Backcountry Skiing: 10% Skiing, 90% Everything Else
I've been trying to get out more for day tours to get used to skinning and skiing with a pack on so I headed over to Snoqualmie Pass the last two Sundays to get some practice in.
On the first Sunday, Weston and I headed over to Alpental, intending on trekking to Source Lake then up to Pineapple Pass. The trail to Source Lake was mostly narrow with packed in snow and not too many switchbacks or big climbs. There were, however, several dips in the trail where I would skin downhill and inevitably get the tip of my skis stuck on the uphill and be not-so-gracefully pitched over, face first into the snow. (Note to self: stop leaning forward).
We got up a hundred feet or so above Source Lake before deciding to turn back for some inbounds turns at Alpental. The ski back on the narrow packed in trail was interesting. It consisted of lots of sidestepping when we stopped momentum to pass by snowshoers and me spending time getting acquainted with the heavy snow after getting a ski stuck and subsequently popped off in a particularly deep drift and attempting to put it back on facing the wrong direction while staying out of the way of the too-narrow trail. Making precise turns inbounds later in the afternoon proved to be a breeze after skiing the narrow trail.
The following Sunday was a high avy condition day, so Tony and I played it very conservatively by sticking to Gold Creek Trail, a very flat trail below the treeline also in the Snoqualmie Pass area. This trail was definitely catered more towards cross country skiing, but we had a go at it anyways.
While there had been new snow, it wasn't quite enough to fill in the creeks. After just over 3 miles in, I was pretty over the creek crossings and there was no end to those in sight so we had a quick lunch break and turned back around. There were really no slopes so I skinned most of the way back, save for a brief 10 minutes or so where I tore off the skins and attempted to ski, then ski with a free heel (thinking that it would be easier to move on flat ground with heels free), then giving up and putting the skins back on again! Round-trip we did about 30 creek crossings total.
So pretty much I've learned that I need to learn to ski through trees. And that backcountry skiing is like 90% hiking, bushwhacking, sidestepping, booting, and probably 10% actually skiing. And sometimes 0% actually skiing. And to learn to enjoy the process of skinning because sometimes, that's all you're gonna get in a tour. And that good touring partners are key to a great time no matter what!