Backcountry Skiing

Wasatch Mountains, Utah

Hip deep in Utah's Wasatch Range     Photo: Lee Cohen/Corbis

You Can: Confidently ski the sidecountry.
You Want:
To break into the backcountry safely.
The Trip:
When first tackling 35-degree faces and chin-deep powder, it helps to be able to turn. Set your sights on the really, really light (and forgiving) snow that blankets Alta, Utah, where Alaska Mountain Guides (AMG) runs day trips on 900 acres of glades and chutes behind the resort (from $155). AMG will teach you how weather and terrain affect the snowpack, how to dig snow pits and perform other stability tests, what to do in the event that you’re caught in an avalanche, and how to locate and rescue somebody using beacons, probes, and shovels. Guides also show you the safest places to skin up and ski down as much as 11,000 vertical feet in a single day. Bonus: sign up for an overnight trip, during which guests camp atop Grizzly Gulch, a 9,500-foot-high wooded area, and, if the moon is bright enough, take midnight runs down wide-open chutes ($380).
Essential Gear:
A beacon like the Mammut Pulse Barryvox ($490), a sturdy avalanche probe, and a shovel, preferably one with a large metal blade (we like Backcountry Access’s A1 shovel-and-probe combo; $95), all of which AMG will loan you free of charge.

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