Three Things to Do And Not To Do While Alpine Backcountry Touring.

Backcountry skiing is different, requires planning and gear. Credit: Bolton Valley

For those who have never tried Alpine Touring, Bolton Valley near Burlington, Vt., offers an intro to backcountry skiing every Saturday morning out of the spacious Sports Center near the main lifts.

That is due to a recent change in Bolton Valley ownership. Three years ago former owner Ralph DesLauriers, his son Evan, and local partners bought back the well-loved ski resort.

Alex describes the required gear. Credit: Tamsin Venn

An avid backcountry enthusiast, Ralph’s other son Adam developed a unique backcountry and split boarding program to fully enjoy the 1,200 acres of terrain here. Ralph’s daughter Lindsay who is president of the organization is another fan.

In Alpine Touring, you skin up the mountain with your heels free on lightweight, Alpine-like equipment then lock in and ski down. It’s called “earning your turns.”

We were lucky to have as our guide Medevac helicopter pilot Alek Jadkowski who was patient and clear with us newbies. Indoors we learned how to secure the toe, adjust the heel lifts for uphill climbing, then lock into downhill mode, and put on skins. We followed Alek uphill to nearby Holden’s Hollow Glades and soon were all whooping it up between the trees in thigh-deep snow having caught our fearless leader’s joyous enthusiasm.

Here are three things Alek recommends when starting out in this fast growing sport.

What Not To Do:

1) Don’t ski alone. It’s possible to injure yourself so you can’t even call for help; you need someone else to do that.

2) Don’t get lost. It doesn’t necessarily require a map or compass. You can use GPS or a map on your phone; how you keep track of your location is up to you. Carry a phone battery booster; take into account you may be out of cell service range.

3) Don’t drop your skins in the snow. They will lose their grip and with it your uphill power. Fold them carefully when removing them. Stash them in your pack.

What To Do:

1) Wear a helmet. Travel uphill with a lightweight beanie but downhill protect your head from possible tree contact. Wear goggles to protect your eyes from tree branches.

2) Know what weather to expect and dress for it. You get hot and sweaty climbing uphill and chilled when you stop to switch gear and ski down. Layer your clothing, carry a backpack so you can shed layers and put them back on. Slow your climb if overheating. Drink plenty of water.

3) Do have fun. Go and ski something you are going to enjoy; find the level that suits you; do something that makes you happy.

Where: Bolton Valley Resort and Mt. Mansfied State Forest. 100 km trail and glade network

Learn: Intro clinic every Saturday, (9:30 to noon). Cost $60 includes two hours of guided skiing but not rental gear. Private guiding and lessons also offered.

Fees: NBU (Nordic/Backcountry/Uphill) day pass $13 for seniors (65 plus). Senior Season pass $149; age 75 plus $79.

Gear: State-of-the-art rentals of Dynafit Alpine Touring ski equipment, $60 a day.

Gimme Shelter: BV has added a warming tent in its backcountry glades.

Getting ready to go Alpine Backcountry with friends. Credit: Tamsin Venn

 

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