter, I was fortunate enough to get quite a few days of backcountry skiing in across Utah and Colorado. You might just make a skier out of me yet. Baby steps. 

Below you will find a list of my basic backcountry ski setup for the season. This is not an exhaustive gear list by any means, but more of an overview of the various snow safety essentials that remained in my pack throughout the winter. 

1. Black Diamond Anthem Avalung Pack ($269.95): I do not backcountry ski enough to warrant buying an avalanche airbag pack, but I like the added safety of the AvaLung to provide potentially life-saving fresh air if I do happen to get buried. Backpanel access lets you quickly get at your gear, with 28L of storage for your avy-tools, an extra layer, gloves, thermos and snacks. Other features include an insulated hydration sleeve, stowable helmet carry, and tuck-away diagonal ski carry for booters and hike-to terrain.

2. Pieps iProbe One ($185.95): To aid in search and rescue efforts, Pieps built a low range beacon right into the probe tip, widening your strike area while providing optical and acoustic feedback to help pinpoint burials. With a collapsible, easy to deploy design, the lightweight probe features a wide-cone tip for pushing through heavy avalanche debris. The 260cm length and 360 degree marking visibility make for quick snow study work. 

3. Exotac nanoStriker XL ($32.95): Advice drilled into me by the legendary Kitty Calhoun – never head into the backcountry without a lighter or some way to start a fire, as you never know when you might get caught out. This Ferrocerium fire starter has all the tools you need wrapped in a tiny package and even works when wet. 

4. Black Diamond Deploy Shovel ($69.95): The nesting, trapezoidal, curved-shaft design saves room in your pack and helps the shovel deploy fast. Built with lightweight aerospace aluminum, the shovel serves double duty in the back of your car in case you get stuck in a snowdrift driving to the trailhead. 

5. Sierra Designs Super Stratus ($279): I always keep a puffy coat in the bottom of my pack to throw on at rest stops or as an extra layer when the weather really turns bad. Packed with 800-fill hydrophobic DriDown, the Super Stratus won't wet out even when it's puking heavy snow. 

6. Light & Motion Solite 250 ($149): A headlamp is another one of those items I always have in my pack, regardless the adventure. The rechargeable Solite pumps out 250 lumens of light to guide you safely back to the car and also turns into a flashlight to aid in fiddly tasks on that alpine start. A four stage battery life indicator lets you keep track of how much light is left in the headlamp.

7. G3 Love Glove ($50): Once you try the Love Glove, you will never go back (watch the video below and you will see what I mean). No more pulling muscles trying to pry your skins apart or annoying your friends as you attempt to fold them up nicely in your pack. Simply bend your skins in half, adhesive side out, slide the Love Glove over top, then drop down the edges. Voilà! No more adhesive on adhesive folding. 

8. Pieps DSP Sport ($274.95): With a 50-meter circular range, the DSP Sport uses three antennas for pinpoint search accuracy. A smart transmitter adjusts the signal to help you decide who to search for first in a multiple burial situation. The display indicates direction and distance from initial detection and can show up to three burials. After the first victim is found, the mark function enables you to quickly move on to the next burial. 

Spring will be here before you know it so head on out in search of pow while you still can. 


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