Winter's Wonderland Workout

Essential Gear and Skills

Feb 1, 2004
Outside Magazine

Before you head out on a backcountry trek, you'll need some specialized equipment. Modern snowshoes and backcountry ski and snowboarding equipment (see "Tools of the Trade," below) are making winter pursuits much more fun. The easiest and least expensive way into the backcountry is on snowshoes. Simply strap them onto your winter or snowboard boots and go, with your skis or snowboard lashed to a backpack for the ride down. If you're a skier, slap a pair of climbing skins on your skis and you've got an impressively efficient way to get uphill. First-timers can make do with Alpine Trekkers, climbing attachments that snap into standard downhill bindings, accommodate alpine boots, and have a toe hinge that allows for a natural upward stride. At the top, pull off the Trekkers and skins and schuss back down. Or invest in a randonnée setup—ultralight skis, boots, and hinged bindings that make it even easier to stomp your way to the summit. Once there, simply lock your heels in and—voilà—you're ready to ski. Snowboarders can take advantage of planks that split lengthwise into skis for skinning up. A fifth and increasingly popular option is telemark skiing. Though this freeheel downhill technique requires some practice, the comfortable gear makes charging around, and up, mountains easy.

All these implements take time to master—15 minutes or so for snowshoes, up to a season for telemark skis—so break in your new setup at a familiar ski resort or a cross-country trail system. Practice climbing at a steady and sustainable pace. Frequently stopping to rest plays havoc with your body's temperature—and leaves you drenched in sweat. After a run, you'll know how much effort the terrain demands.