January 2, 2022

How to Train for Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding

by Kevin

Winter is already here, which means it’s time to start preparing and training for skiing and snowboarding! Perhaps, you haven’t been training a lot during the summer, or you’re looking to improve your skills. Either way, you should pick up your gear and head to the closest backcountry.

Nevertheless, you need to train adequately and plan skiing and snowboarding before heading to the backcountry. In this write-up, we’ll talk about how to train for backyard skiing and snowboarding and the FAQs surrounding backyard skiing and snowboarding. 

Here we go!

Table of Contents

What are the Benefits of Backyard Skiing and Snowboarding?

Besides being fun and cool, the other benefits of backyard skiing and snowboarding include:

It’s an excellent workout 

This is arguably the best advantage of skiing and snowboarding. This is quite an amazing workout, whether you’re in the backcountry or the uphill area. When you’re on steep terrain, almost finishing your ascent, the burn in your legs and lungs and the effort you use to climb is incredible. 

Even though this might discourage some from attempting skinning, for those of us who love working out while having fun, you know that the sweat makes the adventure much better. 

You get to ride various terrain

Unlike resorts, the backyard does not have limited terrain options. You can ski or ride on one terrain then move on to different terrain with new and exciting obstacles. You may go to the forest if you want to ride in the trees, open field, or head for the cliff! These options make the experience more enjoyable and challenging as well. 

Riding through the sunset and sunrise 

Nothing will make your evening or morning better than watching the sunrise or sunset doing what you enjoy most. Everyone appreciates the beauty and rareness of these picturesque moments, which might not be attained when skiing or riding in a resort. 

It blends camping with riding 

Here’s yet another reason to go backyard skiing and snowboarding. For those who love camping, locating a suitable backcountry area that allows for camping gives you a whole weekend of fun and exploration. 

You can effortlessly access the terrain if you want to ride at night. This also applies to the early birds who want to ride in the morning. 

What are the Risks of Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding?

Traveling uphill poses several risks: the snow is unsullied, and avalanches can happen because of unstable snow conditions. For this reason, it would help if you carried avalanche safety gear like probes, shovels, beacons, and float avalanche bags. 

Additionally, you should approach this area with an orthodox mindset and know about the snow, immediate terrain, and, if possible, have a guide with you. 

Related Article: What Is the Relationship between Rappelling and Snowboarding?

What are Some Safety Precautions when Skiing and Snowboarding?

With the fast riding and skiing motion, more riders tend to cross the boundaries in search of untouched powder. In the backcountry, solitude, pristine slopes, and unmatched natural beauty are associated with inherent hazards. 

This route is usually uncontrolled and unpatrolled, thus its paradoxical appeal. To help you, here are some safety precautions:

  • Learn to ski.
  • Ski with friends or in a group.
  • Practice to maintain or improve your abilities .
  • Trust your instincts – turn back if something feels wrong. 
  • Don’t overlook the clues given. 
  • Don’t go riding or skiing if there was a massive storm the previous day. 
  • Don’t presume that the terrain is safe because it has tracks. The stability of a snowpack can be affected by wind, temperature, and sun. 

Is Backcountry Skiing or Snowboarding Expensive?

No, backcountry skiing or snowboarding is not expensive, and it costs much less to maintain. Besides, the more you do it, the more you get to enjoy the benefits it comes with. So, invest in yourself, and earn every turn. 

What Kind of Clothing is Necessary for Backcountry Skiing or Snowboarding?

Most people embark on backcountry skiing, and snowboarding tours dressed the same way they do when alpine skiing. But touring requires somewhat different attire, including;


Typically, base layers come in heavy, medium, and light versions, whereas the thicker versions offer more warmth. When touring, the light option is sufficient unless it’s really cold. 

Mid layer 

A practical mid-layer keeps you warm when you’re not riding and offers remarkable breathability, facilitating the evaporation of sweat when you’re working hard to earn your turns. 

Shell jacket 

This will be your first line of defense when in extreme weather conditions. The layering arrangement should integrate the shell jacket instead of wearing one with plenty of insulation. 


When it comes to backcountry touring, the best pants to go for are softshell pants. One of the reasons why is that they’re perfect for damp climates. Go for a material that provides excellent abrasion resistance and has DWR treatment. Some ice climbing pants are also suitable for backcountry skiing and snowboarding.


While socks are among the most overlooked attire, they are vital when touring. It’s essential that you pick socks made using wicking material such as merino wool and polypropylene. These materials are ideal for moisture control. Also, smooth fabric prevents blisters. 

