What is it like to heli-ski untracked POWDER? RSVP for CMH virtual reality heli-ski experience!

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Is heki-skiing & snowboarding untracked powder on your bucket list?

Canadian Mountain Holidays aka CMH will deliver their third of an 8-part CMH virtual event series this Thursday FEB 25, 2021 at 10am!

About this Event

HELI-SKIING SNOW SAFETY

Thursday, February 25th at 10 am PST Heli Huddle

• Learn the ins and outs of CMH’s snow safety program

• The science of snow pits & tree wells

• Important equipment info

• Tips for reading backcountry terrain

RSVP Here

Some big Prizes will be given away. Don’t miss your chance to win a free heli-ski trip!

Snap up great gear prizes during our live online events, like goggles, gloves and more. In addition, the Heli Huddle series will wrap with the chance to win TWO incredible grand prizes: anyone who purchases a CMH trip after attending any of the events will be entered for the change to win that trip! CMH will give away one heli-skiing trip and one summer adventure trip.

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About CMH

CMH Heli-skiing and Summer Adventures is the premier heli-ski operator with 11 lodges and 3 million acres based in the Columbia Mountains of British Columbia.

Step into the heli, soar above the glaciers, and drop into the best runs of your life in this beautifully immersive virtual reality film (watch it below).

CMH Heli-Skiing and Summer Adventures

‘CMH Heli-Skiing: 50 Years’

Celebrating 50 years, the world’s largest skiable terrain and over 12 metres of annual snowfall, CMH Heli-Skiing is truly one of life’s ultimate experiences.

WHY CMH Heli-skiing?

SAFELY LEADING THE WAY FOR 50+ YEARS
Over 50 years of experience has put us at the forefront of industry-leading snow safety and helicopter practices. From our 130 strong team of highly-qualified ACMG and IFMGA guides to our dedicated helicopter pilots; safety is the foundation from which CMH is built.

PIONEERS & INDUSTRY LEADERS
Our founder Hans Gmoser not only invented heli-skiing, but he pioneered the entire experience you enjoy here today. We remain the oldest and largest Heli-Skiing operation in the world, offering massive terrain, untouched snow and leading standards to guests from across the world.

LIMITLESS AWESOME
BEING FIRST HAS ITS ADVANTAGES
Being the first in our field means we had the best pick of skiable areas in the world’s best regions of snow. Today, this amounts to a private claim to a massive 3,000,000-acres of terrain, creating an experience that isn’t replicated anywhere else. This is winter at its best.

BACKCOUNTRY LUXURY
STUNNING VIEWS & GOURMET FOOD
Your best ski days pair well with gourmet food. Our dining is almost as famous as our skiing. With a dedicated team of 44 chefs crafting individual menus for each lodge, every meal is an opportunity to celebrate.

YOUR BEST SKI DAYS ARE WAITING
Here at CMH, you’ll ski or ride in personalized groups of 11 people or less while exploring at least 400 square miles (1,000 square kilometers) of pristine terrain per lodge. There’s nothing else like it.

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If you can’t participate in the above VR event but would like to learn more about CMH? Please email Anne Trott at for upcoming CMH heli-ski trips or any questions you may have. Remember to mention you say this on SnowPals 😉 for special VIP service.

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Backcountry Skiing, Snowboarding (spilt-boarding) Q&A Series, part 8

Photo Credit: Eddy van der Kloot

Part 8 – Backcountry Skiing, Snowboarding (spilt-boarding) Q&A Series

The boom in backcountry skiing, snowboarding and other snow-sports was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic as ski resorts started closing down like falling dominoes starting in March of 2020 as state and local counties mandated ‘stay at home’ (SIP) orders as coronavirus outbreaks spiked.

Winter season 2020/21 will likely see similar trends especially pronounced if resorts are unable to implement effective protocols of limiting on-site visitors’ capacity, and social distancing especially indoors in common areas which will result in COVID infection outbreaks resulting in resorts’ closures.

Of particular concern is that finally CDC acknowledges that the coronavirus infection transmission is airborne by aerosols which means it is highly contagious. This fact does not bode well so we’ll see how this flu season and winter months play out.

Back to our topic, our backcountry Q&A feature looks at backcountry from a range of diverse perspectives, from an amateur to expert backcountry skier, from a ski shop small business retailer to backcountry touring guide, these Q&A series provide some key insights and also we’ll list resources to consider for avalanche safety training that is critical to stay safe in the backcountry. Most importantly, we list key resources to connect you with folks who share a passion and love for the backcountry.

Part 8 Q&A interview with Eddy van der Kloot, founder and creator of BackcountrySkiMaps.com

With the impact of resort closures due to the COVID pandemic from mid-March of this year, can you describe from your observations if there’s an increase in demand for backcountry skiing/boarding/snow-sports?

There’s been a definite uptick in people’s interest in the backcountry ever since COVID shut down lifts back in March, and I expect that this season will be the busiest yet for ski touring in Tahoe. Although the season has barely started, I’ve already seen an increase in demand for maps this year, which I suspect is a decent proxy for the increase in backcountry usage we’re about to see!

How did you get into creating Tahoe/Sierra topographical maps?

