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Win a $1000 donation to POW and some of Michelle Parker’s favorite gear!

Winter is here, and to share our excitement, we’ve teamed up with pro skier Michelle Parker for an epic giveaway!

The winner will get a signed 11×17 print of Michelle schralping steeps in Tahoe, a $1,000 donation to POW, and some of Michelle’s favorite gear from Backcountry Ski Maps, HANAHBlack Crows SkisArcade Belts, and Darn Tough Socks!  

To enter, head over to the contest page and submit your entry before December 20th.

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A Thank You To Our Backcountry (™) Community

Backcountry Ski Maps owes the backcountry community a huge debt of thanks for standing up for small businesses in the outdoor space, protecting the rights of the public to the word “backcountry”, and generally fighting for a more ethical outdoor industry.

A Week of Terror

One week ago, the Colorado Sun published an article outing the dozens of lawsuits that ecommerce giant Backcountry.com had filed against small businesses using the word “backcountry” in a company or product name.

At first, it seemed as though a little guy like Backcountry Ski Maps would be in no danger – after all, we don’t compete with Backcountry.com in any way, and it would be difficult to argue that any confusion could be caused between our brand and theirs. And what interest would they have in suing a company that makes less in a year than they do in an hour? But a quick look indicated that that would not be the case. There were three pages of lawsuits filed by Backcountry.com. Businesses need to protect their trademarks, but the pattern here was clearly one of aggression rather than protection.

Backcountry Babes, an organization providing female-focused avalanche education was sued and settled. So was Backcountry Discover Routes, a non-profit providing maps for motorcyclists. It seemed the larger organizations (BCA, Backcountry Magazine) were being left alone, and the little guys (Marquette Backcountry, Backcountry Denim) were being chased after.

It quickly became clear that we were actually a prime target.

After two years of hard work building up a brand and a small but loyal following, it seemed possible (perhaps even inevitable) that a cease and desist letter would arrive at the doorstep.

For a small company like ours, that would likely be a death knell. We simply wouldn’t be able to eat the cost of lawsuit. And rebranding and reprinting our entire inventory of maps just before the winter season would likely be unsurvivable as well.

For a brief period, it seemed a distinct possibility that Backcountry Ski Maps would have to fold – and that our livelihoods would disappear with it. Each morning, I would wake up fearing that today might be the day that the letter from Backcountry.com’s lawyers arrived.

A Ray of Hope

We tried to go about business as usual, but there was a definite drop in productivity. We were constantly scanning for new news, while fearfully awaiting the mailman each day.

Then a light appeared at the end of the tunnel. And that light was you.

Within days, a Boycott BackcountryDOTcom Facebook group had reached thousands of members. It now sits at over 15,000 and continues to grow quickly. #boycottbackcountry was all over Instagram and Twitter. Several people changed their profile picture to Backcountry.com’s goat with a red line through it.

We followed along, sharing these groups with friends, emailing and calling Backcountry.com and their parent company (TSG) and spending our dollars elsewhere.

The backcountry (no TM) community had made it clear – the word “backcountry” belongs to nobody, and unethical businesses will be voted against with dollars.

An “Apology”

It seemed a David vs. Goliath battle, but with public pressure mounting, Backcountry.com’s CEO, Jonathan Nielsen, issued a public “apology”.

It took baby steps in the right direction – Backcountry.com admitted to a mistake, and withdrew their suit against Marquette Backcountry.

But it seemed like the kid caught with their hand in the cookie jar – more sorry that they were caught than sorry for their actions.

Nielsen wrote “It’s important to note that we tried to resolve these trademark situations amicably and respectfully, and we only took legal action as a last resort. That said, we know we mishandled this, and we are withdrawing the Marquette Backcountry action.”

But an excerpt from an email from Backcountry.com’s lawyers made that difficult to believe:

This is not going away. If your next communication is anything other than a complete acceptance of settlement terms, we will understand you have no intent to comply with our client’s requests and we will proceed accordingly. Please be aware that my client will not be inclined to resolve this matter amicably if it is forced to oppose your application or formally litigate the matter.

There was no indication that Nielsen or Backcountry.com would not continue to harass any other company using the term “backcountry”. More troubling than that was that there was no indication that they understood that the backcountry belongs to the public.

What Comes Next?

The fight is not over yet.

No mention has been made of the small businesses who went out of business or nearly went out of business due to Backcountry.com’s litigation. Will they be reimbursed for their legal fees and rebranding efforts?

