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asdf
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PostWed Jan 02, 2019 11:44 am 
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I want to get out more in the winter.  Thought maybe I would look into AT skiing.  I downhill ski but don't know much about climbing.  Anyone do this around here?
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geyer
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PostWed Jan 02, 2019 2:26 pm 
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If you've got any friends who will take you to a no-avi risk place like a forest road, that's the best way to learn. You can rent from some places like ascent outdoors to test it out. There are books published by the mountaineers. There are classes from AIARE on avalanche certification, there are classes from the mountaineers (among others) on AT glacier travel.

If you already are confident in your avi knowledge, then AT is little more than walking uphill in skis
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OwenT
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PostWed Jan 02, 2019 2:33 pm 
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Sorry not much help but I'm sure several people will chime in here I think we have plenty of backcountry skiers here I just want to hear what they have to say too. For a few years I've been wanting to get into it but the barriers of buying new gear and getting an education have prevented me. From what I understand it's ideal to take an avalanche rescue course and an AIARE level 1 course before setting out plus you need new poles, boots, and bindings + shovel, beacon, probe and I'd probably opt for an airbag pack too. All that adds up fast. Seems a little daunting to me especially not knowing if I'll even like it and I have no friends that do it so I'd like to hear everyone's advice too on how to get started. not to hijack your thread...
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Jeff
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PostWed Jan 02, 2019 4:28 pm 
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I think a lot of skiers have friends that introduce them, so I would recommend that. If not, you can take an intro to backcountry skiing course from one of the many local guide companies. I would rather not have to to pay a guide to have them teach the basics, but on the other hand you always learn something cool when you work with a guide.

If you haven't taken AIARE I yet, you can do that after the intro class or do it before, but on snowshoes. You don't want to be the guy at the AIARE I course who is cutting skins in the parking lot or asking how to do a kick turn.

Then there is buying the gear, which is a whole nother can of worms.
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williswall
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PostWed Jan 02, 2019 5:03 pm 
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I bought gear and took it up in 2014. I've been lift skiing since I was 8. However, I don't really have any partners for this so limit my BC skiing to spring after the danger of wet slides has abated since I'm solo. It really is a hoot, one of my best days was skiing the Russell Glacier (MRNP) on July 4th. I got a killer deal on the skis (new, on the Clymb), bought the boots used along with a pre owned beacon. The biggest expense were the bindings, and I also picked up a probe, Whippet and shovel new. So not cheap, even with the occasional deal.  I try to get to Snoqualmie occasionally during the week and skin/ski Hyak (closed except weekends), with the Hyak Face being the best lap run IMO.

As mentioned above, you need the education and skill set, along with partners, to mitigate BC skiing dangers during the winter months. Despite my limited time during the shortish spring window, I can attest that there's nothing like "earning your turns." A great complement to downhill lift skiing for sure.

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rossb
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PostWed Jan 02, 2019 6:54 pm 
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What geyer said. I think that advice applies to snowshoes as well (since they carry the same risk).

The big difference is the gear. For going uphill, there are basically two different ways: skins or via skis that have fish scales. I recommend the latter, even though lots of trips require skins as well. There is just a lot of terrain around here that has a nice, easy gradual ascent, and it is nice to cruise along quickly and not deal with skins (at least for part of the trip). For example, a trip up to Kendall Lakes doesn't require skins. While up there, you might put on skins to get up a steeper hill. Or maybe you just ski down. Likewise, there is plenty of terrian around Paradise that is like that. Fish scales on big skis is a great innovation that makes a lot of sense around here.

Rocker is also great. It was created (and is often marketed) as being wonderful for powder. I'm sure it is, but most any ski is great in powder (powder is just fun). What people don't mention enough is that rocker is great for big, wet slop. The key is, you don't submarine. You stay above the slop, which means you don't have to push it. In the Northwest, we get a lot of big, wet, messy days, and rocker skis are great for that. In general rocker is good for all fresh snow, and not as good for a groomed area (or hard pack).

It is common for backcountry skiers to ride the lifts on big powder days (that way they know it is safe) and ski the backcountry when conditions aren't quite as perfect. You can use the A. T. gear on the lifts of course (I seem to remember someone discussing the particulars on Turns All Year). That opens up the possibility of side country trips as well (keep in mind that side country is every bit as risky as regular backcountry -- once you leave the resort, you are on your own).