I’ve always been a map nerd – you don’t even want to know how many hours I’ve spent looking at CalTopo and Google Earth. After several years of backcountry skiing in Tahoe, I went up to Whistler and was pleasantly surprised to find that John Baldwin had made some incredible maps for touring in the area. That made me realize that nothing like that existed for Tahoe. There isn’t even a Tahoe-specific guidebook (though there are a few guidebooks which include some descents by the lake), much less anything that you can take out into the field. How were new ski tourers supposed to know where to go?

How many years have you been doing this and what do you find rewarding about it?

I’m in my third year of making maps now, and it’s been a rewarding process from start to finish. The whole undertaking has been a huge learning experience, which I always enjoy, but the biggest reward is when customers reach out to me and tell me how my maps have helped them have their best days in the backcountry. Ski touring has brought me so much joy, and it’s great to be able to help others get that same experience.

In terms of backcountry experience, what types of BC experience do you have? Do you go to the backcountry with a few friends or by yourself?

I don’t know how many hundreds of backcountry days I have under my belt now, but I’ve done everything from traverses to steep couloir skiing, pow days to ski mountaineering descents, and springtime corn runs to early winter bike-to-hike-to-ski days. That’s one of the joys of backcountry skiing – there are so many different ways to do it that it always keeps you interested.

I’ve done a handful of solo days, but I prefer to go out in a group of 2-4 people. I find that makes for the best combination of safety in numbers without causing too much groupthink when considering avalanche conditions.

What do you like about the backcountry?

Skiing pow without the anxiety of beating the lines at the resort certainly comes to mind first! But there’s also something enjoyable about the physical challenge of big days out. And of course getting into proper nature, away from the craziness of the resorts is a huge plus too. When I got into backcountry skiing, it was so that I could ski pow days after the resorts had been skied out, but it turns out that even the uphill is fun!

What was the most challenging part for you in creating these topo maps? How long did it take you to complete one coverage area section?

When I started the project I already had years of GPS data from my watch stored on my computer, so I thought it would be easy to just stick it on a map and go. That turned out not to be the case – there’s a ton of additional work that goes into getting things looking good, and even once the maps are printed and ready to go it takes a lot to maintain the website, find retailers, keep up with customer service, and try to give back to the community by doing things like running fundraisers with the Sierra Avalanche Center (and this winter also the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center). It took me about 8 months of full-time work to get the first map done, but after working on my processes I can now do that in about half the time. That of course doesn’t include the years of backcountry skiing to know where all the lines are – but thankfully that’s the fun part!

Name three favorite backcountry spots you like that’s not crowded?

I’m a huge fan of Herlan Peak (on the Tahoe: Best of the Rest map), for both tree skiing during storms and steep skiing when things are stable. It doesn’t hurt that you stare straight at the lake most of the time that you’re skiing there. The area around Echo and Angora Peaks has always been a favorite of mine too – it’s stacked with little chutes and couloirs, but doesn’t see nearly as much traffic as nearby Tallac or the West Shore peaks. For my last pick I’ll go with Carson Pass – it can get busy early and late season, but there’s so much terrain down there that it’s always easy to get away from the crowds if you know where to go. There are some huge bowls back there, some fun traverses to do, and of course the Crescent Moon Couloir is one of the best around Tahoe.

Final question: what is it about your backcountry ski topo maps that stands out from other maps available on the net?

First off, I don’t think that anything as comprehensive for ski touring exists on paper or on the net. Between the three paper maps (Tahoe: North, Tahoe: Southwest and West Shore, and Tahoe: Carson Pass) and the one digital-only map (Tahoe: The Best of the Rest) there’s something like 300 ski descents, each of which includes an approach (or several different approaches) and distance and elevation gain statistics. Then there’s the self-contained guide photos and text on the back. With about 16-20 of the top descents detailed with descriptions and color photos, the maps make it easy to get into the backcountry without needing to look up additional info elsewhere.

Would you like to add anything else?

If this is your first year in the backcountry, do yourself a favor and get educated before going out. Take an avalanche course, go out with more experienced friends, and always err on the side of caution. And if you’re the kind of heathen that bootpacks or pisses in the skintrack, may Ullr smite you with breakable crusts, sastrugi, and death cookies on all of your backcountry adventures from this day until the end of time!

Get the Inside Scoop on the best spots for skiing, splitboarding Tahoe Sierra backcountry:

Five backcountry topographical maps to choose from:

(1) Lake Tahoe: Southwest and West Shore

(2) Lake Tahoe: North Shore

(3) Lake Tahoe: Carson Pass

(4) Lake Tahoe: the Best of The Rest of Tahoe

(5) And ..Mammoth, California

Purchase a Lake Tahoe Backcountry Ski Topographic Map and Guidebook – use snowpals21 promo discount coupon code to get 10% off your purchase for hard copy maps and digital maps for your smartphone.

backcountry-topo-maps-2020

Part 1 

Part 1 Backcountry skiing Q&A interview with Alyssa Olenberg-Meltzer who got into backcountry skiing and loves it from the start; she has four winters of experience.

Part 2 

Read our Q&A with Greg of California Ski Company, a retail store specializing in ski, backcountry, and touring gear and service based in Berkeley, CA.

Part 3 

Interview with Robert Shattuck, founder of San Francisco Backcountry Skiers (SFBS) Community on Facebook Groups.