Will other lawsuits and cease and desists be dropped? Will over-aggressive policing of the word “backcountry” stop in the future?

We’ll sleep more comfortably knowing that the true backbone of the backcountry community

For us, this is not enough. We will continue to boycott Backcountry.com and TSGs other companies (even you, PBR) until Backcountry.com has righted their wrongs – from reactions to Nielsen’s letter, it appears that the backcountry community agrees.

In the meantime, hopefully we won’t get sued…

Thanks again for standing up for what’s right!

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Lake Tahoe Backcountry Skiing 101: Trimmer Peak

trimmer peak tahoe backcountry skiing

Route Overview

Trimmer Peak

Starting Elevation: 6,500ft

Summit Elevation: 9,915ft (but most stop at 9,100ft)

Cumulative Elevation Gain: 3,300ft for one lap, including the skin back up to the saddle

Distance Covered to top: 2.5mi (plus another 0.5mi to return to the saddle from the bottom of The Elevens

Description: Trimmer offers relatively uncrowded skiing on some of the best glades around South Lake Tahoe.

The map included on this page is an approximation with only some routes included. Our full, high-accuracy maps of ski routes around Lake Tahoe are available here. Maps are available in both paper and downloadable format.

Intro

Trimmer Peak is an overlooked gem of the Lake Tahoe backcountry. When the snow levels are low, a trip out to Trimmer can be incredibly rewarding – it has amazing views of the lake, great open skiing in The Elevens, and fun, featured glade skiing on the lower slopes.

Despite this, and its proximity to South Lake Tahoe, Trimmer doesn’t get a ton of traffic. A large part of this is likely due to the fact that in low snow years, or whenever the snow levels are high, Trimmer’s lower slopes can be unskiable.

Don’t let this fact deter you – a ski of The Elevens is well worth a slog through the lower slopes, and if you can get the bottom slope in good conditions, this might just become one of your favorite spots.

Access

Parking for Trimmer is at the High Meadow Trailhead at the end of High Meadow road. This area is heavily used by local dog walkers, but there is usually enough street parking for a few cars here.

Make sure to park in such a way as to not bother the local residents or impede snow plows!

Ascent

From the High Meadow Trailhead, follow the summer trail for about half of a mile. Break out to climbers right onto a sub-ridge of Point 8455, and switchback all the way up the forested slopes to the saddle just east of Point 8455.

From here head south onto the ridge. Follow this ridge up until it mellows below the rocky northern summit of Trimmer at around 9,050ft. The true summit is south of here, but being some distance away, most skiers skip it in favor of getting in more skiing!

lake tahoe view
The view from Trimmer’s lower northern summit is worth the extra hike

To hit the Elevens, make a skiers left traverse across the face here if the conditions allow – remember that The Elevens are old avalanche paths, and may be unstable!

Descent Options

The lower section of The Elevens. The upper section was too good to stop and take photos…

Once you hit the path of your choosing, head straight down. The Elevens are quite open, and have thin trees to either side, so you can pick and choose your descent. This is by far the most popular descent on Trimmer Peak, and once you’ve skied it you’ll understand why!

You’ll get about 1,500ft of stellar fall line skiing here, before ending up near a small stream at the bottom. From here, skin southwest – either to regain your skintrack for another lap, or to regain the saddle near Point 8455 and return to your vehicle.

If you choose to return, the north face of Point 8455 can offer anything from superb powder skiing to a heinous death-crust. Try to time this one so you get the former and not the latter – in good conditions this lower slope can be just as fun as The Elevens.

Topo Map

We don’t have a topo map for Trimmer Peak (yet!) but Backcountry Ski Maps’ Lake Tahoe: Southwest covers nearby descents on the West Shore, Mt. Tallac, the areas around Meyers, and the Desolation Wilderness. The only map specifically made for backcountry skiers, it includes over 70 ski descents to help you make the most of the Lake Tahoe backcountry, and is available in both a GPS-enabled digital format for your phone, and a waterproof tear-resistant paper format that will never run out of batteries.

Check it out here:

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Lake Tahoe Backcountry Skiing 101: Rubicon Peak

Route Overview

Rubicon Peak

Starting Elevation: 6,250ft

Summit Elevation: 9,183ft

Cumulative Elevation Gain: 2,950ft

Total Distance Covered: 2mi

Description: Rubicon Peak is one of the true gems of the West Shore of Lake Tahoe. Perfectly spaced glades allow for excellent backcountry skiing, while a north-facing aspect and stunning views of the lake further add to the allure.

