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New Arrivals in AT & Randonee Gear

View our top picks for the 2015 Season

How to Choose the Right Ski Length and Width

While there’s no equation that looks like (height x weight)/(skill level)√magical number = perfect length in the skiing world, there are a few tips that can point you in the right direction when you’re trying to figure out which length of ski is right for you. Likewise, there’s no formula regarding width; the prevailing sentiment post-fat-ski-revolution seems to be, “Ski the widest ski you can without sacrificing performance,” and as a generalization, we tend to agree. But should you ski on wider skis? And if so, how wide do you go?

How to Lighten Your Touring Setup

The farther you go into the backcountry, the more fatigued you’ll feel dragging along heavy gear. Here’s how to lighten your load without sacrificing performance.

2015 Ski Reviews

Reviews of our favorite skis from the 2014 / 2015 season

Choosing a Ski: Alpine Ski Categories Defined

If you’re just getting into skiing, or have been on the same skis for years, the terminology now used by retailers can be confusing. The good news is, the ski categories prescribed by retailers and manufacturers stay relatively consistent year to year, and for the most part, the skis themselves do fit into those roles. But what is the difference between all mountain, big mountain, backcountry (aka alpine touring or AT), carving, powder, and park and pipe skis? And which one is right for you? A breakdown of these ski categories can help narrow your choice.

How to Choose a Ski Profile

The profile shape of a ski is a primary determinant for how a ski will interact with the snow, making profile an important feature to consider when selecting a pair of skis. But with the seemingly inexhaustible supply of proprietary profile shapes that debut year after year, choosing the right profile can seem like a daunting task. Worry not, the Backcountry herd is here to help.
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Unanswered Questions

Our community members have questions on gear. Do you have the answers? Help other members out and serve up your gear expertise.

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Kim Havell

There are different ways to explore. For our team, as we began planning a ski expedition to the Wrangell St. Elias/Kluane Park region of the Yukon, Canada, we decided to add more levels of adventure beyond that of the standard routine of arriving, climbing and skiing one peak, and flying back out. Our trip incorporated a greater level of expedition experience. Though it would involve more suffering and more logistics, we finalized a plan to climb, ski, traverse, and explore as much of the area as possible. Choosing to go in mid-April meant colder temps but safer movement in the [...]

Lexi D.

Whether it’s in the form of a lightweight baselayer or stylish pea coat, you really can’t go wrong with wool. It has been around for centuries—millennia, even—yet it continues to outperform many of today’s high-tech synthetics. But before we get into why wool is so amazing, banish from your mind the image of scratchy sweaters that exude the essence wet sheep upon first contact with snow or drizzle. That’s not the kind of wool we’re talking about here. We’re concerned with merino wool—also known as nature’s miracle fiber—but lambswool and high-quality wool blends are worth a mention, too. What makes [...]

Stephanie Nitsch

Snow bridges are one of the biggest hazards of ski and snowboard mountaineering over glacial terrain. An innocent-looking swath of snow may hide the hazard lies beneath: a yawning crevasse of ice. Snow bridges collapse without warning, but if you’re wearing a harness and are roped in (why aren’t you wearing a harness and roped in if you’re on a glacier?!), the essential gear in your pack will double as your emergency tools for a crevasse rescue. You hope an emergency never happens, but you need to be prepared if it does. If you’re considering a ski or splitboard mountaineering [...]

Stephanie Nitsch

The difference between backcountry skiing/splitboarding and ski/splitboard mountaineering is somewhat ambiguous. Navigating glacial terrain, however, is one activity that sets them apart, and which requires a new level of technical knowledge beyond your usual backcountry skill set. Last year, I took an introductory ski and splitboard mountaineering course through the SheJumps non-profit organization. My instructors, Diny Harrison (the first North American female guide to be certified by the IFMGA) and Kate Devine (a recently certified ACMG ski guide), imparted valuable glacier travel tips for aspiring ski mountaineers, the essence of which is captured below. Risk Management As in ‘regular’ backcountry [...]

Lexi D.

Gear fails. It’s inevitable, but many of us avoid facing the facts until it’s too late, and we’re up a creek with a busted paddle. Luckily, Voile—a Utah-based company that manufactures ski touring and splitboarding gear—offers up one the most useful gear inventions out there: the Voile Ski Strap. A marvel of simplicity, durability, and versatility, the Voile Strap is the backcountry equivalent of duct tape. In fact, it’s better than duct tape since it will even work in cold or wet conditions.Though it’s called a “Ski Strap,” don’t be fooled; the situations where a Voile Strap can save your [...]

Lexi D.

