Backcountry Skiing Alone

The line is obvious, a quick snap, commence turns.

My friend John Dittli just posted his thoughts on this same subject over at his Blog – it got me thinking, while I was out backcountry skiing alone today…

Why would you ski without a partner? I too am challenged with the same questions as John as I often venture out on my own program – isn’t it just so dangerous? For me, personally, I love skiing alone, just as I love to go trail run in the mountains by myself, train alone on my road bike, or climb an easy route solo. It is an entirely different experience to do these things alone.

The rewards are sky high while the risk, in my opinion, is fairly low. I feel good about skiing alone. Compared to being in a group it puts me more in tune with the environment, I think more about conditions and what the terrain is doing by being on high alert. I also do not push it. The entire “group thinking” factor is non-existent – and this is what I believe to be one of the most dangerous elements for backcountry skiers. Alone, I have backed off many a climb and opted to ski much safer lines in stellar looking bowls. These decisions do not come as a result of stopping to dig pits, study crystals or any other methodical thinking, it is just a sense based on experience and a little probing around. Will I ever get into trouble? Maybe, but I’ll take my chances. With 20 years skiing in the mountains, I feel I make good choices, probably even better ones when I am solo. Crossing my tips and hearing tearing sounds concerns me far more than avalanches or falls. This is part of the risk, I get it and so too does Janine.

For me, there are few greater feelings than being in the mountains on skis in the winter. And so to have the experience to myself, to choose my line, drop into what I want to drop into, feel acceleration and begin turning – is freedom. And at the end of the run… back in safer terrain, hearing the swishing sound the skis make, playing like a kid as I pass through the forest or the brush, making turns here and there, feels perfect.


Comments 2

  1. Honestly, I feel safer skiing in a group but for a simple reason. Ski randoneering in groups means you have a responsibility towards your friends too. If something happen, and you are ‘safe’ you are responsible to find or help find your friends, you are some way responsible now in case of death (especially with the new italian laws for skiing off-piste).

    When I ski alone, it happens frequently that I ski up and down lines that I wouldn’t take if skiing in a group. Of course I still pay attention where I ride, but it’s a different approach doing the same path together with a group of 4 or 5 friends.


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