The map included on this page is an approximation with only some routes included. To purchase the full, high-accuracy map with many more ski routes around Rubicon Peak, the West Shore, and more, click here. Maps are available in both paper and downloadable format.

Intro

Rubicon Peak is a storm-day paradise for Tahoe area skiers looking for powder. Situated at the north end of the West Shore peaks, Rubicon is is just a smidgen less tall than neighboring Jake’s, but it packs a punch of its own when it comes to tree skiing.

Rubicon is, for all intents and purposes, entirely covered by well-spaced old-growth trees – the kind that make ski tourers drool. With all this tree cover and relatively few start zones, Rubicon Peak tends to make a great option for backcountry skiers searching for a storm day fix.

Rubicon has an unskiable rocky summit, which makes a fantastic spot for lunch on a nice day – the panoramic views of Lake Tahoe just below are difficult to beat.

It can get busy on weekends and pow days, but overall sees much less traffic than nearby Jake’s Peak.

Access

There are two winter parking options for Rubicon Peak. If snow levels are low enough, skiers can park on pullouts off of Highway 89. If not, it’s best to park at the dead end of Highland Drive (which will also save you about 650ft of skinning).

Both spots can fill up on busy days, and skiers have been occasionally ticketed in both spots as well.

The Tahoe Backcountry Alliance has proposed additional parking lots both at the end of Highland Drive and on Highway 89 to provide much more winter parking for backcountry skiers.

See their proposal here, and visit the TBA site to do more about ensuring winter access around Lake Tahoe.

Ascent

Navigating up Rubicon is incredibly easy. Keen Tahoe City skiers tend to put in a skintrack quite early, but if not, just head west from the Highway 89 pullouts or southwest from Highland Drive. Navigate through the start of the forest without crossing private property, and then just head up – due to the shape of Rubicon, it’s nearly impossible to head anywhere other than the summit by heading up from here.

Many skiers stop at the bottom of Rubicon’s rocky summit block. If it’s your first time in the area and you’re comfortable with a scramble in ski boots, it’s worth making the ascent to the top of the pinnacle – it’s got a great exposed feel and brings you the most rewarding views.

Descent Options

From the summit of Rubicon, any northward direction brings you to worthwhile skiing.

The most popular backcountry ski descent here is the Northeast Glades – they have the longest fall line descent, as well as the added bonus of always heading towards the lake. Just make sure not to ski into any trees while enjoying the view!

If it’s been a few days since the last storm, the slightly shorter true North Glades can hold onto snow slightly longer than the Northeast Glades due to their more favorable exposure. Heading directly north from the summit also sets you up better for your return if you parked your car at Highland Drive.

It’s tough to get in too much trouble here, so as long as snow conditions and group skills allow, it can be fun to do a couple of laps and explore all of Rubicon’s northerly aspects.

Topo Map

Backcountry Ski Maps’ Lake Tahoe: Southwest covers backcountry skiing and ski touring descents on Rubicon Peak, the rest of the West Shore, Mt. Tallac, the areas around Meyers, and the Desolation Wilderness. The only map specifically made for backcountry skiers, it includes over 70 ski descents to help you make the most of the Lake Tahoe backcountry, and is available in both a GPS-enabled digital format for your phone, and a waterproof tear-resistant paper format that will never run out of batteries.

Check it out here:

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Lake Tahoe Backcountry Skiing 101: The Peter Grubb Hut

Route Overview

Peter Grubb Hut

Starting Elevation: 7,200ft

Summit Elevation: 7,800ft

Cumulative Elevation Gain: 1,025ft (800ft there, 225ft back)

Total Distance Covered: 5.8mi

Description: The Peter Grubb hut is a quaint, accessible Sierra Club Hut just off of Donner Pass. With easy access to Castle, Basin, and Andesite Peaks, this 15 person hut is a great introduction to overnight ski touring.

The map included on this page is an approximation with only some routes included. To purchase the full, high-accuracy map with many more ski routes around the Grubb Hut and the surrounding peaks click here. Maps are available in both paper and downloadable format.

Intro

grubb hut donner pass backcountry skiing
The Grubb Hut nearly buried in a big winter

The Peter Grubb Hut (more commonly known as just the Grubb Hut) is one of four Sierra Club huts in the Tahoe backcountry. Located in Round Valley nearby Castle Peak, the Grubb Hut is the most popular and easiest-to-access of the Sierra Club huts.

