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jdog

Thoughts/Ideas on BC Skiing?

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This post by Jens in the Weekend Plan thread got me thinking (sketchy at best):

 

"on the other hand......

It is kinda nice though to get more vertical in a day than 95% of backcountry ski mountaineers get in a season.

 

That is if you are hitting the high speed quads and skiing alone.

And Blackcomb "glacier" lift skiing is kinda fun."

 

This is probably the best advice I have read on cc.com regarding BC skiing. I may be wrong, but it seems that their are lots of people on here who believe that they are going to become better skiers by just going out and learning it in the BC. Or they badmouth ski areas for whatever reason. To me the BC is not a good place to try and improve your skiing skills. Typically you are not going to find the best conditions, on any given tour you might run into all conditions top to bottom in one run, and you are usually limited in the amount of vertical you can ski. So many times in the BC you are survival skiing.

 

Why not take advantage of the lifts and use them for a season or two and get yourself to a level where no matter what kind of conditions are thrown at you in the BC, it will not be an issue. If the crud/pow sucks you can stick to the groomers or vice versa. There is always fine tuning to be done no matter how good of a skier one is. I find it hard to believe that any decent BC skiers have not spent a good amount of time at ski areas.

 

I can understand the argument that it is expensive, but it is so worth the money to fork over a couple hundred bones for a midweek pass and get up there when you can. It only takes a couple of days to pay it off, and in the end you will be more than rewarded in the BC with the improved skiing, which inevitably allows you to ski harder routes (a bonus). If you are an intermediate skiier and you want to take it to the next level i am convinced you just will not get enough repetitions in the BC to really improve at a fast pace. Jens is right on when he talks about how much vertical you can put down at an area. You just have to hit it during the week and go to an area with lots of vert and high speed quads. Depending on your level you can easily put down 20k+ vert. Some areas it would be easy to put 50k vert down. Compare that to a 5k tour.

 

I grew up skiing at areas and am now spending as much time in the BC as at the areas. I have to admit I do find BC skiing very rewarding as you are earning your turns and you can always get first tracks, but I can also have a great day inbounds.

 

Thoughts or ideas?

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I learned skiing at ski areas, and I still enjoy a powder day hitting the lifts. But if the conditions and weather permit, I'm going to get away. I enjoy the solitude, discovery, and variable conditions incomparably more than the ski area experience.

 

I have a season pass this year, and I got my money's worth out of it in December alone, but since then I have skied the lifts less times than I can count on one hand. It was worth it for the excellent powder days I had, though.

 

I think you are on the money about skiers improving their skills at the ski area. I know a couple people who could definitely use some vertical miles to hone their skills. Past a certain level of skill, though, I think steep skiing and technical skiing skills are a separate entity from what happens at ski areas.

 

Balance on the skis is always invaluable, but learning to ski less than ideal conditions in more intense terrain is a hands on process and it's not about looking pretty, making perfect turns with your knees locked. It could be double-pole-planting, pedal-hopping, side-stepping, crevasse-weaving, self-belaying, adrenaline-infused, undergaments shit-stained, teeth-clenching madness. Now that's what I call fun!

 

And then you get to the more moderate terrain, and the sun hits you, and the creamed corn is sweet, and you're still shakin', then you open up the turns and feel the cool air rush past your face and you gotta SCREAM!!!

 

Now that's what it feels like to be alive... bigdrink.gif

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Backcountry is real, the lifts are just practice. I'm a pathetic enough skier that I could (and will) benefit from skiing the lifts, but it's a tool. I remember my backcountry days far more than my lift days, it's not all about the turns.

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I'm with you jdog. Ski areas have there place, and it ain't a bad place.

 

I learned to ski at ski areas. I don't think I would have anywhere near the skill I presently have without the ability to ski tons of vertical without hiking. Even now I like ski areas because they allow me to get myself back into good skiing form every winter. Plus there are some fun slopes at ski areas.

