Backcountry skillz

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I learned to ski in the backcountry. I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years now. When I go backcountry skiing, in even the busiest areas, I’ll see about 20 people in a day. Not a lot of samples to observe how people ski. You tend to ski with the same people year after year, so much so that you can even identity them by how they ski; people develop their own style that is as unique as their voice.

However, when I go resort skiing (as we grizzled backcountry skiers like to call what everyone else refers to as just plain skiing), I see hundreds of people. Lots of samples, and lots of people to compare yourself to.

And, my friends, I do not compare very well.

It’s a sad fact that after skiing for many years I am not a “good” skier. I excel in what I refer to as “survival” skiing. This started as a careful, oh-god-don’t-fall style of turns, carefully perfected while learning to telemark on Mount Seymour’s often wet, often crusty snow. Soon after this I progressed to multi-day ski traverses with 80 pound packs; not the kind of gear that lends itself to good style, or beautiful turns.

I then progressed to steeper, and harder routes, variable snow conditions, glacier travel, and long, long days. Starting in the coast mountains near sea level one can go from slush, to crust to powder and back again in one day; variable snow conditions, variable depths, and always a descent through forest, clear cut and logging road; all things that teach a careful, conservative, and risk-free style. Finally, you always have to have a little bit of gas in the tank for the end of the day just in case there’s an unexpected gear failure, or injury.

Now, 20 years in, I finally learn what it is that makes me suck compared to all those skiers I see in the resort: The Mclean Turn! I finally realize that my suckage is directly attributable to the way I learned to ski.

It’s nice to know there is now a name for how I ski.

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One comment on “Backcountry skillz
  1. Tom Zajac says:

    oLd sKOOl and boring? Here I was proud of my tight powder turns (exactly like the photo) I thought I was making the most of the limited decent. Of course, as I get more out of shape, those turns are taking up more than "half the skiers rated output"

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