The Grubb Hut was constructed in 1939 as a memorial to Peter Grubb, an avid outdoorsman from San Francisco who died at age 18 of unknown causes at the age of 18 while on a cycling tour of Europe.

The hut is complete with a wood-burning stove, tables, and a kitchen area, as well as a sleeping loft that accommodates 15.

Access

Parking for the Grubb Hut is at the Donner Summit Sno-Park, and requires a Sno-Park permit, which can be purchased here for $5/day or $25 for an annual pass.

The hut itself also needs to be booked, which can be done through the Clair Tappaan Lodge.

Ascent

castle peak ski touring donner pass
A view of Castle Peak from the trail

From the Donner Summit Sno-Park, walk west towards the I-80 underpass, and cross under the interstate. On the north side of the highway you’ll reach the Castle Peak summer road. Follow the well-marked trail on a gentle uphill through the trees, enjoying the occasional glimpse of Castle Peak.

After about 2 miles, you’ll reach Castle Pass, the col between Castle and Andesite Peaks. From here continue heading roughly north, contouring below the ridge. You’ll soon hit a small outcropping overlooking Round Valley. Descend 100ft or so northwest from here to get to the Grubb Hut in the southwestern corner of the valley.

Descent Options

basin peak backcountry skiing
Basin Peaks’ drool-worthy South Face

There are many worthy backcountry ski descents right out your door from the Grubb Hut. You can view our full list of epic descents in the area, including the South Couloir on Castle Peak, the spines on the north side of the Castle-Basin ridge, and many more in our Lake Tahoe: North map. For now, we’ll leave you with two of the best descents visible from the hut.

The South Face of Basin Peak looms large over the Grubb Hut, begging backcountry skiers to lay tracks down its corn-laden slopes.

To ski this beautiful face, head north from the hut to ascend basin peak by its southwest flank. From the top you can ski just about any southerly aspect to get back to Round Valley and the Grubb Hut. Just be sure not to get into the small band of cliffs on the skier’s left side of the South Face!

castle peak donner pass touring
Castle Peaks’ West Glades as seen from just outside the Hut

The West Glades of Castle Peak are obvious from the hut. With sections of dense treese and sections of more wide-open terrain, they’re an enjoyable descent for most skiers, and see a bit less traffic than Castle’s south aspect due to their slightly longer approach from Donner Pass.

To ski the West Glades from the hut, head southeast towards Castle Pass but break northeast onto the ridge around 8,100ft. Skin up the ridge, trending climber’s left any time there is an obstacle to reach the summit.

From here the West Glades of Castle Peak will bless skiers with over a thousand vertical feet of fall-line skiing back into Round Valley.

Topo Map

Backcountry Ski Maps’ Lake Tahoe: North covers backcountry skiing and ski touring descents around Truckee, Squaw, and Mount Rose. The only map of the area specifically made for backcountry skiers, it includes over 100 ski descents to help you make the most of the Lake Tahoe backcountry, and is available in both a GPS-enabled digital format for your phone, and a waterproof tear-resistant paper format that will never run out of batteries.

Check it out here:

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Lake Tahoe Backcountry Skiing 101: Mount Tallac

mt tallac backcountry skiing

Route Overview

Mt. Tallac

Starting Elevation: 6,300ft

Summit Elevation: 9,735ft

Cumulative Elevation Gain: 3,475ft

Total Distance Covered: 6mi

Description: A true Lake Tahoe classic, a descent of Mt. Tallac is a right of passage for local backcountry skiers. With stunning views and a variety of terrain – glades, bowls, couloirs, and extreme descents – all just a short jaunt off the road, a descent of Tallac should be on every local skier’s list.

The map included on this page is an approximation with only some routes included. To purchase the full, high-accuracy map with many more ski routes on Tallac and the surrounding peaks click here. Maps are available in both paper and downloadable format.

Intro

Tallac’s summit views are not too shabby

Mount Tallac is the crown jewel of Lake Tahoe backcountry skiing. No peak in the area can rival this lakeside giant for variety of terrain. Add in stunning views of the lake, reasonable access, and relatively long runs, and you can see why this peak sits atop the wishlist for nearly every backcountry skier in Tahoe.