Speaking of which, Turns All Year is a great website for everything related to this subject (there will be plenty of people offering lots of advice there). I also recommend the book of Washington backcountry ski routes. The cross country books are also good -- but if you are just doing A. T. skiing, I would recommend the first one.
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RandyHiker
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PostWed Jan 02, 2019 11:29 pm 
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https://washingtonalpineclub.org/classes/backcountry-travel-class
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Mikey
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PostThu Jan 03, 2019 8:33 am 
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At the White Pass Ski Area one can take a lift and ski south on HogBack ridge.  The White Pass Ski Area Map shows the lifts and terrain.
A 4/30/2016 snow shoe trip report up HogBack Ridge provides information including a photo.
It has been my experience skiing at White Pass that one can get enjoyable back country skiing without having the spend the majority of your time skiing up hill.
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RandyHiker
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PostThu Jan 03, 2019 9:32 am 
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Hyak (Summit East) is a very popular place to practice skinning and skiing mid-week when the lifts are closed.  Summit West is also used that way as it is closed Monday-Thursday during the day.

The uphill policy of Summit (West, Central, East) is permissive and as long as you stick to the sides of runs you can skin there anytime.  Alpental is similar,  but uphill travel is only allowed while ski area is open to lift skiers.

Skinning up a ski area might seem weird, but it's a safe way to develop your skinning skills and muscles without dealing with the more complex aspects of backcountry skiing like avalanche assessment and route finding.

That way you'll be more practiced the first time you tour the backcountry and won't embarrass yourself by putting your skins on backwards in front of others and wondering why you are getting no grip and zero glide.
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cascadeclimber
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PostThu Jan 03, 2019 10:17 am 
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You don't mention what you want to learn.

I think the two biggest differences are the need to evaluate avy risk and learning to ski truly off-piste. For the former you can take a class or read a book. However, it's an art, not a science, and so is imprecise at best: You can dig a pit that is rock solid, skin 50 feet around a corner and get the chop. This sort of thing happens every winter to people with hundreds of hours of avy awareness training.

If you want to learn the techniques of skiing on light gear in ever-changing Cascade snow conditions then take your gear to a place with a lot of ungroomed terrain (Crystal, for example) and ski long, hard, days on the steeps, in the trees, and full height of the area. I think the real keys to enjoying backcountry skiing are being confident in all sorts of snow conditions (powder, ice, crust, sastrugi, mank, etc.), as you are likely to encounter them all in one BC run, and being fit enough to not get destroyed on the approach.

Skinning uphill isn't much more complicated than snowshoeing, though there are some subtleties of technique that can be helpful (i.e. it's generally less effort to drag skis that to lift and step).

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thunderhead
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PostThu Jan 03, 2019 10:37 am 
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One word: hyak.

Great place to learn and not worry about avalanches, although i suppose the liftline could slide on really bad days...
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RandyHiker
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PostThu Jan 03, 2019 11:32 am 
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thunderhead wrote:
One word: hyak.

Great place to learn and not worry about avalanches, although i suppose the liftline could slide on really bad days...

I agree that 99.9% the time Hyak is avalanche safe terrain.  But on really bad days, all bets are off.


Though this was more of a landslide than a snow avalanche.
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joker
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PostThu Jan 03, 2019 11:48 am 
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Good advice here, including getting off the groomers when riding the lifts.

There is subtlety to uphill travel that's also well worth learning whether in a class or by going with more experienced folks, including things like safe and enjoyable route selection, how to ace kick turns on steep traverses, staying safe in zones that have other folks touring in the area, and plotting out a skintrack strategy when you are "farming" a hillside on repeated laps (etc.). And as noted above, generally slide the ski forward rather  than lifting it for each  forward step (though when trailbreaking this depends very much on your skis and the  nature of the snow - sometimes you  just have to lift as you  slide to get the  ski out from under deep snow dammit). A good uptrack is a thing of beauty, and somewhat meditative to create. So-so and crappy uptracks seem much more common. I learned a lot from watching and talking to Canadian ski guides during  trips  to backcountry huts up in BC - IMO their uptracks are the generally the gold standard!!
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