Backcountry Skiing Guide: Essential Gear for Uncharted Slopes

When it comes to shredding the untamed slopes, safety should always be your number one priority. As backcountry skiers, we thrive on the thrill of untracked powder, but we also respect the unpredictable nature of the wilderness. In this article, we’ll equip you with the essential safety gear that will have your back in any adventure, so you can embrace the wild with confidence.


Item Description
Skis, Snowboard, or Splitboard Choose the appropriate equipment based on your preferred riding style and terrain. Skis are versatile, snowboards offer a unique experience, and splitboards allo for uphill climbing and downhill riding.
Boots Invest in high-quality backcountry boots that provide support, warmth, and compatibility with your chosen skis, snowboard, or splitboard.
Poles Opt for adjustable poles that aid in balance, climbing, and traversing the backcountry terrain.
Goggles Protect your eyes from snow, wind, and harmful UV rays with goggles that offer clear visibility and reliable fog resistance.
Helmet Ensure your safety by wearing a helmet designed for backcountry skiing, providing head protection during potential falls or accidents.
Climbing Skins Attach climbing skins to your skis or splitboard for uphill ascents, providing traction and preventing sliding backward.
Waxing Tools and Ski/Skin Wax Maintain optimal glide and grip by regularly waxing your skis, splitboard, and climbing skins with suitable wax and waxing tools.
Crampons/Ski Crampons When encountering icy or steep slopes, crampons or ski crampons offer crucial traction for secure travel.
Pack Choose a backpack with sufficient capacity to carry your gear, water, food, and additional clothing layers.
Avalanche Transceiver A vital component of avalanche safety, an avalanche transceiver is essential for locating and being located in the event of an avalanche burial.
Snow Shovel A compact and durable snow shovel is essential for snowpit analysis, digging snow shelters, and avalanche rescue operations.
Probe Carry a probe to assist in locating buried victims during avalanche rescue efforts.
Slope Meter and Snowpit Analysis Kit Measure slope angles and assess snow stability with a slope meter, along with a snowpit analysis kit for evaluating snowpack conditions
Avalung or Avalanche Airbag Survival Pack For added safety in avalanche-prone areas, consider carrying an Avalung or an avalanche airbag survival pack that can help increase your chances of survival in case o burial.
Multifunction Watch (with Altimeter) A watch with altimeter functionality allows you to monitor changes in elevation and stay aware of your surroundings.
Whistle/Signaling Mirror Carry a whistle or signaling mirror as essential communication tools for attracting attention in emergency situations.
Ice Axe/Whippet Self-Arresting Ski Pole In icy or technical terrain, an ice axe or a Whippet self-arresting ski pole provides an added level of security and stability.
Route Description or Guidebook Access valuable information about your chosen routes and terrain through a reliable route description or guidebook.

The Ten Essentials

Category Description
Navigation Equip yourself with a map (in a protective case), a compass, and optionally, a GPS device to navigate the backcountry confidently.
Sun Protection Shield yourself from harmful rays with sunscreen, lip balm, and sunglasses to prevent sunburn and eye damage.
Insulation Stay warm and comfortable with suitable clothing options, including a jacket, vest, pants, gloves, and a hat to combat cold temperatures.
Illumination Ensure visibility in low-light conditions with a headlamp or flashlight (with spare batteries) to aid navigation and emergency situations.
First-Aid Supplies Carry a comprehensive first-aid kit, including essential medical supplies, to address injuries and emergencies.
Fire Be prepared for survival situations with matches or a lighter, a waterproof container, and a fire starter to provide warmth, cook food, and signal for help.
Repair Kit and Tools Carry a knife or multi-tool along with repair/duct tape strips for equipment repairs and improvisations.
Nutrition Pack extra food to sustain yourself for an additional day, ensuring you have enough energy for unforeseen circumstances.
Hydration Stay hydrated by carrying water bottles or a hydration system (insulated) and a water filter or treatment system to safely access drinking water from natural sources
Emergency Shelter Prepare for unexpected overnight stays with a tent, tarp, bivy sack, or reflective blanket to protect against the elements.

Parting Thoughts

When embarking on backcountry skiing adventures, prioritize safety, survival, and basic comfort. By carrying essential gear, you’ll be prepared for unforeseen challenges and emergencies. Remember, this list does not include avalanche rescue gear, which should be a separate consideration. Stay safe, enjoy the wild slopes, and embrace the incredible experiences that backcountry skiing has to offer!