Tallac has enough terrain on it to satisfy even the hungriest of backcountry skiers. Bowls, glades, couloirs, extreme descents – it’s got it all.

The most popular descents on the mountain (the Northeast Bowl and The Cross) are visible from various points along the road, and even from South Lake Tahoe itself, but the peak also offers skiing on a variety of other aspects. When snow conditions are good, Mount Tallac is truly a dream come true for backcountry skiers.

Access

It used to be that skiers accessing Mount Tallac could park at the end of Spring Creek Road and get straight onto the snow. Unfortunately, property owners and the USFS now lock the gate at the entrance to the road.

Skiers now park at plowed pulloffs near the intersection of Highway 89 and Spring Creek Road, and then walk down the plowed road for about a mile to access snow.

The Tahoe Backcountry Alliance is working on improved access to this zone. To learn more and see how you can get involved, visit their site here.

Ascent

From the end of Spring Creek Road, head southwest for about a quarter of a mile through a short section of denser trees. You’ll quickly end up on the affectionately named “Sweat Hill,” where you can expect the eastern exposure to cook you in the morning sun on a Spring day.

Backcountry Ski Lake Tahoe
Does it get any better than this?

The trees become less dense here, and gradually give way to a more open slope. At around 7,400ft you’ll end up in a small flat at the bottom of the Northeast Bowl. Head climber’s right onto the prominent ridge from here. Switchback up the ridge until you reach the small flat at the top.

From the top of the ridge, trend climbers left to ascend the final 500ft of vertical of Tallac’s North Bowl. You’ll then wrap just around the south side of the peak to reach the summit.

Enjoy the incredible views. Tallac sits just off the lake, and affords views of the nearby West Shore peaks and the Desolation Wilderness, as well as electric-blue Lake Tahoe, and the smaller but equally pristine shores of Fallen Leaf Lake.

Descent Options

You might be tired of us gabbing on about how amazing Tallac’s terrain is, but once you’re up top, your mouth will drop at all the incredible ski descents available.

Just a little taste of the fun in the Northeast Bowl

The Northeast Bowl (also known as Corkscrew Bowl) is the most the most commonly skied backcountry descent from Tallac. It starts with a steeper ski down the North Bowl off of the summit. Make sure not to head skier’s right too early or you’ll end up in the mess of cliffs that you saw on your ascent!

At around 9,000ft, the North Bowl turns skier’s right and opens up into the mellower Northeast Bowl. This bowl is a true skier’s paradise, with the walls on either side allowing skiers to ride on a variety of aspects in order to find the best snow conditions.

Ski the bowl all the way down to the the little flat at the bottom, from where you can rejoin your skin track for another lap, or follow your tracks down to head back to your car.

For experience ski tourers seeking a bigger challenge, The Cross drops in just south of the summit of Tallac. The true entrance, known as the Elevator Shaft, is steep and committing, so most skiers instead choose to take the softer entrance to skier’s left before joining up with the Cross proper.

This descent is an ultra-classic, due to its combination of superb skiing and incredible views. In fact, it’s such a classic that it’s on the cover of our Lake Tahoe: Southwest ski touring map!

The Cross in all its beauty

Follow the high walls down through the couloir before enjoying another thousand-plus feet of excellent fall-line skiing down to about 7,700ft. From here you’ll need to start heading skier’s left to get back to the bottom of the Northeast Bowl and your skintrack.

Tallac is home to dozens more runs like the Hanging Face, Baby Cham, Cathedral Bowl, the Northwest Trees, the East Bowl, S Chute, and more. You can find more backcountry ski descents, as well as alternate approaches on Tallac in our Lake Tahoe: Southwest map.

Topo Map

Backcountry Ski Maps’ Lake Tahoe: Southwest covers backcountry skiing and ski touring descents on Mount Tallac, the West Shore, the areas around Meyers, and the Desolation Wilderness. The only map specifically made for backcountry skiers, it includes over 70 ski descents to help you make the most of the Lake Tahoe backcountry, and is available in both a GPS-enabled digital format for your phone, and a waterproof tear-resistant paper format that will never run out of batteries.

Check it out here:

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9 Full-length Ski Movies You Can Watch Free on Youtube

full length ski movies on youtube

Are you too much of a ski bum to pay to watch ski movies? Need some Youtube entertainment to get your fix after a night of apres? Tired of short clips and want to watch full-length films instead?

Fear not. We’ve found the best ski movies available for free in full-length on Youtube for your viewing pleasure.

