These days everybody wants to head out of bounds. The obsession with all things back-country led to an 85 percent increase in sales of alpine touring gear in the past year, and resorts are doing everything in their power to capitalize on the surge. In January, California’s Squaw Valley, one of the last major resorts to stubbornly keep its boundaries closed, finally began offering backcountry access.
The new gate, reached via the famous KT-22 chairlift, drops you into hundreds of acres of wide-open bowls off the rim of the Pacific Crest. Plus, you can traverse over to neighboring Alpine Meadows; the newly merged resorts offer a total of 6,000 acres of skiable terrain. Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has allowed skiers and riders to venture into the Tetons since 2000. Now, each year starting in December, it will offer guided backcountry tours down the high-alpine steeps off Cody Peak or through the face-shot-worthy glades of Rock Springs (from $440). You can also take one of the resort’s four-day backcountry camps ($1,255), which mix classroom safety lessons with unfettered exploration.
This year, Whistler Blackcomb, in British Columbia, has partnered with outfitter Extremely Canadian to launch a one-day guided backcountry program that leads guests straight from the gondola into the resort’s vast Coast Range. Keith Reid, president of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, will teach you avalanche safety, smart backcountry navigation, and uphill skinning techniques. Put them to use on everything from white-knuckle chutes in Bodybag Bowl to low-angle powder runs in Mother’s Line (from US $199).