 

Also there are a number of ski areas that have excellent lift served bc skiing.

 

BC skiing is better, but ski areas are pretty damn good.

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well put, j dog. i don't know why people think bc skiing is really more hardcore than lift skiing. maybe that depends where you're skiing but i've definitely done some bc stuff that isn't nearly as exciting as some of the stuff i've skied from the lift. and that said i've also done backcountry stuff that way rocks over anything i could ski inbounds - although some of that was technically lift-served as well. i guess it's all relative ... and subjective. call me strange but i love it all.

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Backcountry is real, the lifts are just practice. I'm a pathetic enough skier that I could (and will) benefit from skiing the lifts, but it's a tool. I remember my backcountry days far more than my lift days, it's not all about the turns.

Right on. Some of the most devoted tourers I ever went out with were, at best, stem turn skiers...with a lot of kick turns thrown in when it got nasty. I could leave them in the dust on the run down but I doubt I enjoyed it any more than they did. It ain't necessarily about being a hot flash; it's how it feels.

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Of course everyone would rather a kick ass day in the backcountry instead of the same kick ass day at the lifts. But the lifts do serve an essential purpose - they allow you to dial your skiing in and become a much better skier. The better skier you are, the more options you have available - want to ski to a peak that requires descending a steep, narrow gully? Want to ski a more interesting line on a glacier, exposed at times to crevasses? No problem if you are a good skier. You can travel more efficiently, waste less energy, and cover more ground if you are a good skier. It makes you comfortable on steep snow and ice, and immediately improves your mountaineering skills because you are familiar with different types of snow.

 

There's nothing like putting in a hard day (or back to back hard days) at the lifts early in the season to work your legs into shape. On those days when it's dumping head to the lifts and let someone else worry about the avalanches. Point 'em down hill and grin from ear to ear.

 

Just the same, there are certain skills that can only be learned in the backcountry. Skiing funky snow like breakable crust. Skiing with a heavy pack. Not to mention all other skills - avi knowledge/experience, safe route finding, solid judgement..

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I have never had trouble finding breakable crust or other funky snow to ski at the lifts. rolleyes.gif

 

To me, it's all skiing. There's good and bad about all of it. Those who complain about the lifts, well, you probably aren't at the best areas...

 

My best pow lines are in bounds. I like the lower risk of death. laugh.gif I tend to ski more conservativeline on the b/c.

 

I have been slack the past couple of seasons, having a pass will do that to you. Now that I am kicking more ass, I am excited to tour again and get some gnarlier lines that I only looked at before.

 

Like this one:

 

blpic21758.jpg

 

It's all good. fruit.gif

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....it's not about looking pretty, making perfect turns with your knees locked. It could be double-pole-planting, pedal-hopping, side-stepping, crevasse-weaving, self-belaying, adrenaline-infused, undergaments shit-stained, teeth-clenching madness. Now that's what I call fun!

And then you get to the more moderate terrain, and the sun hits you, and the creamed corn is sweet, and you're still shakin', then you open up the turns and feel the cool air rush past your face and you gotta SCREAM!!!

Now that's what it feels like to be alive... bigdrink.gif

Ha, so well put! Makes me feel better about my descent off Fuhrer Finger Sunday. Went through the whole gamit of emotions and conditions in one awesome 9,000' descent.

I thought I was a good skier coming from Colorado 7 years ago. I had heard of Cascade Cement, but never experienced it till I ski'd for the first time in Washington and got rained ON! After a few years I'm finally able to say I can get down most anything, style is what I now lack.

You can totally avoid the ski areas, but you would definitely have to start on moderate BC terrain till you get some experience. Because not only do you need to know how to ski down it, but is it safe to ski on it. Someone coming to the BC for the first time may not have those skills honed yet. So if you are going to start BC skiing: Post something on CC, make a friend and ski safe...And take an avy class. smile.gif

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I think regardless of the activity the only way to improve is mileage (and avoiding injury). If you separate the touring aspect from the downhill aspect of BC skiing there is actually a fairly small set of skills that will get you through just about any backcountry touring terrain. For example side-slipping, kickturns, balancing on one foot, taking skis on and off on steep terrain. You don't need to be able to do any sort of downhill turn to get into some spectacular areas, and the more you get out there and experience the variability of conditions the better.

