For many months, backcountry ski touring has been on my mind. I now have 5 tours under my belt including a dawn patrol up Day's Fork and a long tour from Big Cottonwood to Millcreek. Here's some observations from a newbie:
- I had pretty high expectations for BC Skiing and those expectations have been more than met. Combining a solid workout with skiing, touring and solitude is hard to beat.
- I heard many describe BC Skiing as mountain biking on skis. That's a pretty good description. If you're only into going downhill, you can go to a resort and ride lifts with skis and an MTB. If you like going up and traveling in the mountains, XC MTB and BC Skiing are the ticket.
- You better like hiking because it's about 90% hiking and 10% skiing.
- I have learned what "survival skiing" is on a couple of the exits out to the road.
- You can still have lots of fun skiing slopes of 30 degrees or less.
- I'm taking a level 1 avy course in March. Since I'm a bit of a control freak, completely relying on others to judge the safety of a slope is way out of my comfort zone.
- With experience and knowledge, you can accurately judge the danger on steeper slopes. Bart and Alex lead Tanner and me down a couple 35 - 40 degree slopes yesterday that were very solid and fun.
- Without an incline-o-meter and some experience, we tend to over-estimate the steepness of slopes. Many resort slopes that people described as 40+, are more like mid to lower 30's.
- Like MTB and Cross, the best thing about BC Skiing is the people. I've been out with old friends and already made many new friends. I've enjoyed them all.
- Like bike racers, BC skiers like to blog. I've been lucky enough to ski with Bart, Alex, Mark, Dug and Rick already.
- As you would expect, climbing ability on a bike carries over to skis. Bart, Alex, Rick and Tanner are way faster going up than me.
- The Wasatch is amazing. In a crappy snow year, I've skied in good snow each time I've been out. In addition, yesterday we didn't see another person from the time we hit the trail in Big Cottonwood to when we reached the cabins in Porter Fork in Millcreek almost 7 hours later. On a Saturday. Amazing.
- My desire to ski in a resort is fading more with each outing. I can only see myself standing in line on epic powder days with high avalanche danger.
Tanner and I made it out with Bart and Alex yesterday for a long day of fun and challenge. Even though I was worked last night and I'm a little sore today, it was worth it. We started at the Spruces in Big Cottonwood, went up Mill D and over to Reynolds for a couple laps. Then down Watson and back up to Gobblers Knob. From there, 3,000 vertical down to Millcreek road.
Alex and Bart make it look easy.
Over-look into Alexander Basin.