 Part 4

Interview with Richard Bothwell, Backcountry Touring Guide and Director of the Outdoor Adventure Club

Part 5 

Interview with Carl Hlavenka, ski patroller with Tahoe Backcountry Ski Patrol and California Winter Search and Rescue Team North

Part 6 

Interview with Shane Robinson Owner & Lead Guide at Graybird Guiding based out of the Pacific Northwest (PNW)

Part 7 

Interview with Mathias Bjoern, Founder of 48 FreeRiders, a backcountry ski, board community based out of Denmark

Backcountry Skiing, Snow-Sports Resources

✔ San Francisco Backcountry Skiers Facebook Group: ‘San Francisco Backcountry Skiers (and Riders) is a resource and inspiration for people in the San Francisco area (and beyond) who are interested in backcountry skiing and riding. SFBS welcomes both experienced and aspiring backcountry skiers and riders.’ Membership type: free, public group. 3.3k members. Visit their FB group page.

✔ SnowPals.org is a non-traditional snow-sports club for busy Bay Area professionals. Join SF Bay Area professionals to expand your circle of ski and ride buddies (resort based and backcountry), btw, that’s how we came up with our name: Snow (Snow-Sports) + Pals. Membership type: one-time paid membership fee of $20; join SnowPals. Read members’ intros to get an idea who joins. Founded in 1999 by a small group of friends; we are now 8,249 members and growing. Celebrating our 21st year of connecting folks to expand their circle of snow sports activity partners.

Sierra Avalanche Center’s education resources where you can get the backcountry safety education and hands on training

Lake Tahoe Backcountry Ski Topographic Maps and Guidebook

California Ski Company in Berkeley is one of the top ski shop retailer for ski gear for sale and rentals, plus boot fitting and equipment service. Cal Ski Co is a ‘specialty ski shop focused on ski equipment sale and rental since 1989. They sell and rent equipment for both Resort and Backcountry Ski Touring. Their team of expert ski boot fitters are the best in the business. They repair and tune about anything that slides on snow. Looking for a job? Cal Ski Co is currently hiring as of October 29, 2020. Full-time and part-time employment available: job openings, ski tech and boot-fitter. Experience is desirable but not necessary. The only criteria is that you are a skier. Interested or know of someone who is? Email resumes to .’

✔ Backcountry and Outback Adventures for Telemark and Randonee Ski Rentals, Fremont, CA and Larkspur, CA – Outback Adventures is a comprehensive outdoor adventure guide service, rental shop, and paddlesports and nordic ski specialty retailer located in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sequoia National Park Lodging WUKSACHI LODGE

Located in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park, Wuksachi Lodge is a modern lodge with 102 guestrooms. It offers a cocktail lounge, a full service restaurant and both a retail and ski shop. At an elevation of 7,050 ft. (1,980 m), Wuksachi Lodge is only 4 miles away from the Giant Forest Museum.
Delaware North Parks & Resorts offers multiple services like overnight accommodations, retail, food and beverage, etc. at Kings Canyon National Park in the area of Grant Grove and Cedar Grove. Limited Internet is available in some areas of the main lodge. Wuksachi Lodge is open throughout all the seasons.

GRANT GROVE CABINS

At an elevation of 6,500 ft (1,980 m), the Grant Grove Cabins is located in the Grant Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park. It offers 6 types of cabins; some are even opened all year. Main attractions like a sequoia grove, gifts shop, markets and restaurants are half a mile (800m) away from the Grant Grove Cabins. Open: All Year (limited in the winter)

✔ PEAR LAKE WINTER HUT

Managed by the Sequoia Parks Conservancy, Pear Lake Winter Hut is a rustic hut of 10 bunk beds that opens during winter and requires reservations but only for wilderness skiers who travel to Pear Lake during the cold season. At an elevation of 9,200 ft. the hut sits high above Lodgepole. This hut includes a wood-pellet stove. To get to it, you need to go through six miles on skis or snowshoes. Reservations can be made online or by phone: 559-565-3759.

Got a key backcountry resource not listed here that you’d like to share? Contact . Advance thanks for sharing.

* Browse Tahoe area rentals and private seasonal ski leases:
🏂
http://www.snowpals.org/rentals/

* Browse shared ski leases: :
🏂
http://www.snowpals.org/leases/

* How to increase bookings for your rental, ski lease listing on Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, FlipKey, Craigslist:
🏂
http://www.snowpals.org/2020/property-owners-guide-tips-create-appealing-listing-vacation-rental-ski-lease/

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Backcountry Skiing, Snowboarding (spilt-boarding) Q&A Series, part 4

Backcountry Skiing, Snowboarding (spilt-boarding) Q&A Series

Part 4: interview with Richard Bothwell, Backcountry Touring Guide and Director of the Outdoor Adventure Club (OAC)

richard bothwell inbounds hiking

Photo Credit: Richard Bothwell

Part 4 – Backcountry Skiing, Snowboarding (spilt-boarding) Q&A Series

Background timeline context

The boom in backcountry skiing, snowboarding and other snow-sports was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic as ski resorts started closing down like falling dominoes starting in March of 2020 as state and local counties mandated ‘stay at home’ (SIP) orders as coronavirus outbreaks spiked.

Winter season 2020/21 will likely see similar trends especially pronounced if resorts are unable to implement effective protocols of limiting on-site visitors’ capacity, and social distancing especially indoors in common areas which will result in COVID infection outbreaks resulting in resorts’ closures.

