backcountry skiing

A backcountry skier in Oregon's Wallowa Mountains.

12 Pro Tips For Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter

By Michael Lanza

Staying warm while skiing or riding at resorts or in the backcountry, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, or running in winter is a constant challenge: We sweat, our clothes get damp, and then we have periods of reduced exertion like riding a ski lift or walking downhill, when we cool down. But as humans have known for thousands of years, it’s a matter of smartly managing and insulating our body’s furnace (and today we have much better technical clothing than animal skins).

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A backcountry skier at Baldy Knoll in Wyoming's Tetons Range.

How to Dress in Layers for Winter in the Backcountry

By Michael Lanza If hiking, backpacking, and climbing from spring through fall teaches us the fundamentals of layering our clothing for comfort in variable weather, the backcountry in winter confers a graduate degree in layering. In mild temperatures, getting wet with perspiration or precipitation merely risks discomfort. In freezing temps, it can quickly lead to hypothermia and actually become life-threatening. …

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Ski touring the Elkhorn Loop, Boise National Forest, Idaho.

New Year Resolution: Getting Unplugged

By Michael Lanza

Right before New Year’s Day, for the tenth year of the past 12, my family and another did something we have eagerly anticipated annually for almost as long as my children’s memory reaches backward. It involved skis, backpacks, and spending four days at a yurt tucked away in snow-covered mountains a few miles from the nearest, very lonely, winding, two-lane road. But the details matter only inasmuch as they steer us toward our ultimate goal: We really go there to get completely unplugged.

We do that mostly for ourselves, of course. But I think we need this notion of disconnecting to catch on more widely, to save us all from ourselves.

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Skiing below Mount Heyburn, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

Photo Gallery: Backcountry Skiing Idaho’s Sawtooths

By Michael Lanza

At a pass just below 9,400 feet on the north side of 10,229-foot Mt. Heyburn, in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, the wind that had been steadily turning the dial upward reached full volume. Another snow squall burst upon us, spraying white bullets sideways and dropping a veil over the rocky, snow-spattered, serrated ridge just overhead. Six of us had labored 2,000 feet uphill on skis in search of a doorway into a secluded mountain paradise of sorts, a high basin known in some circles as the Monolith Valley, though not marked as such on any map. A slender gash between Heyburn and another 10,000-footer, Braxon Peak, the Monolith exists in the topographical shadows, easily overlooked. Most of our group have only seen tantalizing photos that revealed legions of rock spires towering above untracked snow.

As sometimes happens, we had found something in between what we had hoped for and what we expected.

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Backcountry skiing, Boise Mountains, Idaho.

Ask Me: Advice on Avalanche Beacons and Safety

Good morning Mike,

Anne is telling me she needs an avalanche beacon for a weeklong backcountry ski trip to Canada. We don’t own any because we retired from sketchy backcountry about the time beacons became ubiquitous. Given that I know she’s only going to have time to use this equipment one week this year, is it better to rent one? Or is this something I should buy, knowing I’ve got an active bunch and that someone might want and use it? I have other questions:

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