Mountain Skills: Set a Plan and Stick to It

You’ve been playing it safe all day. Even though the avalanche bulletin called out “Considerable” hazard for the day (natural avalanches are possible and human-triggered are likely), you haven’t observed any signs of instability while skiing lower angled terrain in the trees. Close to where you’ve been skiing, there’s an untracked slope—and it’s only slightly […]

Hips Don’t Lie: How a solid foundation leads to strong skinning

In 2014, when Exum guide and longtime skimo competitor Janelle Smiley entered a hospital for double hip surgeries, she worried she might never skin again. She and her husband Mark, an internationally certified mountain guide, had built a life around uphill skiing—Janelle is a three-time winner of the National Skimo Championship, a two-time North American Championship winner and won the team division of the 2013 Swiss Mountaineering Championship with partner Stevie Kremer.

Mountain Skills: Essential Education

The list of skills and knowledge needed to get into the mountains is never ending. In fact, it’s subject matter that numerous careers are built on, but safe and efficient backcountry travel doesn’t necessarily require a PhD in snow science or a guide’s certification. It takes common sense, good partners, a willingness to learn and, above all, the following 10 things that every skier and rider should know.

Mountain Skills: Take the time to be prepared for early season turns

It’s late fall and many mountains throughout the U.S. have seen some decent early season snow. As a result, stoke is high and people are itching to ski. Not many ski areas are open yet, however, and the ones that are only have a few groomers to chose from. This invariably pushes people into the […]

Higher Learning: The nuances of how, when, where and why to take a course

Two Marches back, as I stood on the edge of the frozen Bell Lake in Montana’s Tobacco Root Mountains, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. Together with a half dozen no-longer-strangers, I pondered aloud the best route to safely ascend and later ski the face before us that stretched its rock-lined […]

Quick Pits Part II: How pits help with in-the-field decision-making

“Wait!” my partner said, as we readied to drop in for a second run. “Should we dig a quick pit?” It was mid-December, so digging was easy—the snowpack was only two feet deep. We decided, “Why not? Can’t hurt. Could help a little, maybe a lot. Let’s dig it.”

Mountain Skills: Managing larger groups

The slinky—it’s not just a childhood toy; it’s also a ski-group phenomenon. It occurs when the last person in a large group finally arrives at the break spot, only to see the leaders of the group start uphill again. Traveling in larger groups can cause a variety of challenges and logistical problems, not just related to the slinky, too— think pacing, communication and differing goals for the day.

Mountain Skills: The dos and don’ts of quick pits

Balancing the need to assess snow stability on the skintrack while also making sure your partners don’t freeze can be a difficult task at times. To be safe in the mountains, you need to gather a lot of information on a variety of aspects and elevations, but spending an hour in a snow hole is less than appealing, especially in inclement weather.

Fine tuned and dialed in: Off-season prep for the upcoming winter

It’s only midsummer, but the powder dreams are settling in each night. As the days grow shorter, trailers for new ski movies debut and you’re in the thick of researching next year’s gear, it’s also time to ask yourself how best to keep your skills sharp in preparation for the upcoming winter. Here are a few things to do during the warmer months to plan for the coming winter.

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