I recently attended the Western Winter Sports Rep Association ski demo at Snowbasin Resort in Huntsville, Utah. A two-day ski gear extravaganza, the WWSRA demo was a chance to investigate the hottest gear for women that will hit shelves in the early autumn of 2015. Here are some of my initial impressions about the women’s skis that stood out on the racks; look for these skis to launch on Backcountry in August and September of 2015! To put my reviews in context, I am 5’3” and weigh 120 lbs (on a good day). I am an expert skier who likes [...]

Joshua Barnes

You don’t know how it happened, but it did, and now you have to deal with it. You met someone, you fell for them, and now you want to spend all(ish) of your life with them. But, here’s the thing: they don’t ski, and even worse, they want to learn. At this point, you have two options (three if you count changing your name and moving out of state): you either hook them up with lessons, or you teach them yourself. If you don’t have enough cash for an instructor, or you don’t trust one of your friends to teach [...]

Griffin Post

When it comes to air travel with ski or snowboard gear, getting there is not half the fun. Usually, flying entails lugging two extremely heavy bags around, paying extra baggage fees, eating overpriced airport food and drinking overpriced beers, all the while wondering if the bags are going to your same destination, or a vacation of their own. As frustrating as air travel can be, however, there are plenty of ways to make your trip less painful. While none of these tips will guarantee that your bags will make it nor that a hottie will be seated next to you, [...]

Lexi D.

The Outdoor Retailer trade show is one of the most important events in our business, where our buyers meet with manufacturers and decide what we will be offering on Backcountry.com in the coming year. For the dedicated gear freak who can’t wait to see the latest and greatest outdoor gear, it’s four days of heaven. Our Community Manger, Lexi Dowdall, took a few laps of the massive show floor of Winter OR 2015, and reported back on some of the highlights of what she saw. Photos by Re Wikstrom Arc’teryx Lithic Glove A close-up look at the 333D moto-grade fabric [...]

Griffin Post

Jackson Hole was one of the first resorts in the United States to have an “open gates” policy, and the terrain around it serves up some of the best lift-serviced backcountry in the country. From puckering steeps to playful pillows, there’s just about every sort of adventure a rider could ask for, just a short traverse and bootpack from the tram. When the conditions are right, all that’s standing between riders and heli-quality terrain is an access gate. Easy access notwithstanding, though, Jackson Hole’s backcountry is the real deal, and skiers and riders venturing out should be equipped as if [...]

Pace

“Factory” might be a bit of an overstatement. Located a few blocks from Park City’s historic Main Street, the Soul Poles shop is more like a glorified garage that shares a wall with the local Mexican bakery. But toiling in a garage is where most great American innovators got their start, so they’re in good company. Photos by Re Wikstrom At Backcountry we have a soft spot for the little guys who are working to bring sustainability and homegrown craftsmanship back to the industry. So when Lexi Dowdall, our community manager, needed to score a new pair of poles to [...]

Stephanie Nitsch

We’ve all perfected the art of bailing in daily life. It’s as easy as pulling out your smart phone and punching out a vague text message to the friend you’ve had longstanding plans with. “Hey, sorry, but I gotta take a rain check on tomorrow. Got some last-minute stuff.” Maybe work is a legitimate scapegoat. Maybe it’s a result of the contagious FOMO syndrome (Fear Of Missing Out), where Plan A is put on hold because a better Plan B came along. But maybe “better” is really just a code word for sitting at home and avoiding your friends because [...]

Andrew McLean

Standing at the top of a perfect Wasatch powder run, Bruce Tremper of the Utah Avalanche Forecast Center and I only lacked one thing: visibility. We had the perfect slope, perfect snow, good stability and the place all to ourselves … if only we could see it. After I grumbled about it for a few minutes while Bruce was fine-tuning the buckles on his boots, he said “Why don’t you take this first and I’ll tell you the secret for flat light at the bottom.”  Pushing off, I channeled my inner mantra to “Use the Force” and fumbled my way [...]

Jeff Catalano

Ski touring, or ‘earning your turns,’ as it’s affectionately called, has never been more popular. Removing the restriction of only being able to ski lift-served runs opens up new terrain, provides access to untracked powder, enables you to skip lift lines and resort crowds, and of course, has you feeling the burn of tired legs like never before. While in theory any ski can be used for alpine touring, the recent increase in the sport’s popularity has led to the development of touring-specific ski models that typically feature lighter-weight constructions than their pure downhill counterparts. You’ll also find touring-specific shapes [...]

Paul Diegel

Skiing and riding in the backcountry is a bit like driving on the freeway: when you know the rules and have some skills and experience, it has some risk, but it tends to work out OK. When you lack those ingredients, it’s confusing, embarrassing, and dangerous at best, and nobody wants to ride with you. When you understand how to match your decisions to the current conditions, you can get out and safely have a great time on any day, regardless of the conditions. So how do you learn to make good decisions in the backcountry? In Utah, along with [...]

