If you have tired of the hustle and bustle of ski areas, and you are all set with expensive lift tickets, more expensive food and drinks, and the crowds- then backcountry snowboarding might be your answer. But how do you get there? There are a number of ways to access the backcountry and they vary greatly in convenience, expense, and efficiency.
- There’s no additional expense or equipment beyond your normal snowboarding gear
- If the trail is packed down, you are good to go. But if you have to break trail, you will bust your hump on the ascent and likely be too tired to enjoy the ride down.
- They provide both floatation and traction and they are pretty inexpensive
- Snowshoes will help you float on light snow and grip on hard pack and icy stuff.
- You still need to carry your board up. They are cumbersome in tight quarters. They are not super-efficient, but bang for your buck, they are a big improvement over bootpacking and post-holing through deep snow.
Approach skis– these are next in line both price and efficiency-wise. There are basic short skis with built in skins usually 125 cm to 145 cm that don’t cost a whole lot more than snowshoes, and there are folding ones that cost in the neighborhood of $800.
- They cover ground more quickly than snowshoes.
- They are pretty nimble to negotiate around, and will do small descents easily.
- You get to ride your own board and bindings down
- You still need to carry your board and bindings so you are hoofing more weight.
- Then you need to carry the skis when you go back down and having skis between 125 cm and 145 cm strapped to your back on the way down isn’t optimal.
- You don’t have the extra weight of a board on your back (or skis or snowshoes on your back going down).
- They provide the most efficient way to trek to the top.
- Equipment is getting lighter and easier to use (particularly on transitions) every year
- Price. Splitboards are definitely an investment. The cost of entry is not inexpensive with this option.
- There is a bit of a learning curve and transitions take a bit of getting used to.
There are kits available so you can make your own splitboard by splitting a board you already own. These can definitely help to keep the cost down. There are also hardware interfaces that will allow you to use your own bindings. So if you really want to go the splitboard route, but the cost is prohibitive, you might want to check that out.
Snowboarding in the backcountry offers endless opportunities to see new places and ride untouched lines. There is definitely a different degree of risk in the backcountry so make sure you know about the area where you are going. You have to be willing to turn back if things are not going your way. Check out our upcoming series of posts on backcountry snowboarding safety. If snowboarding in the backcountry is one of your goals, visit your local shop to talk about your options.
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