Great rewards await those willing to make the effort



dave norona photos/for metro vancouver


John Syslak forges an uphill trail into the backcountry in the Sea to Sky corridor.

These days, resort skiing and snowboarding has become very popular. But along with the high-speed lifts and fancy restaurants come the big crowds and big line ups that take away from a great mountain experience.

To combat this, many ski or snowboard enthusiasts are heading off into B.C.’s amazing backcountry to find their own little patch of heaven to explore. Backcountry skiing or snowboarding requires a little more effort than its resort-style counterpart. The rewards, however, far outweigh any struggle that you may encounter.

Here is how to get out there.

Before anyone heads off into the backcountry, it is important to note that there is no ski patrol, avalanche blasting or any other safety nets. You and the group you travel with must have taken a recreational avalanche course and carry an avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel, along with all the other backcountry essentials. Each year many people suffer injuries or die due to avalanches and it is important to note that, in an emergency, your friends become your rescue team, so travel with those you trust.

Dave Norona skins his way into the backcountry with the Tantalus Range in the background.

Whether you telemark, snowboard or alpine ski, there are many companies that make amazing products that allow you to hike up with the same gear that you ski down on. Firstly, you will need a pair of skins that attach to the bottom of your skis and allow you to walk uphill without slipping backwards. If you choose alpine-style skiing, you will also need a pair of alpine touring bindings. These bindings have a releasable plate that allows you to walk uphill. Once up top, the plate is locked in place to provide you with the same downhill system that you are used to.

Snowboarders can use snowshoes to get uphill or use a split board, which is designed to come apart down the middle to provide two short skis. With a special binding pivot and skins, a snowboarder can now go anywhere they desire. Once up top the skins are taken off, the board is put back together and voila, you are off to shred endless powder!

Dave enjoys the payoff of earning your turns.

A few hints that will make your day go smoothly are to remember to shed a layer or two as you head up the hill. You do not want to overheat and sweat as this may lead to hypothermia later in the day.

Also, bring lots of snacks and water as you will be burning a ton of calories throughout the day. Make sure you put the most knowledgeable and fittest person up front as they can find and set a proper uphill trail that will make the climb easier for the less experienced people in your group. Finally, be sure to take your camera because — besides the amazing skiing — you will capture some incredible scenery that will dazzle your co-workers back in the office on Monday morning.

gear guide


  • Description: G3 climbing skins are lightweight, easy to use and have excellent glide characteristics thanks to a unique hydrophobic yarn. They are simple to put on thanks to the coil-spring tip attachment and secure urethane tail fastener and buckle. They are available in nine different widths for all types and shapes of skis. Price range: $90 to $150

  • Where to find it:


  • Description: The Khyber split board splits apart in the center and by attaching climbing skins to the bases enables the user to ascend into the backcountry for their own personal run. It has a softer tip and tail for powder performance and carves effortlessly through trees. Price range: $1149, includes hard wear and climbing skins

  • Where to find it:


  • Description: This unique and lightweight system combines a shovel and probe together. The collapsed probe stows handily inside the shovel’s removable shaft. The shovel has a T-grip and compact blade to minimize weight and bulk. Together they are the perfect pair for backcountry skiers who want to go ultralight. Price range: $99

  • Where to find it:


  • Description: Helly Hansen’s Vinter Jacket is completely waterproof, breathable and made with a super lightweight stretch material that moves with you. Pit Zip venting, stitchless seam technology and a million pockets for your ipod, goggles and anything else.

  • Price range: $450 Where to find it: