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What You Need To Start Backcountry Skiing or Splitboarding

private backcountry ski guiding in lake tahoe with professional mountain guides

If you’re an avid skier or snowboarder looking to take your winter adventures to the next level, backcountry touring might be just what you need. Backcountry touring offers the perfect blend of untracked snow, solitude, and breathtaking mountain landscapes. However, it’s not something to jump into without the proper knowledge and preparation. In this guide, we’ll take you through the essential steps to start backcountry touring safely and enjoyably.

Learn The Foundations of Backcountry Touring:

We specifically developed an Intro To Backcountry series in Lake Tahoe, dedicated to teaching beginners the foundations of backcountry skiing or splitboarding. Our Tahoe ski guides will help you learn how to use your equipment, help you gain confidence in the backcountry, and teach you proper techniques for skinning, transitioning, and skiing or riding. Our Intro to Backcountry series is three parts. Backcountry 1.0: Intro to Backcountry, Backcountry 2.0: Intermediate Backcountry Techniques and Terrain, and Backcountry 3.0: Intro To Ski Mountaineering. We require Backcountry 1.0 for all AIARE 1 participants.

Take an Avalanche Education Course:

Before strapping on your touring gear and heading into the backcountry alone, invest in avalanche education. Avalanche safety is paramount, and you need to understand the basics of avalanches, snowpack analysis, and how to mitigate risks. Enrolling in an avalanche safety course from American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) helps you gain crucial knowledge and safety awareness. We offer AIARE 1 in two different formats. Our Hybrid AIARE 1 course has a partial online classroom component, perfect for people with busy schedules. Our 3-Day AIARE 1 course is the traditional in-person model which is great for people who like more hands-on learning time with our instructors. Either one you choose is the basic requirement for safely traveling in the backcountry!

The Right Gear:

Backcountry touring requires specialized gear that distinguishes it from resort skiing or snowboarding. Here’s what you’ll need:

a. Touring Skis or Splitboard: These skis and snowboards are designed to allow uphill travel as well as downhill descents. Make sure they are equipped with climbing skins for ascending slopes.

b. Avalanche Safety Gear: This includes a beacon, probe, and shovel. Learn how to use these tools effectively in your avalanche safety course.

c. Backpack: Invest in a suitable backpack with enough space for your gear, safety equipment, food, and water.

d. Outerwear: Choose clothing appropriate for the backcountry, which should include waterproof and breathable layers.

e. Navigation Tools: A GPS, map, and compass are essential for route finding.

f. Climbing Skins: These are adhesive strips that attach to the base of your skis or splitboard for uphill travel.

g. Boots and Bindings: Ensure your boots and bindings are compatible with your touring skis or splitboard.

We offer rentals of backcountry skiing and splitboarding gear, contact our office for pricing!

Plan Your Trip:

Before heading out, meticulously plan your backcountry tour. This involves choosing a suitable route, considering the weather forecast, and establishing a communication plan with someone who knows your itinerary. Inform someone about your plans, expected return time, and provide them with essential information about your trip.

Practice Your Skills:

Practice using the skills you learned in Backcountry 1.0 before attempting a more challenging backcountry tour, start with shorter and less complex routes. Familiarize yourself with your gear and practice transitions from uphill to downhill mode. For expert guidance and pro tips on how to quickly become an intermediate backcountry skier, sign up for our Backcountry 2.0!

Stay Informed:

Keep yourself updated on weather conditions, avalanche forecasts, and trail conditions. Numerous websites, apps, and local resources can provide up-to-date information to help you make informed decisions.


Backcountry touring offers a unique and exhilarating way to explore the winter wilderness. However, it comes with its own set of challenges and risks. By educating yourself, investing in the right gear, and practicing your skills, you can embark on your backcountry adventure safely and responsibly. Remember, safety should always be your top priority, and having the right knowledge and equipment is crucial for a successful and enjoyable backcountry experience. So, start small, build your skills, and gradually work your way up to more challenging tours. Enjoy the freedom and beauty of the backcountry while staying safe and respecting the environment.

aiare course in lake tahoe taught by professional mountain guides

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private backcountry ski guiding in lake tahoe with professional mountain guides

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