Few Words

The best skier of all time. For free. On Youtube. A must-watch movie.

Claim

One of the MSP classics, featuring Shane McConkey, Mark Abma, Sean Pettit, Ingrid Backstrom in one of the strongest casts ever assembled.

Hot Dog… The Movie

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpvbM5F5XCg

THE classic ski movie. If you’re too young to have watched Hot Dog, you need to watch it now.

GNAR

A tribute to Shane, and probably the most entertaining ski movie out there. And you can watch the full length movie on Youtube for free.

Attack of La Niña

One of MSP’s absolute best, with Cody Townsend, Sean Pettit, Hoji, Ingrid Backstrom, and more.

Zabardast

A travel documentary showing a group of skiers attempting to freeride an incredibly gnarly peak at high altitude.

The Sky Piercer

Xavier De Le Rue shredding New Zealand’s highest peak. Enough said.

Higher Ground

Shane McConkey, JP Auclair, Sarah Burke, and Audioslave. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Dynasty

Chris Benchetler and more Ingrid Backstrom in one of the best WM movies.

Next: 6 Backcountry Ski Movies That Will Blow Your Mind ⟶

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Backcountry Ski Ropes: The Best Touring and Ski Mountaineering Ropes

ski mountaineering ropes

Whether you’re ski touring in glaciated terrain, attempting serious ski mountaineering objectives, or just want a little bit of extra safety just in case, a rope can be an invaluable tool in your arsenal.

There aren’t many ropes specifically geared towards ski mountaineering, but with rope technology constantly increasing, these lifelines are constantly becoming lighter and thinner – and therefor easier to justify carrying around.

If you’re looking for a rope to bring out on ski touring or ski mountaineering adventures, take a look at some of our favorites below.

Also check out: 6 Backcountry Ski Movies That Will Blow Your Mind


Petzl RAD Line

Best Application: Glacier travel, crevasse rescue, rappels

Price: $239.95 for 30m or $459.95 for 60m

Diameter: 6mm

Weight: 22g/m

Rope Type: Static Cord

There are two reasons that you see so many ski mountaineering guides carrying a Petzl RAD Line – one, it’s hands down the lightest glacier travel cord available, and two, they probably get a pro deal (because this thing is very expensive).

petzl rad line for ski touring
The Petzl Rad Line

The Good: Weighing in at a featherweight 22g/m, the RAD Line can save you several pounds over a more traditional rope. It’s also as packable as it gets, with a diameter of only 6mm. All this means that it’s unquestionably the best line on this list to have in your pack in case of an emergency or for other applications such as crevasse rescue where it’s likely to stay packed away all day.

The Bad: The Petzl RAD line is as close as it gets to the perfect ski mountaineering rope at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come without its drawbacks. First, it’s the price is hard to stomach, with a retail price of $239.95 for only 30m. Its small diameter is great for packability, but comes with other issues – namely that it tangles easily and can be hard to handle for those who aren’t used to such a small rope (and won’t work with most standard belay devices). The biggest con of the RAD Line, though, is that it cannot absorb the energy of a fall. So if you’re going to be doing any technical climbing, you’ll have to give the RAD Line a pass.

Verdict: This is a specialized tool for experienced ski mountaineers. It’s certainly not made for every skier or every application, but if it’s a good fit for you, it’ll save you a lot of precious weight and space compared to any other rope out there.

Beal Rando Golden Dry

Best Application: Glacier travel, crevasse rescue, rappels

Price: $74.95 for 30m

Diameter: 8mm

Weight: 37g/m

Rope Type: Twin rated

The Beal Rando is a great rope for the aspiring ski mountaineer who isn’t exactly sure what they’ll need going forward. Be sure to get the Golden Dry version, which is dry treated, a must for glacier travel!

beal rando rope for backcountry skiing
The Beal Rando Golden Dry

The Good: The Beal Rando is quite versatile, with its twin rating meaning it can be climbed on when paired with another twin rope. It’s relatively light and packable without being so skinny as to stop working with standard belay devices or have a bad hand feel. Beal’s Golden Dry treatment is the best dry treatment in the business. And to top it off, all of this comes at a very reasonable price of only $75 for a 30m rope.

The Bad: The Rando, which is specifically made for skiers and ski mountaineers, only comes in 30m, so those who want to climb or rappel longer pitches may come short even if they double up. It’s also not as good at any single application as the more specialized ropes on this list.

