When a friend first told me she went out backcountry snowboarding I was confused. I literally thought that it was something only professional athletes did. Like you had to be sponsored by Red Bull and have a film crew or something with you.
The thought that backcountry is only for the super athletes might be the biggest misconception about the sport. Obviously, you should be a decent skier or snowboarder to get started but you absolutely do not have to be a professional athlete.
Welcome to the fourth installment of Backcountry 101! Today we are going over how to train for the backcountry and what kind of physical fitness is necessary for touring.
Skiing & Snowboarding Skills
You do need to be a decent skier or snowboarder to get into the backcountry. You’ll encounter variable terrain and snow so being able to ride in any and all kinds of conditions is important. If you’re a beginner stick to the groomers at the resort until you’re comfortable going off trail and riding in deep powder.
You spend 90% of your time going uphill on a backcountry tour so you need to have good endurance and stamina. A great way to get in shape for those uphills is by uphilling or skinning at your local ski resort. This is when you skin up a run in-bounds at a ski resort. It’s also a great way to get accustomed to your gear and practice with it in a controlled environment. Every resort’s policy about uphilling is different so make sure to check if a) your resort allows it, b) which runs are designated for it, and c) when it’s allowed. Many resorts only allow uphilling before or after hours, but some have designated runs for it during the day as well.
I have become a big fan of strength training in recent years. You might not realize it but do need quite a bit of core and arm strength for your uphill climb. Strength training is great for keeping your balance on steep inclines and stability in difficult terrain. And should you ever have to dig someone out of an avalanche you’ll need a lot of strength to move that snow. Frozen water is heavy!
Nothing beats actually getting out into the backcountry and doing a tour. Pick an easier route and go slow if you are still “getting in shape”, but seriously, the only way to get better, stronger, and faster is to just do it.
So no, you do not have to be a professional athlete to get into the backcountry. But having some athletic abilities and endurance is a good idea. And hey, if you are not quite where you want to be fitness-wise all you have to do is practice and train. And it’s pretty fun training if I do say so myself.
Backcountry 101: Intro to Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding
Backcountry 101: Gear
Backcountry 101: Safety
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