Backcountry skiing and snowboarding has become exceptionally popular in the past decade, but “what is it exactly?” many folks ask me. The safe answer is to explain that backcountry skiing and snowboarding is skiing or riding not on an open ski area that provides lift service skiing, grooming, ski patrols, and marked hazards. Backcountry skiing is skiing in the wild, untamed, natural environment. It can be right outside the ropes at a controlled ski area or miles away in the full wilderness. There are nuances and splitters and lumpers and sidecountry and slackcountry skiing. No need to get into the details here.
Backcountry skiing requires specific tools to allow the skier to climb up the mountain and then descend. Tools include skins for the bottom of your skis or split board to allow traction on the uphill climb, adjustable poles are helpful to deal with varying height needs while skiing and stowability when snowboarding. Backcountry skiers generally carry avalanche beacons and shovels and probes with which to provide a margin of safety should their group venture into avalanche terrain. Splitboards are snowboards that split in half and allow the boarder to ski up the mountain before reassembling their board for the descent. Using snowmobiles, and helicopters and lifts to gain access to uncontrolled and unpatrolled out-of-bounds ski slopes blur the definition of backcountry skiing into its nuances. Backcountry skiing is generally considered to rely on alpine touring equipment, telemark equipment, and splitboards, though some hardy folks use snowshoes or lightweight cross country equipment to head out into the backcountry. Backcountry skiers and riders generally enjoy the peace and quiet of nature and getting away from crowds at ski areas and resorts.