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How to Start Backcountry Skiing and Splitboarding

A backcountry skiier makes a turn in deep powder during a guided backcountry skiing trip in Colorado.


Why Start Backcountry Skiing or Splitboarding?

Want to start backcountry skiing or splitboarding? Are those fresh powder turns, untracked runs, a sense of exploration, and no lift line calling to you to outside of the ski resort?

You are not alone. There’s been a 300% increase in backcountry winter travel in the past few years! And if you want to get started, here’s some tips from our team!


How to Get Started

FIrst, to get your start backcountry skiing or splitboarding, there’s a few terms you should be familiar with. Lets start with the word backcountry. If you go beyond the ski boundary ropes at your local ski resort, would you consider this backcountry?

You may not think so. You may call it sidecountry. Or you may be misguided in your thinking that this is still an area managed by the ski resort. Well, it is indeed backcountry and should be treated as such. Wild. Undeveloped. Not patrolled regularly. Not receiving any avalanche mitigation.

Before we continue, if you want to fast forward and just find out what courses you can take to learn from the pros, check out our Intro to Backcountry Skiing or Intro to Backcountry Splitboarding courses!

Start backcountry skiing splitboarding

1. Get the Gear: Equipment Needed for Backcountry Travel

Now that you know what backcountry is, even if it’s just outside the ski resort boundaries, you will need some essential avalanche safety gear. At a minimum, you will need a beacon or transceiver, shovel, and probe. And you need to know how to use these to save someone in your ski touring party should there be an avalanche.

Our AIARE Level 1 Courses will teach you the basics of how to use your beacon, shovel, and probe. However, you should also be very comfortable using these on your own once you start backcountry skiing or splitboarding.

Where to Buy Avalanche Safety Gear

Unfortunately, your beacon, shovel, and probe are not included with the purchase of a backcountry ski touring setup or a splitboard. So, here are a few products we recommend from our friends at Backcountry Access:

Yes, we know you just paid hundreds for those new skis or splitboard to start backcountry skiing. However, this gear is essential and can save your life, or your partner’s life if used correctly.

Other Recommended Avalanche Gear

There are many other items you may choose to add to your backcountry kit when you get started with backcountry skiing and splitboarding. A Helmet, ski straps, headlamp, 2-way radios, airbag, etc.

As a guideline, you will find all of our teams’ recommended items under ‘Equipment Lists’ below each of our AIARE Level 1 Course descriptions.

start backcountry skiing splitboarding

2. Get the Education: Start Backcountry Skiing or Splitboarding with Us

At Colorado Mountain School we offer several ways to get started backcountry skiing or splitboarding. Right from your living room! As an example, you can sign up for our FREE online avalanche awareness course. This will help you recognize avalanche terrain, identify potential hazards, manage risk, and read the avalanche forecast.

In addition, we also have the following options for getting educated:

start backcountry skiing splitboarding

Practice with Your Gear

Once you have the gear and the avalanche education, we recommend practicing with your backcountry travel partner.

  • Can you perform a beacon search?
  • Successfully put on and remove your climbing skins?
  • Travel uphill smoothly and efficiently?
  • Transition quickly to downhill skiing or riding?

Refresh your Knowledge Each Year

Keep in mind, education is an ongoing process. Therefore, you should refresh your avalanche safety knowledge each year. And, especially if you only ski tour 2-3 times per year.

Still not sure where to get started? Call us, email, or fill out a contact form. We hope to hear from you soon!

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