 

But for learning basic skills of downhill skiing riding the lifts is the best way to develop quickly, even taking lessons blush.gif !

On my list of quality $$ investments to my skiing #1 was good ski boots, #2 was a ski pass to a local hill. But I did BC touring in plastic mtn boots for 2 yrs before that even though I never made a single successful turn.

 

I guess my point is that if you can't even ski very well on the hill then you aren't going to ski any better in the BC and you should practice at the hill, but if you want to be a competent and safe BC skier you do need to go into the backcountry as soon and as often as possible.

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I am with Fern on this. One only needed to watch the God of Coast Mountain backcountry skiing, John Clarke, to know this...he couldn't tele at all, but boy could he move in the mountains. Kick turns. Parallel. Sideslipping. Whatever it took to get him over the next pass. Those are skills really only gained by spending a LOT of time on your skis, regardless of whether it is lift accessed or not.

 

Having said that, I prefer to be able to link turns in all conditions, and to do that, yup, you are probably going to have to hit the lifts.

 

But, Fern hit it dead on, I think: backcountry skiing (at least for me) is a hell of a lot more than just yo-yoing or dropping into some sick colouir where turning technique is all-important.

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many good points made but i am not sure i feel the same way jen does about area skiing. or at least, i don't feel that way anymore (and i haven't for quite a while). summed up in a few words, i think that in-area/groomers skiing is boring especially if i am alone. perhaps paradoxically, i still ski mostly for turns but skiing the backcountry even for a few 1000's feet is always more rewarding to me than logging vertical in a ski area (lift-served out of bound powder skiing is somewhat different of course). being able to make one's own decisions (i.e. i'll go over there that way, etc ...) adds a dimension that easily offset any amount of vertical. at some level, there is a paralell between skiing and climbing insofar i see alpine climbing as much more fullfilling than cragging even though crags have definiite advantages over alpine climbs of variable quality.

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All I know is a full day of lift serve kicks my ass WAY harder than a full day in the BC. But then again I'm kind of a wuss.

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I love the BC for the solitude and views and sense of being out there in a really cool place. However, I am also addicted to fresh groomers in the morning when I can make huge ass carves at mach 10. Both have their benefits, though to me, the big draw of the BC is definitely the solitude. laugh.gif

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It's all skiing, so it's all good in my book! I've been fortunate to be able to ski a lot of days in the last 5 years, with an ever increasing number of bc days. This season has been a little wierd in that there was so much pow in the beginning and lots of sunny weather in the 2nd half (allowing for lots of bc skiing and all the great TRs this year) instead of spread out more like it usually is.

 

In the last year or two, I've had the pleasure of convincing a few of my bc skiing pals to ski more lifts as well has talking a couple of my alpental buddies to get into/ski more bc.

 

Life is good!

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I think you are on the money about skiers improving their skills at the ski area. I know a couple people who could definitely use some vertical miles to hone their skills. Past a certain level of skill, though, I think steep skiing and technical skiing skills are a separate entity from what happens at ski areas.

 

 

Sky, were you directing this comment at me?? wink.gif

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Josh, I didn't have you in mind, but if the shoe fits... yellaf.gif

 

HAHAH! It was an off day, I swear wink.gif We need to get out again soon, I've been lovin my new ski setup!

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Depending on your level you can easily put down 20k+ vert. Some areas it would be easy to put 50k vert down. Compare that to a 5k tour.

Who needs lifts? If you're one of those rando racer types you can do 30k in a day of touring like that guy from Revelstoke

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I did my laundry in the same laundromat as him a couple weeks ago. He's soooo cool.

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