Backcountry skiing isn’t just about getting the right basic gear – boots and bindings, climbing skins and backcountry skis – and setting out to conquer the best landmarks. You will also need to dress well in order to evacuate the excess humidity and sweat generated by the climbs without neglecting the preservation of your body heat by following these three tips:
- Bet on a good multilayer system adapted to the practice of high road skiing;
- Don’t neglect your extremities;
- Choose your backpack carefully;
- Remember to bring essentials to ensure your safety and well-being;
- Three pro tips to think of everything during your backcountry ski outings.
Take the opportunity to shop for the right backcountry ski clothes to dress you from head to toe.
Bet on a good multilayer system adapted to the practice of high road skiing
As is the case with many demanding sports, you have to wear several “onion skins”, a technique also called the multilayer system, to ski backcountry. In other words, you will have to wear several layers of clothing rather than one very warm coat.
As your body warms up, you may remove one or more layers, such as your Gore-Tex outer shell, and midlayer, as needed to bring your body temperature down.
During backcountry ski expeditions, even if the temperature is -20°C, it is not uncommon to climb the mountain with only a base layer on your back in order to stay dry.
Consider wearing three layers of upper body clothing: the base layer, the mid-layer, and the shell (also called the outer layer).
For the base layer, both for the upper and lower body, bet on clothes that allow moisture to be expelled and that dry quickly, such as merino wool or fleece. You must at all costs avoid cotton, which dries very badly.
Take the time to open all the hatches to ventilate. Unless it’s very cold, or you’re very chilly, just put on a pair of tights under a shell.
As for the middle layer, synthetic fiber sweaters or down jackets offer the best performance to keep you warm. Once wet, however, the down loses its insulating capacity.
Finally, equip yourself with an outer layer that will protect you from bad weather, such as rain, snow and wind. Three-ply Gore-Tex shells offer the best option, as they are waterproof and breathable.
Maximize your comfort by choosing a coat and a pair of snow pants or overalls that breathe well, but also offer good protection against wind and rain, for example with a Gore-Tex membrane. Whether for the coat and the pants, choose models that have ventilation hatches that will allow you to evacuate moisture.
Don’t neglect your extremities
The multilayer system also applies to the head and the hands. Depending on the temperature, you can wear either a warm layer (balaclava and warm gloves) or a colder layer (toque and thin gloves), or even all the layers at the same time if it is very cold.
It is very useful to carry a pair of gloves and an extra, dry toque or balaclava for your descent.
To stay warm, regardless of the outside temperature, slip hand warmers and foot warmers into your backpack, as this could prevent you from frostbite or help a friend who has very cold.
Choose your backpack carefully
Since you will constantly have to adapt your clothes during the ascent and descent, choose a backpack that is large enough. For daily outings, a format of 20 to 35 liters is sufficient for most enthusiasts.
Models that offer an opening in the back are particularly practical for easier access to your equipment. A net on the front of the bag is also practical for installing your helmet during climbs.
Remember to bring essentials to ensure your safety and well-being
In addition to space for your clothes, you could opt for a specialized bag for backcountry and off-piste skiing that contains compartments for storing safety equipment, such as a shovel, a probe and an accident victim device. avalanche (DVA).
Alternatively, you can purchase a separate safety kit and slip it into your backpack when venturing into high avalanche potential terrain.
In any case, you absolutely must drag this equipment and take a course to know how to use it.
For even more security, drag a small inflatable floor mattress, which can isolate an injured person if an incident occurs.
Finally, keep a lighter in your backpack, because the greatest danger remains the cold.
Spare and extra clothes
To feel comfortable and dry when transitioning uphill and downhill, and for eating outdoors, consider packing an extra insulated jacket. This piece of equipment will also be practical to keep you warm if an injury occurs. Don’t forget to add a second pair of socks, a toque and additional gloves. If space permits, you’ll also want to bring another vest, if needed.
Provisions to refuel
Also plan space to carry a lunch, snacks and water. Calculate your quantities of water well to make sure you do not run out; you will need to bring at least 1.5 to 2 liters of water, which is the minimum amount to drink on a normal day without physical exertion. Also remember to drink enough before you go skiing.
3 pro tips to think of everything during your backcountry ski outings
Make sure you have a means of communication. Safety is the most important aspect of backcountry skiing. Since you will practice this sport in an isolated environment or in mountain valleys where the cellular network does not always work, you must make sure you have a reliable means of communication to reach emergency services if an accident occurs. A portable radio, satellite phone, or geolocation and messaging beacon are good tools when you’re off the cellular network. At the same time, make sure you know where it is possible to access the cellular network on the mountain and to charge your cell phone well and keep it warm (stick a hand warmer on it if it discharges too quickly in the cold ).
Drag an insulated container. Water management can quickly become problematic in winter, especially during very cold weather. The tube of your hydration pack will freeze even if it is protected by insulation and the water in your water bottle will become freezing or even frozen. To be able to stay hydrated, bring an insulated container filled with water or your favorite hot beverage; coffee, tea, hot chocolate, chicken broth, etc. A comforting treat that will keep you well hydrated, no matter the conditions.
Prefer a shell or a ski coat (outer layer) with inside pockets to slip your skins in (skin pockets) or a snow skirt, which will keep them in place inside your coat. By preserving the heat of your climbing skins, it will be easier to stick them to your skis and they will not come into contact with other fabrics, dust, etc.
Above all, ski in a safe and ethical manner, leaving no traces behind you… except those of your skis.