Of particular concern is that finally CDC acknowledges that the coronavirus infection transmission is airborne by aerosols which means it is highly contagious. This fact does not bode well so we’ll see how this flu season and winter months play out.

Back to our topic, our backcountry Q&A feature looks at backcountry from a range of diverse perspectives, from an amateur to expert backcountry skier, from a ski shop small business retailer to backcountry touring guide, these Q&A series provide some key insights and also we’ll list resources to consider for avalanche safety training that is critical to stay safe in the backcountry. Most importantly, we list key resources to connect you with folks who share a passion and love for the backcountry.

Part 4 Q&A interview with interview with Richard Bothwell, Director of the Outdoor Adventure Club (OAC) which has been around since 1996; OAC professional guides have been organizing and leading great adventures all over Tahoe Sierra Nevada and up and down the length of California ..

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Could you tell us a little about your background in BC, snow-sports and how you came to create your backcountry skiing/Avy training and touring company; how it grew to become one of the best backcountry training camps around?

Sure! I started snowboarding in the early 90’s while living in NYC. In 1996 I moved to SF to help start the Outdoor Adventure Club and started riding at Squaw and in the Lassen backcountry. I also started learning about avalanches and wilderness first aid. I went through the AMGA Backcountry Ski Guide class soon after, as well as going through the AIARE instructor training program. I’ve been teaching/guiding for years, gaining experience in a variety of operations, including LTCC, Feather River College, ASI, and TMS, in addition to my own company. The Outdoor Adventure Club became an AIARE course provider, and permitted to guide backcountry trips in Lassen, where we love guiding and teaching. We’re working with the Forest Service to obtain a permit in Tahoe to teach avy classes in the Truckee area this winter, which will be nice as I live and ski in Truckee.

There are a few things that set the Outdoor Adventure Club backcountry program apart from other companies. We have smaller class sizes. We’re limiting our avalanche classes to 8 students with two instructors this year. Most avy classes have 12 or more students. It’s tough to get to everyone’s questions with that many students. We do a lot of private classes, too. If you have a group, we can set up a custom class just for you and your friends. Mentorship is an important part of backcountry education, so we offer an open door to students who want to follow up and ask more questions after the classes. And we have a FB group just for people who have taken our classes, where you can continue to learn, meet other backcountry skiers/riders, plan trips, etc. In “normal’ years we have everyone in our avalanche classes stay in our house in Lassen during the class. This provides an immersive learning environment, where you can ask questions to your instructor over breakfast or dinner.

How many backcountry training levels do you offer?

Richard Bothwell couloir

We teach backcountry skills as well as avalanche classes. We also teach online classes on using CalTopo to plan trips.
For people who are new to the backcountry we have a great intro to backcountry program where you learn the mechanics of backcountry skiing/riding, while getting out skiing/riding. We have a one day class in Tahoe and a weekend-long program in Lassen, where (Covid-depending) everyone stays in our cabin there.

We also have AIARE avalanche classes, AIARE 1, AIARE 2 and Avalanche Rescue. And we have a really cool AIARE refresher class, where you go out with a small group and run through your processes, under the watchful eye of a guide/instructor. It’s a unique opportunity for recreational skiers to see if they are applying what they learned in their avy class.

When Covid hit, we pivoted quickly to develop a series of online “mini-classes” focusing on avalanches that people can take as either new material, a refresher, or prep for an avy class. Some people just aren’t able to commit the time to a full class, or they are just interested in one topic, like “what is surface hoar?”..we created a class just for those people.

We have a series of online classes just for using CalTopo to plan trips. There’s so many features to CalTopo, with little documentation, so a lot of people don’t realize the power it has. We get people up to speed using everything from basics to advanced features.

With the impact of resort closures due to the Covid pandemic from mid-March of this year, can you describe from your observations if there’s an increase in demand for backcountry snow-sports?

Oh yeah. There is a huge uptick in interest among people who want to get into the backcountry. I’m hearing from people who want to get into the backcountry for the first time, and I’m hearing from “50-50” folks people who historically split their time between resorts and the backcountry. It seems like everyone wants to get into the backcountry this winter. It’s going to be an interesting, exciting season I’m sure!

What is the most important aspect of backcountry that you would like to get across to new-comers?

Be patient.

There’s a lot to learn and it’s a long, fun process to gain that knowledge. You should take an avalanche class, but taking an avalanche class doesn’t teach you everything you need to know.

Oh, it’s also dangerous…people can/do die going into the backcountry. Fortunately, people don’t die often, but it does happen. And in Tahoe accidents often happen only a short distance from the road.

So what’s important? Be patient. Start with a cup of coffee. Literally and figuratively. Start small, especially with new partners, or going to a new area. If your spider sense is tingling, listen to it. If you realize the group you’re with isn’t behaving how you’d like…bail. The best time to bail is before you leave the trailhead, so get to know your team before you get to the trailhead.

How does a newbie get started?

Richard in Alaska

Give me a call at 415.377.1195 and let’s set up a private day of guided skiing or splitboarding! Seriously, going with a guide is a great way to get started. Get out and do it with someone who is well prepared to manage the risks, while also able to choose appropriate terrain for you, and who is a good teacher. That’s a tough mix to find in a recreational setting, especially in groups. Get a couple of friends together to split the cost, and let’s go have some fun!

