Backcountry Transitions: Tips and Tricks for Skiers and Split Boarders
Moments at the top of the skin track are like a dance. Some are smooth and efficient when removing their skins, shifting layers and preparing for the way down. Others like myself can be seen stumbling with my gear while the rest of the gang has to wait. This is no race, but making your ski or split board transition more efficient will make the entire experience more fun and less stressful for both you and the rest of your group. Practice makes perfect and this post aims at helping the newer backcountry skier when transitioning between skinning up and getting ready to head down the mountain:
Check your gear first
Make sure your skins are in good condition. Check the tip and tail for wear, cracks or peeling glue. Inspect for dust, dirt and residue on both sides of the skins (the glue side and the fabric side). Some brands like Big Sky Mountain Products will offer re-glueing services if your skins are looking a little rough.
- Get in the habit of checking your bindings and have a plan in the event of equipment failure. FYI, Voile straps can work miracles.
Tips when transitioning from uphill to downhill
Find level ground. This might take a little while, but it's worth it. If you are transitioning on a steeper slope, try to create a shelf to keep yourself stable.
Remember to put your brakes down! When transitioning from uphill to downhill skiing, some people forget about their brakes—which can be dangerous and unfortunate in the event that your ski takes off down the mountain.
Keep your skins in a warm dry spot that is easy to access - especially in cold temperatures where you wont want to spend time digging through your pack without gloves on. If possible try placing them in your jacket so that your body heat keeps them warm and they are easy to find.
Try practicing taking skins off while keeping your skis on. This will definitely speed up the process and you will look cool while doing it!
Have a plan for tricky transitions.
Sometimes you will need to transition on a steep slope and it can be nerve racking especially on icy terrain.
- Start with taking your uphill ski off first. This will ensure that you have some grip and stability from your downhill skis edge when removing your skins.
- When preparing to take your other ski off, take a step and place your ski boot below your downhill ski. This will give you better balance and make it easier to reach your binding's release.
- You can plant one of your removed skis into the slope to create a point to hold for stability. Just be sure to plant your ski deep enough so that it will not break free when holding some of your weight.
- If you need to put your skis back on on a steep slope, attempt to create a level shelf for your ski to rest. Clicking into a binding, especially a tech-style binding at an angle is incredible difficult and often impossible.
So, what’s your plan for tricky transitions? We hope these tips help you ski more smoothly and enjoyably.
Start making your backcountry skiing experience even better. It's a great way to break up the monotony of resort skiing and get some fresh air in your lungs while exploring another world! The best part is that it doesn't have to be difficult or expensive. Just do what I do: start small so you don't feel overwhelmed with all the new skills involved and take it easy on yourself if things don't go according to plan at first because they probably won't!
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