Tag Archives: Backside

Safety 101: A Beginner’s Guide to the Backcountry

The snow is flying, it’s starting to accumulate, and you’re ready to get into the backcountry. Don’t forget to take your backcountry knowledge and education with you. One of our friends,  Sarah Carpenter, works with the American Avalanche Institute, recently we tapped her on the shoulder and asked for a few pointers about skiing in the backcountry. Check out her “Beginners Guide to the Backcountry” tips below. Get educated, stay smart and have fun. 

Words by Sarah Carpenter:

Backcountry skiing is an adventure. You can explore new places, find good snow, and escape the crowds. But in order to go backcountry skiing successfully, you have to be prepared. There is gear, knowledge and a mindset that you have to obtain before you leave the safety net of the ski area.

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Lofoten Magic

Erin Smart is a Seattle native who has dedicated her life to skiing and climbing in the mountains.  She grew up skiing and climbing all over the Cascades of Washington State and has since spent several winters ski mountaineering in La Grave and Chamonix, France. Recently Erin took a trip to the Lofoten Islands. Below is a recap of this epic trip, in her own words: 

Gazing out through my key hole in the window seat, earbuds pumping LCD Soundsystem, I felt excited to be heading north. There was a touchy snowpack in Chamonix this winter, and I was glad to be leaving that deep persistent weak layer that had been lurking below us all season.

Erin Smart Lofton Hike

The Lofoten Islands are regarded as one of the most beautiful archipelagos in the world. The mountains climb straight out from the Norwegian Sea into a wide variety of terrain. Looking around, it is impossible not to get inspired. Ski lines are everywhere you look, and if you can’t park directly below, a hired boat can bring you up to the shore where you can put your ski boots on next to the snowy seashells.

My first day this season I joined my fellow guide Mark and his clients to see how conditions were before I started work. During the morning guide meeting everyone was excited to get out. There was 30cm of new snow, and stability was expected to be good. We went to go check out a new zone in the Reinslett valley, just a 30 minute drive from the skiers lodge.

Lofton Turns

Heading in, there was a tall steep side wall of alpine ice gullies on our left. I kept peering up at each gully, trying to see if any connected. They all appeared to need at least a bit of climbing gear to ascend, but maybe for another day. As the valley split, we arched to its right, circling around the base of the peak. As we gained a snowy bench into a beautifully quiet alpine cirque, possibilities surrounded us. A col appeared to have a few nice options and looked to be relatively straightforward to reach. As we began traversing toward it, the slope steepened to where side-hilling was no longer going to be an option. As Mark and I were about to change plans, we looked up to an impressive couloir hiding above us, that went as far as we could see until it turned right at its top. With our strong group of skiers, we transitioned to booting, and made our way up the line. Mark and I kept swapping breaking trail in front as the powder was waist deep at times. 1000ft later, we topped out onto a perfect transition platform just below the peak. Our ski racing clients raged down the couloir, hooting the whole way. It was going to be a good Lofoten season.

Erin Smart Lofton Ski

Several weeks later, after every kind of weather and snow conditions imaginable, and meeting many wonderful new clients who came to visit, I had a week off to play at the end of my trip. My brother and sister-in-law came up from Chamonix, and my parents came in from Seattle. I showed them some classic lines, and we explored a bit as well. We skied powder in couloirs, surfed in the Arctic Sea, ate fresh cod that we caught, and took a rib boat to ski in the Trollfjord. It was the perfect end to another great season in Lofoten.

Erin Smart Skin

We hugged goodbye to our friends at the Lofoten Skiers Lodge and Northern Alpine Guides, and made our way back to Chamonix. Back to the land of glaciers and lifts, we took advantage that next day of perfect conditions of two lines I have been waiting to ski in the right conditions for several seasons; the Glacier Rond and the Cosmiques Couloir. Back to back, we skied perfect spring conditions down both runs. While I am already dreaming of the quiet corners to explore next year in Lofoten, it is good to be back in Chamonix where the transition to climbing season has begun and the snowy dreams are just that for a while.

 

Team K2 – Reggie Crist

A member of the US Ski Team for ten years and one of the most accomplished X Games athletes of all time, Reggie Crist’s single career goal is to ski “as much powder as humanly possible.” Don’t believe us? Just watch his latest Team K2 segment. Reggie continues to film with large film companies and Stellar Media. Powder, spines, and more, click play!