Take a couple of classes; Take an intro to backcountry class and an AIARE 1 avalanche class. Then go skiing with friends, once you can contribute to the team planning, discussions and decision making.

None of the technical skills of backcountry riding are difficult. Skinning, transitioning, making uphill turns, when to use crampons, etc. I’ve never met anyone who can’t do it. But I’ve met a lot of people who have terrible form, are inefficient and fall over their skis. Spending a day with a guide gets you up the learning curve a lot faster, confirms you’re doing it right, and should put you on a good path for more training.

You can skip classes and get started by going with friends, but we’ve all heard horror stories about being taught to ski by friends in resorts. Think about that dynamic in the backcountry and you can imagine how things can be sub-optimal.

When you do start going out recreationally, start with short, less committing trips. Go out on days when the avalanche advisory suggests the danger level is low. Go out on days with clear weather. Go on trips with easy route-finding. Ski on terrain that is well within your ability level. Go out with people you know. If you feel like your friend is pushing you into something more committing than you’d like, don’t go. No one is forcing you to go backcountry skiing.

We’re lucky these days- there are so many great brands creating great gear. The challenge we have is tuning our gear choices to our objectives. What works well for someone else, doing something else may not be the ideal gear for us. My splitboard boots for day trips are different than my boots for overnight trips, for instance. I chose my ski bindings with an eye toward reliable release. Someone else may priortize light weight.

The essential gear list:

Ski straps
Avy gear- every day, every partner; transceiver, shovel, probe
First aid gear- including splints, pressure bandages, steri strips
First aid training
Rescue gear*- sled, tarp
Repair kit/tool
Headlight
Navigation gear- map, compass, app with your route in it (I’m a big fan of CalTopo)
Communication gear- varies with the location, but includes a whistle for everyone, phone, FRS radios to talk in the team, InReach to get a message out to the outside world
PB&J

*For years I’ve heard people say that rescue sleds are “guide gear”, not recreational gear. Rescue sleds are gear for people who want to be prepared to deal with injuries in the backcountry. People break legs and tear ACLs in the backcountry. If your partner breaks a leg a mile from the car, how are you going to get him/her back? Hitting SOS on your Inreach may get a response, but it could be hours or overnight before help arrives. Are you ready for that?

What mountain guide trips are you planning for 20/21 winter?

What is the takeaway message for newbies, intermediate & advance level BC skiers in regards to what you’d like folks to learn from your experience and outfit?

Go skiing. It’s fun. Do it often. It’s more fun the more you do it. Keep learning.

If you’re new, ease into it.

If you’re intermediate, find a more experienced friend to mentor you and help you sharpen your skills.

If you’re more experienced, help out the newbies. We were all new to the backcountry once. There will probably be a lot of people who could benefit from your insights this season. Don’t take people out on trips over their head, and seek out opportunities to take less experienced people on easier trips.

My trip plans for this year: With the expected influx of so many more people in the backcountry this year, I know the roadside standards/classics are going to be crowded. I’m using that as motivation to explore new areas, go to less well known trailheads, check out some of the lines that I’ve always wanted to ride, but never motivated myself to get after. I’m looking forward to some adventures!

For everyone:
Have a plan for every trip. Sometimes plans are really simple, sometimes not. Reflect on each day, the good ones and the bad ones, so your next trip will be awesome. What did we do that we’d want to do again? When did we first get a sense that things were going sideways? Have frank conversations with partners before, during and after trips…Tell your partners what you expect from them before the trip…hold them to it during the trip, and let them know how they did after the trip.
Pick your partners wisely, and don’t ski with people who rub you the wrong way.

Richard Bothwell

Program Director, Guide,
AMGA SPI Climbing Guide
AIARE Level 1 and 2 Avalanche Educator
PSIA Ski Instructor &
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Outdoor Adventure Club
“Make every weekend count!”
415.377.1195

For more information, browse events and outings at OutdoorAdventureClub.com

Outdoor Adventure Club backcountry ski and snowboard program
Outdoor Adventure Club online classes

outdoor-adventure-club-sf-bay-area

Part 1 

Part 1 Backcountry skiing Q&A interview with Alyssa Olenberg-Meltzer who got into backcountry skiing and loves it from the start; she has four winters of experience.

Part 2 

Read our Q&A with Greg of California Ski Company, a retail store specializing in ski, backcountry, and touring gear and service based in Berkeley, CA.

Part 3 

Interview with Robert Shattuck, founder of San Francisco Backcountry Skiers (SFBS) Community on Facebook Groups.

Part 5 

Interview with Carl Hlavenka, ski patroller with Tahoe Backcountry Ski Patrol and California Winter Search and Rescue Team North

Part 6 

Interview with Shane Robinson Owner & Lead Guide at Graybird Guiding based out of Mt. Baker, WA

Part 7 

Interview with Mathias Bjoern, Founder of 48 FreeRiders, a backcountry ski, board community based out of Denmark

Backcountry Skiing, Snow-Sports Resources

✔ San Francisco Backcountry Skiers Facebook Group: ‘San Francisco Backcountry Skiers (and Riders) is a resource and inspiration for people in the San Francisco area (and beyond) who are interested in backcountry skiing and riding. SFBS welcomes both experienced and aspiring backcountry skiers and riders.’ Membership type: free, public group. 3.3k members. Visit their FB group page.