Verdict: The Beal Rando rope is the right choice for a large portion of ski mountaineers, sitting right in the Goldilocks Zone for many attributes. It’s light enough for long days out, versatile enough to cover many different scenarios, and thick enough to be relatively easily handled.

Beal Opera

Best Application: Technical climbing

Price: $259.95 for 60m

Diameter: 8.5mm

Weight: 48g/m

Rope Type: Single, half, and twin rated

The Beal Opera is the heaviest rope in this ski mountaineering rope round-up, but don’t let that chase you away. If you want to climb technical ice on the way to a ski objective, and aren’t European (and therefore don’t like using two ropes) then the Opera is the easy answer.

beal opera rope for ski mountaineering
The Beal Opera

The Good: The Opera is the thickest rope on this list, which means it is the easiest to handle, the least likely to tangle, and works the best with standard belay devices (still be sure to check compatibility before using one). It’s also the only single rated rope here, which means that it’ll be your go-to if you plan on climbing through technical terrain and don’t want to deal with the hassle of twins. Beal’s Golden Dry treatment treats both the core and sheath, so water absorbtion is minimal.

The Bad: The Opera is by far the heaviest rope on this list at 48g/m. That means it weighs in at more than double the Petzl RAD Line’s svelte 22g/m. It’s also quite thick, and comes in lengths of only 50m and up, which means it will take up plenty of room in your pack.

Verdict: The Opera is a great choice for those who don’t like ultra-skinny glacier travel ropes, or those who anticipate doing more technical climbing. Anyone who doesn’t plan to climb on lead should look at a more lightweight option.

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Ski Touring Reading List: The Best Books for Backcountry Skiers

ski touring and backcountry ski books

The Best Books for Picking Up Ski Touring Skills

Top Pick – Allen & Mike’s Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book

Allen & Mike's Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book

Allen & Mike’s Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book is a work of pure genius. It is a fairly comprehensive overview of many of the skills necessary for ski touring, but the real value of this book is in the readability. Hilarious illustrations by Mike Clelland are accompanied by equally humorous text from Allen O’Bannon.

Even the most seasoned ski tourer will pick up some valuable new tips, with covered topics ranging from snow shelters to wax to basic skinning technique.

You can find the book at Amazon, but if you like supporting the guys who made this all happen, check it out over at Falcon Guides instead.

Runner Up – Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering

Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering Book Cover

The Mountaineers organization has published countless valuable books for accessing the mountains, and this one should be high on the list of any beginner or intermediate ski tourer looking to take the next step.

Topics covered range from equipment to avalanche safety to skinning and skiing technique to mountaineering skills and ropework.

Martin Volken, Scott Schell, and Margaret Wheeler do a great job of making the information easily digestible, making this a useful book to keep on your shelf and reference throughout your backcountry ski career.

You can find the book over at The Mountaineers.

The Best Books for Avalanche Education

Top Pick – Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain

Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain

Bruce Tremper’s Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain has become the bible of avalanche safety.

Staying Alive covers the basics of weather, terrain selection, and even human factors, but also delves deeper into snow science and the why’s behind a lot of what professionals do in the backcountry. If you’re regularly traveling in avalanche terrain, or are looking to become a guide, patroller, or avalanche professional, this book is a must-read.

Those who are more casual ski tourers still stand to gain a lot from Staying Alive – it is nicely sectioned and indexed so you can use it to help debrief a day in the backcountry when a question about that layer you found or that sound you heard comes up.

Get Staying Alive from The Mountaineers.

Runner Up – Snow Sense: A Guide To Evaluating Snow Avalanche Hazard

Snow Sense: A Guide To Evaluating Snow Avalanche Hazard

Jill Fredston and Doug Fesler’s Snow Sense is the classic avalanche safety text. Now into it’s 5th Edition, the book remains as relevant as ever.

As the title suggests, Snow Sense mainly focuses on snow and terrain analysis – looking into weather, terrain evaluation, and elementary snow science.

This is not the most advanced book, but it provides a great grounding for anyone who is relatively new to the backcountry, especially since it is written in layman’s terms, which makes it accessible even to the newest of backcountry skiers. This is a particularly good read just before or after a level 1 avalanche course to cement your learning.

Sadly we’re not aware of where to get Snow Sense from the publishers, but you can purchase it on Amazon.