Beanies and gloves 

Most alpine skiing gloves are suitable for backcountry skiing and snowboarding, but you can choose a warmer pair if it’s very cold. When it comes to hats, go for a washing machine-friendly and wicking hat. 

Goggles and sunglasses 

Your pair of ski and snowboard goggles and sunglasses will come in handy in making a safe descent. Sunglasses will be helpful when snowing on a sunny day. 

How Do You Prepare Your Body for Backcountry Skiing or Snowboarding?

To prepare your body for backcountry skiing or snowboarding, it would help if you did a couple of workouts. Here is a general overview of how to prepare your body for backcountry skiing or snowboarding:

  • Focus on your lower body – you’ll mostly rely on your glutes, quads, hips, and hamstring to get to the backcountry and drop in deep powder. 
  • Build strength on muscles that offer balance and control – focusing on the muscles around the hips and core comes in handy in maintaining decent body posture. 
  • Boost endurance – you’ll require a lot of stamina to make all those turns in the backcountry.

It would be best to work out two to three times a week for about thirty minutes per session. 

How Do You Prepare for a Day of Backcountry Skiing or Snowboarding?

Here is how to prepare for a day of backcountry skiing or snowboarding:

  • Learn all you need before heading for the backcountry, like avalanche safety gear available and where to train adequately. 
  • Pack your gear and double-check to make sure you’ve not left anything
  • Check the snow conditions. 
  • Make sure you have a guide or are going with friends. 
  • Lastly, double-check whether your communication devices are working. 

What are the Basic Skills Necessary for Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding?

As a beginner rider or skier, there are some basic skills you need to have when in the backcountry, including:

Avalanche awareness 

Get educated on avalanches as the backcountry is an uncontrolled environment. Before heading there, you need to be trained and educated on avalanches. Again, avalanche awareness includes knowing how to use avalanche safety gear like beacons, shovels, and probes. 

Intermediate ski or snowboard skills 

It is recommended that you effortlessly sail through the blue square runs at the resort before attempting the backcountry. This is because it is dynamic and doesn’t feature the intentionally built trails and groomed snow like the resort. 

What are Some Tips to Help You Stay Safe While Backcountry Skiing or Snowboarding?

As mentioned above, backcountry skiing and snowboarding do present certain risks. For this reason, it would be best to stay safe. Here are some tips to help you stay safe while in the backcountry:

  • Overtaking. While overtaking is allowed, you have to leave enough space between you and the rider in front for voluntary or involuntary motions. 
  • Equipment. Make sure to check your equipment is working before embarking on your journey. 
  • Wear the proper attire to remain warm 
  • Practice often to maintain or improve your skills. 
  • If you feel something is not right, trust your instincts. 

What is Avalanche Awareness? How Can It Help You Stay Safe While Backcountry Skiing or Snowboarding?

Avalanches are huge or small, dry or wet, though they are accumulations of snow moving down a terrain at the base. According to the Colorado avalanche information center, they can be dangerous, so much so that approximately 27 individuals die in avalanches in the US annually.

So, what is avalanche awareness? It is all about spotting and avoiding avalanches; also, you’re taught how to use the avalanche safety gear to be safe. How does it help you stay safe when backcountry skiing or snowboarding? Here’s how;

Total risk avoidance 

This is the most effortless way to keep the risks at bay. Also, it is supposed to be the go-to move for beginners and solo riders. If the chances of avalanches are high, don’t go skiing. It’s one of the things you’re taught when in avalanche awareness classes. 


This is a tolerable compromise since it involves you and your partner agreeing to avoid avalanche terrain. Here, you’re taught how to spot and avoid avalanche terrain. It will come in handy when you’re on terrain that you’re not used to and want to stay safe. 

What are Beacon, Probe, and Shovel?


A beacon is an essential item for anyone planning to tour uphill. It is a radio transceiver utilized for an emergency location, and you should activate it once you begin your tour. In case of an avalanche, safe riders can use these beacons to get signals from the buried skiers. This will come in handy when it’s time for an emergency search & rescue. 

Nonetheless, if you don’t know how to use it, it becomes exceptionally useless, which is why avalanche awareness is important. Here you’ll learn to use various gear if there’s an avalanche. 


This is utilized with a shovel and beacon to find buried skiers physically. They are collapsible poles approximately 2.7 to 3.0 meters long and are utilized for probing the snow for buried victims. 


A small-sized, usually collapsible shovel can dig out an avalanche victim. Again, they can dig a snow pit, do stability checks to assess the snowpack’s history, and construct jumps and other freestyle features uphill. 