✔ SnowPals.org is a non-traditional snow-sports club for busy Bay Area professionals. Join SF Bay Area professionals to expand your circle of ski and ride buddies (resort based and backcountry), btw, that’s how we came up with our name: Snow (Snow-Sports) + Pals. Membership type: one-time paid membership fee of $20; join SnowPals. Read members’ intros to get an idea who joins. Founded in 1999 by a small group of friends; we are now 8,249 members and growing. Celebrating our 21st year of connecting folks to expand their circle of snow sports activity partners.

Sierra Avalanche Center’s education resources where you can get the backcountry safety education and hands on training

Lake Tahoe Backcountry Ski Topographic Maps and Guidebook

California Ski Company in Berkeley is one of the top ski shop retailer for ski gear for sale and rentals, plus boot fitting and equipment service. Cal Ski Co is a ‘specialty ski shop focused on ski equipment sale and rental since 1989. They sell and rent equipment for both Resort and Backcountry Ski Touring. Their team of expert ski boot fitters are the best in the business. They repair and tune about anything that slides on snow. Looking for a job? Cal Ski Co is currently hiring as of October 29, 2020. Full-time and part-time employment available: job openings, ski tech and boot-fitter. Experience is desirable but not necessary. The only criteria is that you are a skier. Interested or know of someone who is? Email resumes to .’

✔ Backcountry and Outback Adventures for Telemark and Randonee Ski Rentals, Fremont, CA and Larkspur, CA – Outback Adventures is a comprehensive outdoor adventure guide service, rental shop, and paddlesports and nordic ski specialty retailer located in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sequoia National Park Lodging WUKSACHI LODGE

Located in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park, Wuksachi Lodge is a modern lodge with 102 guestrooms. It offers a cocktail lounge, a full service restaurant and both a retail and ski shop. At an elevation of 7,050 ft. (1,980 m), Wuksachi Lodge is only 4 miles away from the Giant Forest Museum.
Delaware North Parks & Resorts offers multiple services like overnight accommodations, retail, food and beverage, etc. at Kings Canyon National Park in the area of Grant Grove and Cedar Grove. Limited Internet is available in some areas of the main lodge. Wuksachi Lodge is open throughout all the seasons.

GRANT GROVE CABINS

At an elevation of 6,500 ft (1,980 m), the Grant Grove Cabins is located in the Grant Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park. It offers 6 types of cabins; some are even opened all year. Main attractions like a sequoia grove, gifts shop, markets and restaurants are half a mile (800m) away from the Grant Grove Cabins. Open: All Year (limited in the winter)

✔ PEAR LAKE WINTER HUT

Managed by the Sequoia Parks Conservancy, Pear Lake Winter Hut is a rustic hut of 10 bunk beds that opens during winter and requires reservations but only for wilderness skiers who travel to Pear Lake during the cold season. At an elevation of 9,200 ft. the hut sits high above Lodgepole. This hut includes a wood-pellet stove. To get to it, you need to go through six miles on skis or snowshoes. Reservations can be made online or by phone: 559-565-3759.

Got a key backcountry resource not listed here that you’d like to share? Contact . Advance thanks for sharing.

* Browse Tahoe area rentals and private seasonal ski leases:
🏂
http://www.snowpals.org/rentals/

* Browse shared ski leases: :
🏂
http://www.snowpals.org/leases/

* How to increase bookings for your rental, ski lease listing on Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, FlipKey, Craigslist:
🏂
http://www.snowpals.org/2020/property-owners-guide-tips-create-appealing-listing-vacation-rental-ski-lease/

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Backcountry Skiing, Snowboarding (spilt-boarding) Q&A Series, part 1

Alyssa Olenberg-Meltzer

Photo Credit: www.jshawphoto.com Jonathan Shaw Photography

Part 1 – Backcountry Skiing, Snowboarding (spilt-boarding) Q&A Series

The boom in backcountry skiing, snowboarding and other snow-sports was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic as ski resorts started closing down like falling dominoes starting in March of 2020 as state and local counties mandated ‘stay at home’ (SIP) orders as coronavirus outbreaks spiked.

Winter season 2020/21 will likely see similar trends especially pronounced if resorts are unable to implement effective protocols of limiting on-site visitors’ capacity, and social distancing especially indoors in common areas which will result in COVID infection outbreaks resulting in resorts’ closures.

Of particular concern is that finally CDC acknowledges that the coronavirus infection transmission is airborne by aerosols which means it is highly contagious. This fact does not bode well so we’ll see how this flu season and winter months play out.

Back to our topic, our backcountry Q&A feature looks at backcountry from a range of diverse perspectives, from an amateur to expert backcountry skier, from a ski shop small business retailer to backcountry touring guide, these Q&A series provide some key insights and also we’ll list resources to consider for avalanche safety training that is critical to stay safe in the backcountry. Most importantly, we list key resources to connect you with folks who share a passion and love for the backcountry.

Part 1 Q&A interview with Alyssa Olenberg-Meltzer who got into backcountry skiing and loves it from the start; she has four winters of experience..

With the impact of resort closures due to the COVID pandemic from mid-March of this year, can you describe from your observations if there’s an increase in demand for backcountry skiing/boarding/snow-sports?

