Backcountry Skiing: General Info and Disclaimer
  Yvon Canard & friend at home
Yvon Canard & friend at home in their Mini-Mid

Most of the tours listed at this site are best classified as "ski mountaineering", and require a high degree of ski experience as well as general backcountry experience. A few of the trips require advanced mountaineering experience. Most of these tours also include some degree of avalanche hazard.

Backcountry ski mountaineering is physically demanding, requires specialized skills, and it's pretty gear-intensive too. Preparing you for backcountry ski trips is far beyond the scope of this web site. However, the following list is a good start. This may seem like a lot of tough prerequesites. Preparing for backcountry skiing takes years of commitment. But it's worth it. To me, there is no richer experience than to be on skis in the High Sierra backcountry.

  Watch out
Watch for Snow Slippers!

And finally, here's one that I consider very important: Have the right attitude. If you have the attitude of a recreationist, you'll enjoy a few hours of tele turns. That's not bad, but it isn't enough. With the attitude of an adventurer, you'll face challenges, endure difficulties, get a few good turns in, and leave with a memorable experience.

An adventurer's attitude means welcoming the unexpected, rather than whining about it. Powder and corn are great, but breakable crust is part of the game too. Getting cold, feeling exhausted, getting slammed by a storm, spending an extra night out and eating cracker-crumbs for breakfast, if you're prepared and you think ahead, it won't happen too often, but it will happen. When it does, remember what John Muir said about finding more than you seek. If you're lucky, you'll find a lot more out there than just fine views and great skiing.

  Kuna Crest
John Knoblock cruises the Kuna Crest
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The majority of these trips that are at higher elevation (those with an average elevation above about 9000') are best done in spring rather than winter. This is for several reasons: In spring, days are warmer and longer, there is less chance of severe storms, and the snowpack tends to be both easier to manage, and safer (in terms of avalanche conditions). Of course, there are exceptions: Even in late spring, you can encounter conditions that are nasty, cold, slow, difficult, dangerous, or all of the above.

Wilderness permits are required for most of these trips, though you are not likely to get in trouble if you don't obtain one. Unlike summertime, when backpackers must wait in line to obtain the few permits remaining after the horse companies take their share, wilderness permits are pretty much available for the asking during winter and spring.

Note: Backcountry skiing has many inherent hazards; the winter and spring backcountry can be deadly to the unprepared, or to some of the well-prepared who are merely unlucky. While this web site contains some advice and information about certain ski tours, you are ultimately responsible for your own safety. I am an enthusiast, not an expert; I take no responsibility for your safety, so please don't follow blindly in my ski tracks. Also note that there are a few tours listed on the site that I have not actually skied myself.

Slab avalanche just south of Echo Lake, Desolation Wilderness, slide probably happened 2/17/02.

Go to Bob's Sierra Ski Tour Index

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