“The fastest-growing segment in the ski industry”
“You’ve got to start touring/going into the backcountry, it’s the future”
“I’m going to start touring and earn my turns”
“I’m going to save money and start touring”
Hi, full disclosure I own a ski shop that sells a fair bit of touring/backcountry gear from skis to beacons; avi bags to skins. The quotes above are just some that I hear on a regular basis either from industry insiders or civilians off the street.
Let’s break it down. Yes, the backcountry (B/C) is growing as a segment. This is misleading much like telemark or hard boot snowboarding were both also the fastest-growing “segments”. When you start from “0” it easy to be the fastest-growing as any growth is pretty much exponential. On one hand, the growth is a natural byproduct of people wanting to explore and get freshies that may or may not exist in bounds at their local resort. On the other, there’s a cult like bludgeoning of people that don’t currently tour by those that do until they feel they have no choice but to tour. I’m reminded of historically similar instances of this like triathlon, CrossFit or vegetarianism. Snowboarding could fall into this too.
There are a lot of phrases and sayings I dislike skiing. “No friends on a powder day” being the most common. I say “best friends on a powder day”. First, because nothing is better than skiing pow with your buddies. Secondly, if you ski alone on a pow day you are stupid, yeah I said it. Who is going to pull you out of the tree well if you are skiing alone? No one, that’s who. I alone have two friends that died in tree wells because they weren’t found in time. My second least favorite saying is “I’m going to earn my turns”. Guess what? Everyone who is skiing has “earned” their turns. They paid for all the gear, the lift ticket, the cat, or the heli. If you’re paying with money or sweat you earned your damn turns.
Which brings me to “saving money by touring”. This is usually an October/November statement by someone who is sick of paying “the man” for such trivial items as lift access, professional ski patrol, avalanche control, grooming, and marked hazards. I fully respect the plan for self-sufficiency, good for you. Let’s start saving some money, shall we? Ready? Set? Go! Skis, touring binding, touring boot, adjustable pole, beacon, probe, shovel, backpack (want to be super safe let’s throw an airbag in there), and various snow safety items to start. Let’s just say six thousand dollars to save some money on passes, cool?
Touring is great, it is a viable option for getting outside and social distancing (but not too distant, beacons only have around 70m max range. Your adventures away from the unwashed masses at the ski hill will give you a lifetime of memories. You might even ski some deep snow. The backcountry is an awesome place for using your touring equipment.
One more thing, remember at the beginning of the article when introduced myself? I said I own a shop that sells a fair bit of touring equipment? It is located in a touring/backcountry hotbed with numerous cabins and regions nearby for touring to your heart’s content. We also have many visitors from elsewhere that arrive to tour. So here it goes, rant mode on. Buckle up buttercup.
Stop skiing pin bindings at the resort.
For fuck sake, pin bindings are designed for touring not day-in-day-out hardpack charging. I don’t care what the guy at the store “back home” told you about how versatile they are, you will tear the toepiece out of your ski, suffer unintended release (which in many cases can be way worse) or your skis will simply not release at all.
I’m at dozens of torn out toes over the last two seasons because someone believed the hype that a pin binding could be skied in bounds like an alpine binding. There also seems to be a rising rate of tibial plateau injuries because the pin binding does not and will not release like a traditional alpine binding.
Stop it, buy a resort set up AND a touring setup damnit, or just tour… which is why you bought the stupid things in the first place.