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Backcountry Skiing Intro - Cascade Climbers
Jason Griffith

Backcountry Skiing Intro

Sunrise on the prime ski terrain of Mt Baker’s east side

Backcountry skiing is a broad sport. Even seasoned veterans obsess over what might be the best gear for a particular endeavor. When selecting equipment, it’s important to ask: Where and when will I be using this? The answer could be: mostly at the resort with a little sidecountry; riding lifts through the winter, then big spring volcano-corn; skiing powder yoyo style through the winter, then spring corn; long, rolling scenic tours; steep ski mountaineering whenever possible; just instead of snowshoes on the approach to a climb. The possibilities are endless.

It’s nice to have the right gear for the job. With the selection of ski gear available today, there are several good tools for any type of skiing. No licensed carpenter would use a sledgehammer to finish fine cherry cabinets; climbers don’t lead routes at Index on nothing but chocks and hexes like they did way back when; don’t spend your days lapping backcountry powder with Trekkers on toothpicks!

I will enumerate the virtues and vices of a large cross-section of the ski gear available to the backcountry enthusiast. My natural bias is toward big descents that involve mountaineering techniques and wilderness travel, but I will attempt to give equal consideration to other piste paradigms. Take all advice with a grain of salt, proceed with caution, and consult a professional guide/avalanche expert before you put yourself in harm’s way.

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About Sky Sjue

Sky Sjue was born in Hawaii, held captive in Texas by his mother as a child, then introduced to the wonders of Cascadia as an eight-year-old when his father moved to Portland. He learned to ski at Steamboat Springs when he was five and had a season pass to Mt Hood Ski Bowl when he was fourteen. After some years as a hooligan, he began graduate studies at the University of Washington where his love for skiing was rekindled and his interest in alpine climbing was piqued. Some years in Vancouver as a researcher gave him more tolerance for ski traverses while proximity to Squamish taught him just how good climbing can be. Now he resides in northern New Mexico where every day is Christmas (red *and* green chile), with year-round climbing and desert powder when storms deign to visit in the winter.
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