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Backcountry Ski/Winter Camping Training

Discussion about winter adventure sports in the Sierra Nevada mountains including but not limited to; winter backpacking and camping, mountaineering, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, etc.

Backcountry Ski/Winter Camping Training

Postby BigPsycheDadee » Sat Sep 22, 2007 4:46 pm

I am an experienced 3-season backpacker and have a fair amount of experience cross-country skiing on groomed tracks at nordic centers, ungrommed bridle/hiking paths, and unplowed park roads in rolling terrain of north-eastern Ohio (20-40 times a year) and occasionally the bunny hills of the tiny downhill areas we have here. My off-trail skis (which I like a lot) are Fischer Outbound Crowns (70-60-65), with Salmon Profile-BC bindings, and Fischer boots. My turns on these skis are wedge turns and stem christies (no telemarking). I've only been alpine skiing once (last winter), went to Sol Vista (a small ski resort near Winterpark) and took a lesson and by the end could parallel OK and handle the easier green runs.

I am interested in learning more about backcountry touring and winter skills for future hut trips/tent camping in the Rockies and Sierras, emphasizing getting from one place to another in varied terrain including above the tree line, avalanche assessment, winter camping, use of climbing skins, etc. Not really interested in going out-of-bounds in ski areas.

Does anybody have an opinion on school/guide services offered. A lot of them seem more downhill-oriented than touring oriented. I was looking at NOLS which looks interesting, but I wasn't sure if I'd be in over my head on the downhill portions (especially being limited to telemark skis). Does anyone have opinions on this or other schools?

Another first question is about gear. I'm 6'4", about 210 lbs., I thought the Fischer Outbounds might be a little bit light-duty for what I'm trying to do. I was looking at lightweight AT gear for better control on descents and more reliable release than medium/heavy-duty telemark gear (not all that interested in learning the telemark turn unless it's the easiest way down a steep slope), but I also hear that Dynafits behave weird with heavier skiers and are a pain to switch from alpine to touring. How much touring ease/comfort, compared to Dynafits or tele gear, do you give up if shifting to a heavier AT binding like Naxos.
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Postby Codester » Sun Sep 23, 2007 9:01 am

Hey BigPsycheDadee,
Sierra Mountain Guides, , is a great group of teachers, with tons of great experience here in the eastern sierra. I took both a Level 1 and a Level 2 ARIE avalanche classes last season. These guys are definitely top notch instructors. They do various tours and classes throughout the season.
To answer your question about gear, I would get some fatter skis, preferably not nordic skis, unless that's the type of touring you want to do. Nordic skis are used mostly for cross country type of travel, not really for hiking up mountains to ski down steep descents. I would recommend getting a ski with a mid-waist around 90-100. Once you get used to fat skis, you will never want to go back to a skinny ski again. I have never used Dynafits, but for people who are serious about touring, I think Dynafits are a great option. I have a pair of 189 "Made n AK's" (137-108-127) with some Fritshci Freeride AT Bindings. I LOVE this setup. The fat skis are great for powder days, they cut through crud, and they're even fun on groomers. I don't believe the extra weight makes that big of a difference unless your going on very long, multi-day trips.
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Postby copeg » Mon Sep 24, 2007 5:30 pm

I took my avalanche trailing through the Sierra Mountain Center. Knowledgable guides and they offer a lot of different courses which may fit your needs. They are based in Bishop. They are the only guiding center I've worked with so I can't comment on any of the others.

With regards to your gear, I've skied on the Fischer Rebounds (I think its an older model of the outtabounds) and liked them a lot. Good touring ski in that they seemed thin enough to travel the flats nicely, and thick enough to carve a turn. The waxless base seemed like a plus too. I'm more familiar with tele gear, but had friend who skied on the dynafit (something like the tlt light) and he seemed to fumble a lot with them. He hadn't skied on them for some time so I'm sure once you get used to them the fiddle factor is hugely reduced.
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Postby paul » Thu Sep 27, 2007 8:04 pm

There are some great outfits in the Sierra that offer the kind of courses you are after, although I bet it's kind of a big trip for you, and therer are probably some outfits in colorado or in New england that are good as well. Alpine Skills International has a great reputation, as does Mountain Adventure Seminars and Sierra Mountain Center.

As for the Dynafit question, take a look at, I think you'll find more Dynafit info there than anywhere else.

Ski-wise, in the fischer line I'd look at the Rebound or Boundless: Atomic Rainier or Chugach; Alpina Cross-terrain and Lite Terrain; and Karhu XCD 10th Mountian and XCD Giude. All of these are waxless, which is what I like out here in the Sierra; for the rockies I think waxables are more popular. All could be mounted with tele or AT bindings. Unless your goal are some pretty steep stuff, I wouldn't look at any AT bindings other than Dynafits. THe rest are so heavy that it seems like a real drag on the uphills and the flats compared to a light tele binding. I use Voile 3-pin cables for just the sort of thing you are talking about, as do a fair number of folks.

Take a look at the forums on - lots of info in there for what you are after.
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