The Ultimate Guide to Backcountry Skiing


To our backcountry users:

Backcountry skiing is an inherently risky sport. While we encourage everyone to exercise and get plenty of fresh air and sunshine, we also strongly suggest every backcountry user evaluate the risk of backcountry travel and understand the strain on resources should an accident occur.

Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue recently released a community message to backcountry users addressing backcountry travel. Read the full message here. Main points include:

  • A rescue would compromise social distancing, resulting in potential exposure of rescuers and backcountry users
  • Normally available resources, including a helicopter, may not be available for a rescue
  • Backcountry incidents can strain our overburdened EMS system
  • BOTTOM LINE – This is not the time to take risks

Please read the following articles to see how backcountry incidents strain the emergency response and medical system in remote mountain communities:

Thank you for doing your part to help flatten the curve and protect the Truckee Tahoe community from a widespread outbreak of coronavirus. The mountains and your backcountry tick list will be waiting for you next year and trust me, we can’t wait to get back after it with you.

Until then, stay healthy,
Your friends at Tahoe Mountain Sports

Your Guide to Backcountry Skiing in Truckee and Lake Tahoe

Where Should You Go?

There are many places to go backcountry skiing in Truckee and Lake Tahoe. The I-80 corridor provides easy access to popular spots such as Castle Peak and Johnson Canyon. Mount Rose area has tons of touring options right in Reno’s backyard and Lake Tahoe’s west shore is home to tall mountains with unparalleled views of the lake and Desolation Wilderness.

Adventurous skiers who want to spend the night at a backcountry hut are in luck. We have a hut system here that includes the Bradley Hut, Benson Hut, Peter Grubb Hut, and Ludlow Hut.

Check out our Best Places To Go Backcountry Skiing post to learn more about some of our favorite spots in Lake Tahoe and Truckee.

Looking for a guidebook? Check out Jeremy Benson’s Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes California.

What Gear Do You Need?

Backcountry skiing involves a LOT of gear. It can be overwhelming to sift through boots, bindings, beacons, skis, backpacks, skins and more… To help ease the process of gear hunting, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite gear this season. Take a look at our Top Five series below.

Top Five Backcountry Skis

Shopping for new skis has got to be the most fun part of getting a new backcountry setup together. I love picking each ski up, feeling it’s weight and flex, and seeing what creative graphics catch my eye. Our favorite skis of this season includes everything from wider all mountain tools to narrower skis for going light and fast.

Top Five Avalanche Beacons

An avalanche beacon is a necessary piece of safety equipment that can save your life and your partners as long as you know how to use it and practice often. Make sure you also pick up a shovel and probe, one or even two if these items by themselves does no good. It’s all three, every single time.

Top Five Backcountry Ski Boots

Almost all skiers have had a tumultuous relationship with ski boots, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Today there are many comfortable performance backcountry ski boots that have exceptional walk functionality while retaining stiffness and power for the downhill.

What Binding Should You Buy?

Backcountry bindings are a nuanced part of the gear equation when you are starting to gather all the gear. The best backcountry binding is the one that suits your unique needs. It completely depends on how you will use your setup, what kind of skiing you intend to do, and what your priorities are when putting all the pieces together. To learn more about this conversation, check out our How to Choose Backcountry Bindings post.

What’s In Your Pack?

Some of the most important gear is arguably what’s in your pack. You need to bring avalanche safety tools, ski gear, food and water, extra layers, emergency medical equipment and more.

Take a look at our post, Backcountry Skiing – Backpack Review and Gear List to find out what you should bring with you for a day in the backcountry.

Know Before You Go!

Backcountry skiing involves many risks so it’s important to learn how to travel safely in avalanche terrain and to check the avalanche forecast before you head out.

Tahoe Mountain School

Want to learn how to travel safely in avalanche terrain? Take a class with Tahoe Mountain School! They offer AIARE 1 and 2 Avalanche Education, Refresher, and Rescue courses.

If you’re new to backcountry skiing or want to check out new terrain with an experienced guide, consider signing up for their backcountry ski courses or guided ski adventures.

Central Sierra Avalanche Center

The Central Sierra Avalanche Center has tons of helpful resources for backcountry skiers, boarders and sledders. Here you can find the daily avalanche forecast and recent observations of our snowpack.

Try it out! We rent backcountry skis, splitboards, backpacks, snowshoes, cross country skis and more at Tahoe Mountain Sports. Click the image below to learn more about our backcountry gear 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 is the Marketing Director of Tahoe Mountain Sports. She's always down for a sufferfest, as long as it ends with ice cream. Favorite activities include backcountry skiing, trail running, and backpacking.

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