Lexi D.

At Backcountry we’re serious about down jackets. Most of us live in them for six months of the year, and at peak season we have over 400 styles to choose from on our site. To make sure we’re pointing you towards the down jacket that’s best suited to your needs, we talk to designers and manufacturers, pore over catalogs and technical specifications, and we put them to the test every time we head to the mountains or commute to the office on a chilly day. Point being, we work hard to make sure we’re getting it right. But despite our [...]

Backcountry

Backcountry.com athletes are getting a lot of love on the awards circuit, most recently at Powder Magazine’s 15th annual awards on December 5 in Salt Lake City. As you can see in the clips below, the Backcountry Goat is traveling in some pretty high-flying circles. Teton Gravity Research’s Almost Ablaze pulled down top honors as “Movie of the Year.” This film, “a global odyssey combining state-of-the-art cinematography and the most progressive riding on the planet,” features a number of Backcountry athletes who also received individual recognition nod from the jury. The most attention, though, (and a grip of awards) has been [...]

Andy Anderson

Ski touring, AT skiing, ski mountaineering, randonee … whatever you call it, getting into the backcountry on skis is becoming more and more popular. The idea of escaping into nature and away from the crowds—and enjoying untouched snow—may sound really good, but where do you start? There are two essential components, education and gear. We’ll tackle the equipment question in this article; you can learn how to get an education in backcountry safety here. But before you consider what equipment you’ll want to acquire, think about where you’ll be skiing, how you plan on skiing, and the type of terrain [...]

Catherine Greenwald

You were never going to be that parent—the one with the kid pitching a fit on the bunny hill, sniveling about the cold and whining to be taken home. Yours may be one of those who take to the snow like a baby polar bear, but even the hardiest kid can have a rough day. Whether you’re headed to after-school lessons, a weekend getaway, or a family vacation, here are some tips for maximizing the fun and minimizing the pain of a day on the slopes with very young skiers. Tip #1: Keep ‘em warm … but don’t immobilize them. [...]

Rob de Luca

In the early ’90s, when dinosaurs had only recently been supplanted by mammals and plaid shirts were worn layered on top of each other, terrain parks were in their infancy. They were an attempt to welcome snowboarding to the resorts and to corral (unsuccessfully) the skate-inspired tricks that boarders favored and that upset the status quo. Initially, skiers were not allowed in the parks, but with youth being youth, that restriction became more of a temptation than any marketing ploy could ever hope to achieve. Skiers began “poaching” the parks, and not long after, the first production twintip ski (the [...]

Sean Zimmerman-Wall

The sound is unmistakable. A loud rumble accompanied by the sensation of having the rug pulled out from under you. In seconds you’re rushing downslope, tumbling, caught in a washing machine of snow, rock, and wood. The sky fades in and out and you gasp for air as you’re force-fed thick, suffocating snow. Moving at 60 miles an hour, you’re helpless to stop the cascade. You reach for the small handle located on your shoulder, and a sudden “whoosh” fills your ears. Large sacs of air deploy around you and you start to rise to the surface. After a minute, [...]

Austin H.

Avalanche airbag packs are unlike any other safety tool in a backcountry skier’s arsenal. Pull a handle and, in the blink of an eye, you increase your chances of ending up on top of a slide instead of underneath it. The very same technology that enables this survival advantage makes this safety tool unique in the eyes of airlines and regulatory institutions. We distilled the information from airbag manufacturers and airline regulations into a short guide for traveling with an avalanche airbag pack on planes. If you read nothing else in this article, keep one thing in mind: The safest [...]

Rob de Luca

You’ve read product catalogs, seen magazine gear guides, and heard lift-line conversations referring to “big mountain” or “freeride” skis, but all you can tell is that they look a little longer and sometimes a bit fatter than your own. So what makes a big mountain freeride ski different from a powder ski or an all mountain ski, and why would you want a pair? Here’s the breakdown. While the term “big mountain” may sound a little ridiculous taken out of context (aren’t we all skiing on the same mountain?), it comes from the competitive freeride (or “extreme,” if you’re over [...]

Adam Riser

Staying warm is the key to having fun in freezing temps. Here’s a breakdown of the two basic types of insulation and the kinds of jackets they insulate. Down vs. Synthetic The overriding principle at work in insulated jackets (and sleeping bags, mittens, or any other insulated apparel) is the same: air is trapped in the small spaces between the filaments of down or strands of polyester, providing warmth in cold conditions. Loftier (or puffier, if you will) materials consist of more air, and offer a greater warmth-to-weight ratio. Overall, down is lighter, more compressible, and longer-lasting than synthetic insulation. [...]