Backcountry skiing 101 | SierraSun.com

Backcountry skiing 101

Shane JonesGuest column

Backcountry skiing is becoming increasingly popular in the Tahoe Region. The area offers an abundant amount of snowfall, relatively warm temperatures and easy trail access to some of the most beautiful terrain in the country.Preparing for your ascent and decent is critical because exploring uncharted areas can be mentally and physically challenging and unexpectedly dangerous if you havent bought the right equipment or done your homework.Here are five things you should know before venturing into the backcountry: Buy appropriate gear from an establishment that is knowledgeable about the sport. The minimum necessities are a backpack, avalanche beacon, shovel, avalanche probe, climbing skins for skis or splitboards or snowshoes, sunglasses or goggles and the appropriate amount of water and food for the duration of your trip. Learn how to properly use your gear. The Squaw Valley Ski Patrol office offers free avalanche beacon classes on the 1st and 15th of each month. Classes are from 5:30-7:30 p.m. For more details, call 581-7260. There are also many classes and seminars offered for a fee from Alpine Skills International (ASI) located inside The Backcountry on Donner Pass Road. Visit http://www.thebackcountry.net. Ski with a buddy. It is always a good idea to ski with someone who has more experience reading the terrain and finding the safest route to descend based on avalanche hazards. Also, if you were to get injured, youll want someone to help search for and rescue you. There are many purists who enjoy traveling solo, but most of these people are seasoned veterans in the backcountry ski community; they acknowledge and accept the risks of traveling alone. Research routes and safety conditions. Avalanches occur in the backcountry, and you want to avoid experiencing one. The Internet is a great tool for researching the conditions of different routes. The Sierra Avalanche Center is a non-profit resource partially supported by the U.S. Forest Service. They update their Avalanche Advisory daily by 7 a.m. at http://www.sierraavalanchecenter.org. Respect the people you meet along the way, and dont litter trail heads. Remember, the backcountry ski community is made up of people who are extremely passionate about the beautiful landscape they travel on. Be certain to always pack out your trash and belongings from your adventures.A couple books to get you started with backcountry education and ski routes are Snow Sense, A Guide to Evaluating Snow Avalanche Hazard, by Jill Fredston andamp; Doug Fesler, and 50 Classic Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Summits in California by Paul Richins, Jr. Enjoy powering up the mountain and the descent down. Safe travels.Shane Jones has been an avid backcountry skier for 13 years. He is a member of Powhound.com, a new classified ad and community Web site with the goal of helping skiers and snowboarders find the best deals on lift tickets, lodging packages and equipment at Tahoe-area ski resorts.