Check out our mission statement
– in a nutshell the club is a place for fellow backcountry enthusiasts to meet, and provides a low cost way of accessing the backcountry. Keep in mind though that our club members are not guides or ski instructors and hence have no liability something goes wrong.
Any place outside of ski resort boundaries is considered backcountry. If it is unmaintained (this includes avalanche control, grooming, hazard markings, and ski patrol) it is backcountry, regardless of the proximity to a resort or an urban area.
It can be. In the backcountry, you and you alone are responsible for your own safety. With the freedom to explore your limits comes the responsibility of making the decisions that determine the level of risk that you are exposed to. Proper education
and good wilderness habits greatly limit the amount of unintended risk. The amount of danger you are exposed to is completely your decision, it can be as mundane as a quiet tour in the woods, or as intense as a ‘you fall, you die’ slope. The choice is yours.
Other than previous resort skiing experience, no. You do not need any previous experience to join the club on an outing. It is recommended that you determine the level of difficulty of the tour and decide if you believe it is appropriate for you. All participants should expect to take an active role in deciding where and what to ski. It cannot be stressed strongly enough, the club is not a guiding service.
While the club does not require any training or experience to join, it is highly recommended to acquire the basic knowledge for safe backcountry travel. These include navigation and route finding skills, and avalanche training. Club members receive discounted avalanche training and the club also has a variety of helpful books on the basic skills. Recommended books include: ‘Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills 7th edition’, ‘Staying Alive in Avalanche terrain’, and ‘Allen and Mike’s Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book’. The CU Recreation Center’s Outdoor Program also offers training in various wilderness skills.
Yes. On club tours or outing you must carry avalanche rescue equipment (beacon, probe, and shovel). You should not go into the backcountry without all three. It is also necessary to have a means of climbing up (skins, an alpine touring or a telemark setup, a splitboard or snow shoes). These items are available to rent through the club
Because it pains the rest of us to watch others suffer so much. Wading through waist-deep snow is extraordinarily tiring. If you were to reach the summit, you would probably be too tired to enjoy the ride down. Do yourself a huge favor; use the correct gear.
Skins are generally adhesive-backed nylon strips. They have glue on one side and a fur-like surface on the other. They attach onto your skis or splitboard to provide the grip needed to ascend the slopes, and peel off for the descent.
AT stands for alpine touring. An AT binding is a ski binding that unlocks at the heel for traversing and climbing and locks down for descending. There are a number of brands and models, many that are compatible with standard alpine ski boots. There are also alpine touring boots. These have rubber soles and usually a walk mode, some have inserts that allow for the use of special AT bindings. They are often lighter than alpine ski boots and better for hiking.
A splitboard is a snowboard that splits (hence the name) into a pair of skis for traversing and climbing, and can be converted back into a snowboard for the descent.
It is. There is a reason that ski lifts were invented. All skiers used to be backcountry skiers, now backcountry is the minority. If you like getting off the beaten path and away from the crowds, all that is normally required is a little work.
No. It never hurts though. The snow found in the backcountry is highly variable, much more so than found at the resorts. This can lead to difficult conditions. The more proficient you are, the more often you will stay upright, but at least the snow is typically soft when you fall.
Yes, but only because we are better than everybody else.
There are a several reasons.
1) We advocate ‘Pure Backcountry’. It is, in fact, our motto. This means the official stance of the club is to promote only human powered turns (no car shuttles, snowmobiles, etc.). While you can certainly be a member of the club and partake in these activities, you could even (gasp) ski a resort, the club promotes unassisted pure backcountry turns. They are better for the environment; you know that thing we depend on to make this all possible.
2) We expect members to be proactive in ensuring their own safety. We know that many beginners want simply to be taken by the hand and told what to do. There are people who do this for a living, they’re called guides. Club members, including staff members, are unpaid. They are simply people who want to get out and enjoy the snow, same as you. It is rude and irresponsible to try and force them to be responsible for your safety. Freedom in the backcountry only exists if each and every individual is responsible for their own decisions.
3) We have a propensity to engage in unsolicited rants such as the above statements.
The exact list of items will depend on the extent of the tour, but there are some that should be brought every time.
- First the gear needed for your chosen descent method (AT, telemark, or snowboard).
- Beacon, probe and shovel. The trinity of avalanche rescue gear.
- Water: at least a liter maybe two depending on the trip.
- Food: trail food is best, energy bars, trail mix, sandwiches, etc.
- Sunscreen: even if it’s cloudy, snow reflects UV rays and can still burn.
- Extra clothing; it is best to dress in layers. You will be much warmer on the way up than on the way down.
- Sunglasses and goggles; you will often want both.
- Map, compass, and/or GPS. Especially if you are unfamiliar with the area.
- Duct tape, zip ties and a multi-tool. Things break.
Because people make mistakes. Colorado leads the country in avalanche deaths per year. The snowpack in Colorado is prone to hard slab avalanches and can be tricky to predict. While having avalanche rescue gear does not guaranty you will survive being buried in an avalanche, not having them guaranties that you will not.
Membership benefits are found here
. Gear rentals include avalanche beacons, probes, and shovels, Splitboards, AT setups, Skins, Alpine Trekkers, Backpacks, Ice axes and other outdoor equipment.
No. If you have all the gear you can just show up.
A great place to start is by signing up for the club’s email list
– this is where the majority of our tours get started. Once the season is underway, we might start to meet at the Brewing Market on Folsom and Arapahoe at 7:30 on either Saturdays or Sundays (again, the list is a great place to hear about this). You should have some idea of what type of tour you are interested in, and where you might like to go. Before departing, we generally have a discussion about what people want to do that day and decide where we will go, and if necessary, break into smaller groups depending on ability or aspirations.
Anyone can use the list, but we ask that it is used to find ski partners and not used for spam. General questions can be posted on the forums, or if you need a more immediate answer you can email the club directors using the direct email link
. If you want to send out information using the distribution list, please send an email to the club director first to ask if it is appropriate.
Stop by the club office (UMC 120) during office hours. We’ll ask that you pay dues and sign a liability waiver.
I’d say the best plan if you don’t want to wait for the next beginner’s tour is to plan your own trip. Check out some maps, trip reports on the BC club website, etc. and come up with a day-plan that sounds like fun. Somewhere like Berthoud Pass would be a great place to go out and skin around, do some skiing, and get comfortable in the Backcountry. If you sent an email to the list looking for partners to go out on a beginner’s day, you’d get plenty of responses (so long as your not looking for a guide). I recommend staying within your ability level and out of avalanche terrain, which is easy with a little prior studying.
It’s unfortunate that there’s not a better way for the BC club to ‘guide’ others into the backcountry. We do what we can with beginner’s tours, but they are huge undertakings. A general rule of the backcountry is that if you don’t know how to be self-sufficient out there, you shouldn’t be out there to begin with. Obviously this presents a problem in that nobody could ever learn to be self-sufficient in the BC if this was the case! Still, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to find someone through the list willing to show you the ropes one-on-one, or act as any kind of guide. Instead, it’s up to you to get out there and see if it’s your kind of experience. Once it is, we encourage you to come out to the Brewing Market some weekend looking for adventure (most of the tours we go on are moderate). If you ever need any advice or gear, the club is rich in both (this is what office hours are for!).
If you have any additional questions, feel free to ask!