Anecdotally, I can say that I have had a few friends reach out to me expressing interest….these are all folks that have been meaning to try backcountry skiing/splitboarding for at least a couple years but haven’t gotten around to it because it seemed too expensive and like a huge time commitment. We’ve had at least a couple posts and many comments from new folks on the group’s facebook page from folks interested in getting started. Personally, I’ve talked to more current backcountry skiers who are worried about new users flooding the backcountry than I’ve talked to people who plan to go backcountry skiing for the first time.

Do you know if there are backcountry snow sports folks from around the world visiting Tahoe/Sierra Nevada? Would BC visitors be able to connect with your FB group (see link below in resources) BC folks to freeski/split-boarding with when they join your group?

Yes, anyone can join and we love discussion. Lots of members (myself included) have found partners through posting on the group (see link below in resources), and at the very least posting is guaranteed to get you tons of advice from enthusiastic members. While everyone is nervous that an influx of new backcountry users may be a safety concern, I definitely believe that the people who are willing to spend time researching before they go out and asking questions of experienced backcountry users will be better equipped to make better-informed decisions, and I know that all of the moderators are committed to being welcoming and not acting like pompous gatekeepers.

That said, try to get some training before you go out. I wouldn’t feel super comfortable going out with someone who hasn’t had a good amount of practice with their beacon, shovel, and probe; an avalanche rescue course or AVY 1 is a good credential to put partners at ease.

How does a newbie get started in BC in three essential steps? What are just the bare essential set-up for BC skiing or split-boarding?

Step 1/pre-requisite: be comfortable skiing at least moderate un-groomed slopes in all snow conditions.

1) Get comfortable with backcountry equipment. I recommend both practicing what you can at home to make everything less fiddly (step into bindings, put on skins, transition, etc), and spending some quality time skinning without skiing. Cross country ski trails and flat forest service roads are great for skinning practice!

2) Learn to read terrain both from maps before you go out and in the field. I recommend spending lots of time staring at CalTopo maps with the slope angle shading overlay turned on for areas you know well- your usual ski runs are perfect, places you hike frequently, etc. You want to be able to have a mental image of what enjoyable (to you) skiing looks like on a map, so you can identify good potential routes. It’s also critical for being able to identify terrain traps to avoid and safe ascent routes.

3) Take an Avalanche AVY Level 1 course. It’ll help you understand avalanche terrain, improve your decision making process in the backcountry, give you necessary hand-on practice with beacons and probes and digging efficiently, and you may meet some great partners.

Bare minimum setup:

– skis/splitboard with AT, telemark or splitboard bindings
– boots for said bindings
– skins
– poles
– beacon, shovel, probe
– a comfortable backpack, preferably with a solid separate compartment for your shovel and probe that you can very quickly access
– warm, breathable and sweat-wicking layers…here in California much of my backcountry skiing is in thin soft-shell pants and relatively light base layers, but obviously having warm layers, windproof and waterproof layers is essential for safety and comfort. Packable is usually key too.

Your recommended gear and manufacturers with a success track record of building solid skis and or boards?

I care a lot more about my boots than my skis to be honest, but since you’re asking….Coalition is a Tahoe company that’s pushing the inclusion and equity that I want to see more of in the outdoor industry and makes super fun skis to boot! Also in the area, Moment makes some really killer skis too.

Can you recommend avalanche training outfits and mountain guides locally/in Tahoe/in Reno?

As part of the Mountain Festival, I took a course through Alpenglow Expeditions with Will Sperry and Ali Agee that really built my knowledge and confidence with reading avalanche conditions and terrain! I also can attest to Richard Bothwell (owner of Outdoor Adventure Club) as being a really thoughtful guide who will make you think critically about your risk taking and has a great attitude.

What is the takeaway message you’d like to get out to newbies about the joy of snow sports and the importance of Avy training, on-going BC education and connecting with mentors, ski buddies for safety?

Don’t be scared to reach out and ask questions. The folks worth going out into the mountains with will be happy to share their enthusiasm with you. Try to gain as much competence as you can on your own before going out by ideally taking Avy 1, or at least learning how to read an avalanche forecast, understanding the nine avalanche problems, and trying to solidify your terrain reading skills, and practicing with a beacon, shovel, and probe; then be ready to ask questions and learn.

Anything else you would like to add?

A lot of people assume that backcountry skiers start exploring the backcountry because they’re bored in resorts and want radder lines, but my experience was the opposite. I got interested in skiing because I love spending time in the mountains in the summer and wanted to get to explore the forests and alpine I loved in the winter. I tried cross country skiing once, but it seemed like it would be difficult to access the places I really wanted to go without beefier equipment. I started skiing resorts in January 2016 with the goal of gaining competence for backcountry skiing (but quickly fell in love with skiing because it is insanely fun, who knew?).

I went on my first tour in May 2016 and took Avy 1 the next winter, and since then I’ve become more and more obsessed. I’m still not, and probably will never be, a hotshot skier, but time in the backcountry has definitely helped my confidence in skiing all sorts of different snow and terrain, and the more competent I get, the more fun I have. It’s the hobby that brings me the most joy, I think because I get to have the unparalleled peace that comes with being in the mountains in the snow and the rush of racing down in the same day.

