Back Country ski tours – or split boarding – are the simplest way to get more out of our mountains.
Who hasn’t got to the top of the lifts, looked out at the mountains and wondered why they weren’t out there?
Well what’s stopping you? No gear, no experience, NO PROBLEM! Our Back Country guru Steve Leeder has the lowdown on getting out there for yourselves. With the snow bucketing down and more on the way conditions are set up nicely for the rest of August and then what back country enthusiasts call “second season” from September to October.
I get asked so many times what’s it like going out in the mountains and I always reply with, “ Its awesome, I always come back from even just a day out back recharged, and excited for anything. The crap that I thought was so important the day before gets put into perspective.” And I always have the best day ever. Even if the snow wasn’t great, I didn’t wait in a single lift line, I didn’t have people almost crashing into me and I was so socially distanced I couldn’t even see the closest person.”
So how to get out there doing back country ski tours for yourself?
The first thing you need is the right gear. Lighter is better for sure, but how do you know what works for you?
Trying it out is the best way. If you just walk into a shop and buy a bunch of stuff how do you know it’s any good for you or there isn’t a better option
You need a binding that lets your heel release to go up, you need comfortable boots with a walking mode and you need skins to also let you climb up. Adjustable poles are a very helpful option as well.
Shovels, probes and avalanche beacons are all things to put on your shopping list but not for right away. What about an avalanche course? Again eventually it’s a good thing but not the first thing you need to do.
The first thing you should do is hire some gear for a day and a guide. Get fitted out with some gear that you think you would like to use and then you can really start to make some informed decisions about what you like and what you need.
If you are fortunate like I was and have heaps of friends that are already seasoned back country skiers and guides then do everything you can to get them to let you tag along on trips. Watch everything they do and how they do what they are doing.
Back country Ski Tours Wilderness Sports from Perisher & Thredbo
If you don’t have “guide friends” then the next best thing is to hire one of those as well.
I have spent a lot of time working with the crew from Wilderness Sports in Jindabyne over the last 20 years. They live breath and sleep back country, it’s all they do. Their shop is full of all the goodies that you need and even more of the extras that just make it more fun.
The owners have been guiding all over the world and in the main range for over 30+ years with the shop. Turns out in that time they have actually taught quite a few of the other guides that are working in town.
Taking people out into the back country is their passion. Whether it’s a family on snowshoes that just want to “play in the snow” or teaching people what it takes to become better travellers in the back country.
The most popular is the INTRO TO BC. This half day 3 hour trip is designed to introduce people to all the possibilities of the back country. It includes an intro to all the different types of gear, as well as how to use the gear that you are on, fitting and using skins for example. Cost is $117 per person (gear hire extra).
They will cover ways to go up the hill most efficiently, by picking the easiest and safest line. When you are out in the mountains the guides will talk about where it is going to make for fun and safe skiing in different conditions.
As everyone is looking for something different from their experience each trip is catered and fine tuned to what that a specific group is looking for.
Full day trips from $199 per person and private 1/2 or full day tours tailored to individuals or small groups are also available.
Some back country ski tours will head out to Mt Wheatley, where we can get out and up real quick and ski a bunch of different lines. (That’s Steve finding the goods on Wheatley this week in the clip above). The Paralyser is another option a bit further out.
Or start from the top of Thredbo and head out to the top of the world. This trip can be done as a straight out and back or take you on a loop where you can get some great turns as well. Thredbo trips require a backcountry access pass. Load up a Backcountry Access Pass ($42 adults, $10 child 5 – 17 years) onto a MyThredbo card from Guest Services Valley Terminal for a way one trip up the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift.
The best season, or ‘second season’ as it’s called by the aficionados, usually really picks up in September. But all season is a great time to get out and experience what back country skiing is all about.
With all the snow coming this week it’s going to be amazing in the back country so head into the Wilderness Sports shop in Jindabyne to talk about getting out there when the weather clears.
Snow Action has toured with Wilderness Sports many times over the past 30 years (where did that go?) and can highly recommend them.
Check out their range of backcountry ski tours and rates on the link here.
Thredbo Back Country ski tours
At Thredbo a range of backcountry ski tours are available from August 10th, starting with their GET YOUR SKINS ON – THE INTRODUCTION TO BACKCOUNTRY TOUR for $199 per person. The full day, six-hour course is for intermediate to advanced riders and includes Volk ski or Burton split board rental from Thredbo Sports.
More advanced tours run from $299 per person, per day.
We are hoping to get out with them to check these out later in the season – there is certainly no shortage of awesome readily accessible terrain including some of our all time favourites like Twin Valleys and Leather Barrel.
For more details check the Thredbo site here
NB: If you are heading by yourselves in NSW before heading out don’t forget to fill in an online Trip Intention Form with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service as a safety basic.
Hotham Back country ski tours
These started in prototype form in 2018, then were fully operational last year. As we reported, they are a great way to get into the unlimited options available in a normal season from Hotham.
Unfortunately with the resorts down there fully shut down thanks to the COVID-19 situation in Victoria it’s off the agenda for 2020, but 2021 will see them fire up again hopefully.