This winter has been quite the experience for me. Starting out as an extremely weak skier with maybe 6 green runs under my belt, I signed up for a Avalanche Skills course in the Squamish back-country.
It began with the “shopping spree” – I wasn’t sure how I was possibly going to afford touring gear as a good looking package was the farthest thing from my price range. I looked around for a few months realizing this likely wasn’t going to be an option for me…Luckily just before the course started I found the perfect used set from a local guiding company – super retro skins that resembled a classic 60’s shag carpet and skis with old, heavy Fitschi bindings. It wasn’t exactly the coolest or lightest set-up but it would work!
After the frantic search for gear the fact that my ski skills weren’t up to par started to set in. I had knowledge of the back-country and traveling in avalanche terrain but I had never done such a thing on skis. A week before my course a friend and I went out to for a short afternoon tour. I watched as she leisurely applied her skins and out of the corner of my eye I followed along.
The first tour turned out the be a success after I figured out my stride, how to actually apply my skins and adjust to very non-groomed snow conditions. Once the first day out was over I realized my ski ability was good enough to take the course and not fear looking like a severe newbie.
Learning to ski in the back-country has its ups and downs. It taught me to maneuver on ice, dirt and sometimes really heavy snow. It was so different from being on a hill and I never knew what to expect. My favorite thing about ski touring is the constant adventure – each time is a different experience and it always feels earned.
When the weekend came to take my course I was nervous but felt ready. The conditions, however, were horrible! Majority of the trail was dirt and we spent a lot of time packing our skis. Near the end of the day we had climbed a steep slope to dig some pits and do some beacon searching. My heart began racing as I realized I had never skied anything that steep before. As the team began heading down one by one on their skis or snowshoes, I knew my time to go was quickly approaching. Before completely letting my fear take over, I tipped my skis forward and whipped off the slope. Even though I looked like a circus act, with my feet wobbling beneath me, I made it down safe and sound.
Learning any new sport can be tricky – sometimes I wish I could just speed up the process and be skiing like the friends I go out with. The curve is all part of it and each time I go I get a chance to try something new and exciting. Sometimes I still feel that same fear on a slope but I trust my feet and they carry me out.
I love the physical aspect of touring. Pushing onward towards a peak or line – with sweat pouring and all muscles working together, it is just glorious! Plus waking up early, skinning in with the sunrise and feeling the satisfaction of the day sure beats the expensive ski hill.
This year I got about 10 out-trips in and I am very happy with my progress on my “new to me” sticks.