To be honest, COVID precautions are going to make it harder to get comfortable backcountry skiing. I’ve progressed and become more confident thanks to mentorship and some social situations…backcountry cabins, ski races, and classes. Try your hardest to find solid mentors that you feel comfortable going out with. And I can’t overstate the importance of this…be sure you understand what avalanche terrain is, what the nine types of avalanche problems are, and how to read an avalanche forecast before you go out. Lastly, don’t be falsely reassured by having a beacon, shovel, and probe; be sure you’re completely proficient in their use.” – Alyssa Olenberg-Meltzer, SF Bay Area resident and a member of the San Francisco Backcountry Skiers Facebook Group.

human-powered-backcountry

backcountry-skiing

edward-caldwell-photography

Photo Credits: Edward Caldwell Photography https://edwardcaldwell.com

Part 2 

Read our Q&A with Greg of California Ski Company, a retail store specializing in ski, backcountry, and touring gear and service based in Berkeley, CA.

Part 3 

Interview with Robert Shattuck, founder of San Francisco Backcountry Skiers (SFBS) Community on Facebook Groups.

 Part 4

Interview with Richard Bothwell, Backcountry Touring Guide and Director of the Outdoor Adventure Club

Part 5 

Interview with Carl Hlavenka, ski patroller with Tahoe Backcountry Ski Patrol and California Winter Search and Rescue Team North

Part 6 

Interview with Shane Robinson Owner & Lead Guide at Graybird Guiding based out of Baker Mt, WA

Part 7 

Interview with Mathias Bjoern, Founder of 48 FreeRiders, a backcountry ski, board community based out of Denmark

Backcountry Skiing, Snow-Sports Resources

✔ San Francisco Backcountry Skiers Facebook Group: ‘San Francisco Backcountry Skiers (and Riders) is a resource and inspiration for people in the San Francisco area (and beyond) who are interested in backcountry skiing and riding. SFBS welcomes both experienced and aspiring backcountry skiers and riders.’ Membership type: free, public group. 3.3k members. Visit their FB group page.

✔ SnowPals.org is a non-traditional snow-sports club for busy Bay Area professionals. Join SF Bay Area professionals to expand your circle of ski and ride buddies (resort based and backcountry), btw, that’s how we came up with our name: Snow (Snow-Sports) + Pals. Membership type: one-time paid membership fee of $20; join SnowPals. Read members’ intros to get an idea who joins. Founded in 1999 by a small group of friends; we are now 8,249 members and growing. Celebrating our 21st year of connecting folks to expand their circle of snow sports activity partners.

Sierra Avalanche Center’s education resources where you can get the backcountry safety education and hands on training

Lake Tahoe Backcountry Ski Topographic Maps and Guidebook

California Ski Company in Berkeley is one of the top ski shop retailer for ski gear for sale and rentals, plus boot fitting and equipment service. Cal Ski Co is a ‘specialty ski shop focused on ski equipment sale and rental since 1989. They sell and rent equipment for both Resort and Backcountry Ski Touring. Their team of expert ski boot fitters are the best in the business. They repair and tune about anything that slides on snow. Looking for a job? Cal Ski Co is currently hiring as of October 29, 2020. Full-time and part-time employment available: job openings, ski tech and boot-fitter. Experience is desirable but not necessary. The only criteria is that you are a skier. Interested or know of someone who is? Email resumes to .’

✔ Backcountry and Outback Adventures for Telemark and Randonee Ski Rentals, Fremont, CA and Larkspur, CA – Outback Adventures is a comprehensive outdoor adventure guide service, rental shop, and paddlesports and nordic ski specialty retailer located in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sequoia National Park Lodging WUKSACHI LODGE

Located in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park, Wuksachi Lodge is a modern lodge with 102 guestrooms. It offers a cocktail lounge, a full service restaurant and both a retail and ski shop. At an elevation of 7,050 ft. (1,980 m), Wuksachi Lodge is only 4 miles away from the Giant Forest Museum.
Delaware North Parks & Resorts offers multiple services like overnight accommodations, retail, food and beverage, etc. at Kings Canyon National Park in the area of Grant Grove and Cedar Grove. Limited Internet is available in some areas of the main lodge. Wuksachi Lodge is open throughout all the seasons.

GRANT GROVE CABINS

At an elevation of 6,500 ft (1,980 m), the Grant Grove Cabins is located in the Grant Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park. It offers 6 types of cabins; some are even opened all year. Main attractions like a sequoia grove, gifts shop, markets and restaurants are half a mile (800m) away from the Grant Grove Cabins. Open: All Year (limited in the winter)

✔ PEAR LAKE WINTER HUT

Managed by the Sequoia Parks Conservancy, Pear Lake Winter Hut is a rustic hut of 10 bunk beds that opens during winter and requires reservations but only for wilderness skiers who travel to Pear Lake during the cold season. At an elevation of 9,200 ft. the hut sits high above Lodgepole. This hut includes a wood-pellet stove. To get to it, you need to go through six miles on skis or snowshoes. Reservations can be made online or by phone: 559-565-3759.

Got a key backcountry resource not listed here that you’d like to share? Contact . Advance thanks for sharing.

* Browse Tahoe area rentals and private seasonal ski leases:
🏂
http://www.snowpals.org/rentals/

* Browse shared ski leases: :
🏂
http://www.snowpals.org/leases/

* How to increase bookings for your rental, ski lease listing on Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, FlipKey, Craigslist:
🏂
http://www.snowpals.org/2020/property-owners-guide-tips-create-appealing-listing-vacation-rental-ski-lease/

♥ Share this page with friends and family via twitterfacebook.