Gear List: Backcountry Skiing Day Tours

In the Pacific Northwest, going backcountry skiing for the day can mean a lot of things. In January it can mean dressing in your warmest clothes. In March and April you might skip the long underwear and strip down to a t-shirt for the uphill. In between that you may choose to wear all gore-tex because we're experiencing that lighter-than-rain-but-really-heavy-snow. The nice thing about it is that we can always bring extra clothes to the trail head and make final decisions then.

Most objectives don't require ski mountaineering equipment such as harnesses, crampons, or ice axes. But ski crampons are strongly encouraged and may even be required on some days. I've had to use them to cross a wind-scoured pass in order to ski belly-deep powder on the other side in February, and to climb Red Mountain on a beautiful spring day so that we were on the summit at just the right time to ski the softening corn snow down.

Group Gear Provided

  • Comprehensive first aid kit to stabilize bleeding and fractures
  • Emergency communication - cell phone, radio, satellite phone, or beacon device
  • Emergency shelter

Personal Gear

  • Internal Frame Pack - 30L to 45L. Depending on the time of year or conditions, I've been using the Backcountry Access Stash 30L.
  • 1 Liter of water storage, either a Nalgene bottle or thermos - I prefer hot drinks in cold weather, so I carry a Yeti Rambler 18oz (530mL). More about my thoughts about water storage and treatment is here: LINK.
  • Sun screen and lip balm
  • Sunglasses - with good side protection and dark lenses. I actually carry two pairs, a brown lense for low light and a reflective lense for bright light. Native Bomber and Smith Guide's Choice
  • Goggles - yes bring both! I like sunglasses for most uphill work, but goggles for the stormy days with flat light. K2 Source Z - Red Storm Goggle
  • Small first aid kit with a couple of band-aids, aspirin, ibuprofen, your preferred blister repair. Also, an epi-pen if you have any critical allergies!
  • Pocket knife
  • Lighters - I keep one in my first aid kit, and a second one in my repair kit. Priceless.
  • Headlamp - Black Diamond Gizmo Headlamp. I recommend carrying a headlamp for all adventures that you could potentially find yourself in the dark. In the dark with a headlamp is a long day; in the dark without is stuck.
  • Food - you'll want 4-8 simple, quick snacks throughout the day.
  • Camera, cell phone

Ski Equipment

  • OPTIONAL: Avalanche airbag backpack. After +20 years of evidence, the statistics are overwhelming - when caught in an avalanche, airbag packs reduce the chance of burial by 50%. I use the Backcountry Access Float 32L.
  • Avalanche Transceiver - single frequency, 457kHz, less than 10 years old required. Backcountry Access Tracker 2
  • Shovel - small, compact, and metal blade. Backcountry Access B-1 Shovel
  • Probe - a dedicated avalanche probe, not a ski-pole alternative model! Backcountry Access Stealth 240 Probe
  • Skis - for a quiver-of-one, I recommend the. K2 Coomba 104 with Dynafit TLT Radical FT 2.0 Binding
  • Ski boots - Alpine Touring / Randonee or Telemark only. No downhill boots! I like a backcountry boot that can handle the resort like the Scarpa Maestrale RS
  • Ski poles - if you like to adjust your poles, then great, but I find them too much trouble and bring fixed length poles on 99% of my trips. Black Diamond Fixed Length Carbon Ski Poles
  • Climbing skins - these should be full length, wall-to-wall. I'm a huge fan of Pomoca, who just happen to produce the K2 backcountry skins. Pomoca Climb Pro Skins
  • Ski Crampons - REQUIRED! Really necessary for those frozen morning starts. Get a pair wider than you ski-waist width, but less than 10mm wider. Dynafit Ski Crampons (110mm fit my skis above)
  • OPTIONAL: Ski Helmet - helmet usage is becoming more and more common. While you're likely not to see me ski with a helmet except under certain circumstances, I will never tell you that you should or  shouldn't. Make sure you have a way to secure it to your pack for uphill travel, and be aware that not all models replace the need for a climbing helmet. K2 Stash Helmet

Ski Clothing - recommending clothing can be the hardest part in the Cascades. What I wear for a tour in March is dramatically different then for June. Here is a loose suggestion that may be changed depending on actual conditions.