In the early days, when snowboarding was still outlawed
from resorts, pioneers of the sport would indulge in their
new pastime by hiking up mountains and riding back down
with their primitive but innovative gear.
The rapid growth in the popularity of snowboarding has seen the attention
now shift mainly to riding on groomed runs or terrain parks in resorts.
However, as the abilities of enthusiasts mature, many begin to
search for new experiences and eventually return to the roots of snowboarding i.e.
riding in the backcountry, far from the packs of visitors at the busy resorts.
Backcountry snowboarding is a combination of not just riding but also climbing and mountaineering
where you venture away from the resorts and out into the wilderness to discover nature
and deep, untracked powder.
If you have never experienced riding in the backcountry, there is one
important fact that you'll need to understand and that is unlike riding
in a controlled environment like a resort, you alone are responsible
for your own safety.
There are real dangers out in the wild which can hurt or kill you.
Reading this article will provide you with some basic information
on backcountry riding but will absolutely not be sufficient to prepare
you for the experience
So before you head out, educate yourself
by taking a course in backcountry exploration or reading up on the subject. And,
as much as possible, always go in a group with experienced riders
who have been there before and done that.
Backcountry snowboarding will present a variety of challenges so
make sure that you have the skills to ride in a wide variety
of ungroomed terrains and snow conditions.
Research Your Destination
Understanding your destination and any alternative routes will go
a long way toward a safe and rewarding backcountry journey.
Tell your friends or family about your intended routes and destination and when
you expect to be returning. This is so that, should an accident
occur, there will at least be somebody who can initiate a search.
Check the weather forecast over the number of days you will be
trekking and riding and bring enough gear and clothing to adapt
to any extremes in the conditions which may occur.
If there is a local avalanche hotline, use it to find out about
any risks of snowslides which may occur in the region.
To maximize daylight, start out early in the morning. If you
will be ascending the mountain through deep, untracked snow,
use snowshoes or backcountry skis. These may not be necessary
if you are following a packed trail or if the snow is hard and
Because hiking through deep snow consumes plenty of energy,
where possible, try using preexisting tracks or take turns
within the group in breaking a trail.
Use steady steps and breathe rhythmically rather than sprinting in bursts
which will cause you to lose your breath quickly. Drink plenty of fluids
and keep your energy up with appropriate snacks along the way.
Enjoy the spectacular scenery around you but still be aware of any potential
hazards such as avalanches, falling rocks or ice, covered streams or tree wells.
When you reach the summit, take some time to savor the wondrous
environment and appreciate your accomplishment (unless, of course, you cheated
and used a helicopter).
The best part of the whole journey will then be the descent where you
float and turn through the expanse of deep untracked powder or spring corn
not available on the groomed runs of any resort. But, as always, stay alert
and be wary of any dangers on the way down.