What are the Different Types of Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding Gear?

Backcountry skiing and snowboarding require different types of gear, including:

  • Communication devices like beacons or other radio transceivers
  • Shovels and probes 
  • Climbing skins 
  • Touring ski boots 
  • Ski bindings 
  • Snowboard boots 
  • Backcountry skis 
  • Split boards 
  • Split board bindings 
  • Ski poles 
  • Backpack 

What are the Different Types of Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding Terrain?

There are several terms used in backcountry according to the way the terrain is accessed, and they include: 

Front country

This is the off-trail within the riding region boundaries where the emergency services are nearby. 

Slack country 

The slack country is the terrain outside the skiing or snowboarding boundary that’s entered via a lift without relying on boot packs or skins. Typically, this also encompasses the area allowing access to the elevator. 

Side country 

Typically, this is the terrain outside the marked region though it is accessible via the ski lift. What’s more, you need to skin, hike, or climb within the riding area to return or access the side country region, or both. 

What are Some Tips for Successful Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding?

Now that you’re already prepared for your tour, here are some tips for successful backcountry skiing and snowboarding;

Get the proper gear 

Carrying the right equipment will make all the difference when on your tour. All essentials from your emergency gear to the most suitable means of travel will prepare you for success. Here is some equipment you should never forget;

  • Beacon or similar communication device 
  • Shovel
  • Probe 
  • First aid kit 

Be flexible 

On your tour uphill, you might come across a situation you didn’t expect. For instance, change in weather conditions or broken gear. Being flexible enough to adapt or change your goal is essential. Again, if the situation is not tour-friendly, you can always postpone your adventure. Knowing when to stop your tour will lead to success and safety. 

Prepare for the worst

Even though you plan to go skiing or riding for the day, be prepared to spend the night. In case of an emergency or unavoidable circumstances, and you have to spend the night in the backcountry, it would help if you brought a few essentials to help make a bad day comfortable. 

If your backpack becomes too heavy because of the extra essentials, divide them among the group members. Here are some things you should never leave behind:

  • Emergency shelter
  • Food 
  • Extra clothes 

Get educated 

Take an avalanche course as it will help you understand what to do in case of an emergency. The backcountry might hold a few surprises throughout your tour, especially in winter.

Have the latest information about the snowpack, chances of avalanches, and the terrain. This information will help keep you safe, and it will also make your adventure more enjoyable. 

What are the Basic Skills I Should Learn Before Going into the Backcountry? 

The backcountry is a dynamic environment; therefore, you should have a few basic skills up your sleeve in case of an emergency: 

Starting a fire 

It is essential to know how to start a fire since if you have to spend the night, you’ll need a source of warmth. You can use your matches to set it or a lighter. This all depends on your preferences and the amount of weight you can carry in your pack. 

Pitching a tent 

Tents have to be pitched right. The rainfly should be away from the tent’s body to hinder the moisture from leaking in your tent at night. If you don’t pitch it correctly, rain and other elements can access your shelter, making your night uncomfortable and ruining your gear. 

Storing your food right 

Keeping your food from spoiling is among the most complex curves to learn. It’s a somewhat challenging balance since you need to eat right to fuel your body and still conserve your weight. 

Walking on hills and trails 

Learning how to hike is quite essential. How you carry yourself on the trail is vital. One small move could result in a minor fall or slip with skinned knees and elbows. The worst-case scenario could result in broken bones or falling off a cliff. 

What are the Best Backcountry Places to Ski and Snowboard in the United States?

America flaunts a wide array of different and exciting backcountry snowboarding and skiing options. Thanks to access, advancement in backcountry gear, and avalanche awareness, backcountry skiing has fast risen in popularity. 

Here are the best backcountry places to go skiing and snowboarding in the United States:

  • Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada 
  • Sawtooth Range, Idaho
  • San Juan Mountains, Colorado 
  • White Mountains, New Hampshire
  • Stevens Pass, Washington
  • Hatcher Pass, Alaska
  • Jackson Hole, Wyoming
  • Central Wasatch Range, Utah

Well, there it is, all FAQs related to backcountry skiing and snowboard training answered. Hopefully, this guide has helped you better understand the benefits and risks of backcountry skiing and snowboarding and how to train and stay safe.

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About the author 


Kevin loves bouldering. Mainly because he can practice it alone without considering other people. Although he rediscovered this hobby in the last three years, the boulders turned out to be his most visited landmarks.

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