What is backcountry skiing?
Backcountry is any terrain that is not “controlled” such as a ski resort. Resorts use expensive machines, and trained professionals to help reduce natural hazards while skiing within the ski area boundary. Travel outside of this boundary, and you are in the backcountry. General methods of backcountry travel include hiking, snowshoeing, skinning, ski touring, and even helicopter tours to more difficult to access mountain peaks.
Is backcountry skiing safe?
In the backcountry, you’re rewarded with pristine, untracked snow and no crowds. However, no reward comes without risks, so it’s best to be prepared before venturing into the backcountry! Gearhouse believes everyone who travels into the backcountry should do so as safely as possible. With that ethos in mind, we provide several opportunities to get you out of the resort and into nature. We have everything you need, from the most convenient weekend rental you'll ever experience to full-service Resort to Backcountry clinics, and AIARE 1 level avalanche certification courses.
To get you better prepared for safe travel in the backcountry, we offer the tools and knowledge that will allow you to get out of the resort.
Getting started in the backcountry
Gearhouse has everything you need to ditch the lift lines and find solitude in nature, including convenient weekend rentals, AIARE avalanche certification, and full service Resort to Backcountry clinics. Check it all out below!
1. We have a selection of high-quality backcountry skis and split boards from K2, Jones, Gnu, Weston, and Arbor.
2. Our AT Ski Boot are K2 Dispatch.
3. Bring your boots and we can make sure our bindings our split-boards.
What you'll need
Book a kit or individual pieces below.
Resort to Backcountry Series
Resort to Backcountry is a multi-day, 3-part program designed to allow you to try out-of-bounds skiing or snowboarding for the first time and then get you certified to go on your own with the friends you make in the program.
It’s a risk-free way to try the backcountry before committing to buying expensive gear and you’ll get most of your money back in gear savings if you decide to purchase discounted gear at the end of the course.
Backcountry Program Overview
Backcountry Program Details
Part 1 — Intro to Backcountry Gear
Members: FREE, Non-members: $125, Price includes gear
Part 1A - Classroom instruction: Hands on gear
Demo and get fitted for gear
Practice gear use at GH
Learn about backcountry safety gear
What to carry — In depth look at what's in a backcountry day pack
Part 1B - Field Day: Intro to Skinning & Avy Beacons
Get on-mountain practice with backcountry skies and snowboard gear
Learn how to ski uphill
Assess your riding ability
Learn and practice Avy Beacon use
Part 2 — Avy Awareness and Touring Day
Members: $50 (includes gear), Non-members: $250 w/o gear, $350 w/ gear
Part 2A - Classroom: Avy Awareness and Tour Planning
Understand the principles of being Avalanche Aware
Explore resources for good avalanche travel decision making
Learn backcountry planning techniques
Prepare for your first tour
Part 2B - Field Day: Tour Day
Participate in a safe and informative tour experience
Demonstrate backcountry travel basics while on tour
Part 3 — AIARE 1 Course w/ Cabin Stay and Cohort Graduation
Members: $700, Non-members: $1199
AIARE 1 Course (2 x classroom, 2 x field days)
Learn how to mitigate avalanche hazards from professional guides (@Gearhouse, 6-9pm)
Head to a cabin at Hurricane ridge for 2 field days with professional guides
Plan a Graduation Tour - Friday
Review what you learned in AIARE course
Plan a tour with your cohort at Gearhouse
Participant planned & executed tour with your cohort (no staff involvement on tour day)
Book a clinic - a la carte
We’re offering classes continually this winter so pick the ones that suit your schedule! We'd recommend doing it as early as possible though so you can get the most out of your season this year. Jump in where you think suits your current abilities!
We have multiple dates for all parts running throughout January, February, and March! Click into the event to pick a date!
What else is included?
A dedicated, private slack channel for you and your classmates to plan trips, coordinate carpools, and stay connected all season long.
All gear needed for backcountry travel all season long including:
Skis or Splitboard
Backcountry Skis + Boots + Skins (K2 Wayback 96 skis + Mindbender boots)
Backcountry Splitboard with bindings compatible with your snowboard boots and matching skins (K2 Maurader Splitboard + Farout Split Bindings)
An avalanche beacon, probe, and shovel (Mammut Barryvox Beacon, Probe, and Shovel)
A 30 liter touring backpack to carry avalanche safety gear, skins, and personal items
Option to purchase any touring equipment at 30% off retail value (up to $600 savings) at the end of the season.
Sounds dangerous - is backcountry for intense skiers and riders?
Nope! Backcountry touring is more like a day of hiking that ends with a casual ski run for most people (often with untouched powder!). The ski movie industry loves to show the professionals jumping off cliffs but the reality is that you're often skiing simple blue square runs in great snow more than you are doing double blacks.
How good of a skier/rider do I need to be?
Confident groomed blue square skiers and riders are welcome to attend Part 1! We'll assess your abilities and advise you on the rest of the clinics at that point. Don't worry, we find that 80% of skiers and riders are good enough to continue!
Part 2 attendees need to be at least intermediate resort skiers and riders capable of confidently skiing blue square runs in all conditions. Course participants should be reasonably fit and capable of hiking 5-8 miles with 2000 ft of elevation gain with a 20-30 lb pack.
If you’ve been skiing resort for at least a few years and never been out-of-bounds before or been once or twice with friends and wanted to go on your own, then this course is for you! People that have been in the backcountry at least 1-2 times are welcome to skip straight to Part 2.
Who are you guys?!
Gearhouse is a community organization working to build friendships in the outdoors and get you outside more often with less work. Our backcountry offerings come from lived experience investing in backcountry gear for years before we'd even tried it. We signed up for an AIARE course hoping to meet other folks interested in backcountry touring but ultimately left disappointed when most in the class already had a group. That left us to convince other friends to follow suit buying gear and taking AIARE classes to go backcountry safely.
Join us as we tackle the community, education, and gear hurdles most face getting into the backcountry. You’ll be glad you did!
Still have questions?
Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Where and when to go
Where do people do backcountry touring anyways?
Often anywhere you can park your car in the winter! Some of the easiest places to go include:
Rainier National Park
Gearhouse can help you plan a custom tour - stop on in to get tour advice anytime!
What time of year can I go backcountry?
The backcountry season lasts rough from December through May for most people though some people do it all year long thanks to our volcanoes! Peak season is March and April when the days get long and sunny and the roads clear up.
The season lasts much longer than the resort skiing season since you can access much higher terrain.