The Best Backcountry Ski Books for Pure Pleasure

Top Pick – Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America

fifty classic ski descents of North America

Fifty Classic Ski Descents was put together by Chris Davenport, Art Burrows, and Penn Newhard. It details fifty incredible ski lines in North America with just enough pictures, statistics, and write-up to get your heart pounding.

The book that inspired Cody Townsend’s The Fifty Project, this is the ultimate coffee table book for skiers and ski mountaineers. The only problem is that if you’re in North America, it probably includes a handful of lines in your zone, and you may become obsessed with some of them.

Get the Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America directly from the authors here.

Runner Up – No Words for the Way Down

Jeremy Jones has put down some of the gnarliest lines ever skied or snowboarded. In No Words for the Way Down, you get an insight into his thinking during six years of filming the Jeremy Jone’s Trilogy (Deeper, Further, and Higher).

Journal entries in the book include personal sketches and give an honest and authentic view into the mind of one of the greatest mountaineering snowboarders of his generation.

Oh yea, and the photos are mouthwateringly good.

Pick up No Words for the Way Down from Teton Gravity Research.

The Best Books for the Aspiring Ski Mountaineer

Top Pick – Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills

If you ask any mountaineer for a book recommendation to get into mountaineering, there’s a good chance they’ll give you The Freedom of the Hills. Much like Staying Alive is the bible of avalanche safety, this book from The Mountaineers is the bible of mountaineering. Though it doesn’t only include ski mountaineering, the skills one can learn from this tome (glacier travel, ropework, ice climbing, mountain weather, first aid, and more) are invaluable to any mountaineer of any discipline.

You don’t have to read the whole book cover to cover, but owning and regularly perusing relevant sections is pretty much a requirement for more serious ski mountaineering.

Yet another title from The Mountaineers, you can find it here.

Runner Up – Training for the Uphill Athlete

Training for the Uphill Athlete by mountaineering legends Steve House, Scott Johnston, and the man himself, Kilian Jornet, is a manual for mountain athletes who really want to push their physical boundaries.

The book includes scientific theory, excerpts from backcountry skiers, trail runners, and mountaineers, as well as examples of how to apply the theory to your personal training.

If you want to push yourself on the uphill or enable yourself to get out on more remote and longer days, this is your guide.

Training for the Uphill Athlete is available from Patagonia.

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The Definitive Ski Documentary Must-Watch List

ski documentary list
ski documentary list

Not too long ago you would’ve been hard pressed to find a well-produced ski documentary worth watching, but with the proliferation excellent skiers and filmers, the ski documentary genre has experienced some big growth in the last decade.

We’ve assembled this list of the top ski documentaries around so that you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the cream of the crop.

Few Words

With his cat-like grace and creative POV videos, Candide Thovex has become undoubtedly the best skier of his generation (and likely of all time). But the man behind the GoPro has remained an enigma, shying away from the media.

In Few Words, we finally get an insight into the story behind this ski-machine, following Candide’s journey from his early days as a competition skier to the pinnacle of the skiing world.

McConkey

Shane McConkey needs no introduction. McConkey celebrates the life of this pioneer of ski-BASE, freeskiing, and fat skis in a hilarious documentary that easily cements its place on this list.

Through all the thrill-seeking and silliness, what real shines through in McConkey is Shane’s unending passion for both skiing and life.

The full movie is well-worth the few dollars to stream. You can find it here.

Hoji

Eric Hjorleifson (also known as Hoji) is another soft-spoken hardman who hides from the media spotlight but shreds with the best of them.

In Hoji, he gets the feature-length film attention that he deserves at long last. The documentary showcases his unique style of skiing, but also delves into his world as a ski- and boot-tinkerer and product designer for Dynafit.

Check out the full movie here.

Steep

This star studded movie traces the history of big mountain skiing through the careers of legends like Bill Briggs, Doug Coombs, and Glen Plake, and into the times of more modern heroes like Shane McConkey, Seth Morrison, Ingrid Backstrom, and Eric Pehota.

If that cast doesn’t do it for you, nothing will.

Watch the full movie here.

Streif: One Hell of a Ride

Streif breaks the mold of most ski films, steering clear of big mountain skiing, and focusing on downhill ski racing. The film follows Erik Guay, Aksel Lund Svindal, Max Franz and Hannes Reichelt as they prepare for the most infamous race in skiing – the Streif at Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuhel.

If you want an insight into the sport that begins the careers of most of our big mountain skiers, this is the movie for you.

Watch the full movie for free on Red Bull TV here.