Backcountry Spring Skiing Gear Guide

A Gear Guide to Backcountry Spring Skiing

After a long, snowy winter, spring has finally arrived! With it comes warm sunny days and chilly mornings. You’re ready to go backcountry skiing but what do you need for spring weather? In this gear guide, we’ll help you figure out everything you should pack, from baselayers to skin wax, when you’re heading out to enjoy a day of spring skiing in the backcountry.

What should you wear?

What do you wear when the temps are on the rise? You might be used to bundling up on the skin track in the middle of winter, but spring skiing is a different animal. You want to make sure you have light breathable layers and pack enough to keep you warm and dry in the event that the weather changes.

Baselayers

On warmer days, opt for a light merino wool baselayer which will wick moisture away from your body and help regulate your temperature. Some people are comfortable hiking in just a baselayer but if you need more insulation, go for a breathable mid layer like the ones described below.

Mid Layer

It’s always a good idea to bring a mid layer, even if it’s supposed to be a warm sunny day. You never know when the wind will pick up, weather might change, or if an emergency might necessitate an extra warm layer. For the spring we love breathable synthetics like Patagonia’s Nano Air. These help you stay a comfortable temperature without overheating and provide extra warmth for your ski down.

Shell

Soft shells are perfect for spring skiing. They’re extremely breathable and have a Durable Water Repellent for weather protection should you need it. When you start sweating on the skin track, a good softshell will vent heat and moisture away from you body so that you can stay comfortable when you heat up on the uphill hike.

Gloves

Lightweight gloves are essential for spring skiing. Your spring glove should keep you warm in the morning on the chilly skin up and breathe when it warms up by mid day. Our favorite spring skiing gloves include this Hestra Windstopper Race Tracker glove and Black Diamond’s Midweight Softshell glove.

Morning sun illuminating our destination for the day

What gear do you need?

Spring skiing can be so much fun. It’s when freeze thaw cycles create corn snow and when you can attempt steep, challenging lines that have had all winter to settle. But springtime means icy conditions in the morning and variable day time temperatures, and with that you might find yourself needing a few extra items that you might not usually bring with you for winter ski touring.

Whippet

A whippet is a tool designed to add an extra margin of safety in steep terrain or firm conditions. While it doesn’t have the safety rating of an ice axe for self arresting, it can be a convenient safety tool depending on the terrain. The beauty of a whippet is that it replaces juggling an ice axe and ski pole with one lightweight tool. You can use it for extra traction on your ascent and as an arresting tool when skiing in steep, no fall zones. If you’re hesitant to ski with a sharp edge on your poles, not to worry, Black Diamond recently released a removable whippet!

Ski Crampons

These are a must for icy skin tracks. They’re not designed for steep terrain like the crampons you might affix to your ski or mountaineering boots. Rather, they are meant to give you extra traction on firm conditions on low and moderate angle slopes. Keep these in your pack whenever you go spring skiing and you won’t have to worry “will my edges hold?!”

Dave leading the charge almost to the top!
Crampons and ice axe in use on an icy boot pack

Ice Axe and Crampons

If spring skiing means steep descents to you, you’re definitely going to want to bring crampons and an ice axe. These two tools are indispensable on steep terrain. Use an Automatic crampon with your ski boots for maximum security and control. This kind of crampon will help you move confidently on steep boot packs.

If you’re bringing crampons, you should always have an ice axe as well. Just like a beacon, shovel, and probe are only effective when used together, an ice axe and crampons are a package deal that work together to protect you on steep terrain. An ice axe works as your third point of contact, can be used as an anchor point and will stop you in the event of a fall, granted you know how to effectively self arrest.

Skin Wax

There’s nothing worse than wet, heavy snow building up on your skins while you’re trying to hike uphill. That’s why Black Diamond’s Glop Stopper is an absolute must have for spring skiing. Keep this in your pack and make sure to wax your skins before you head out, especially on warmer days or when there is a big temperature swing. This quick wax will prevent your skins from getting weighed down by clumps of snow and help them glide easily.

Don’t Forget Sun Protection!

It’s a beautiful thing when the sun finally emerges in the spring. It feels great to take off a few layers and feel the sun’s warmth on your skin . But while basking in the sun is one of the great joys of the seasonal transition, it’s important to remember to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Make sure to pack these items to protect yourself from the sun while you’re enjoying backcountry spring skiing.

PC: Zach Holm

✔️ Sunscreen – We love SOL Sunguard, a skin friendly sunscreen with different formulas for different sports. Pick up a tube of Altitude, sunscreen specifically designed for mountain sports.

✔️ Hat – Always pack your favorite breathable trucker hat, like these from Patagonia.

✔️ Sunglasses – Grab a pair of these Julbo glasses for total sun protection and bonus style points.

✔️ Buff – Wear this CoolNet UV+ Buff with UPF 50 sun protection to keep your neck and ears shielded from the sun.

Want to learn more about Backcountry Skiing? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Backcountry Skiing!

And click below to learn about our backcountry ski rentals!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Tahoe Mountain Sports will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Affiliate commissions help fund the content for this blog.



Siobhan works at Tahoe Mountain Sports and currently manages TMS blog content. She loves everything about living in the mountains, from snowy winter days on skis to the hot, dusty trails of the Sierra's in the summer. Favorite activities include skiing, trail running and backpacking.


Leave a Reply