Aspen is a backcountry skiing hub. Even our mayor has been working to make Aspen a destination for alpine touring (AT). For those who are new to the sport, alpine touring is when you put adhesive nylon “skins” on your skis enabling you to move uphill. Once you’ve reached the top of your ascent, the skins are removed so that you can ski downhill without any resistance. Touring bindings are also necessary so that you can lift your heel when climbing upward.
Backcountry access has never been easier with the advent of readily available and user-friendly AT gear. It may seem like backcountry skiing is something that’s for experts only, but these days it’s accessible to skiers of all ability levels.
Aspen’s Ute Mountaineer is your gear headquarters if you’re looking to try out equipment. You can rent touring-specific boots which are softer and more pliable than traditional ski boots as well as skis with the appropriate bindings, adjustable poles, and skins. The Ute Mountaineer also rents out beacons and shovels which are necessary precautions when skiing in the backcountry.
Snow is a notoriously finicky natural phenomenon, and backcountry areas that look like delicious wide open powder fields can often pose the most avalanche risk.
It’s incredibly important to have adequate training before venturing into the backcountry or even just out of bounds on any of our four local mountains. For that reason, I strongly recommend that you go with a professional guide.
Backcountry Skiing in Aspen
My good friend Nate Rowland works as a guide for Aspen Alpine Guides and he was kind of enough to share his expertise for this post.
As I mentioned above, Nate noted that “Skiing safely in the backcountry requires a diverse skill set ranging from avalanche hazard assessment and mitigation to reading the weather, and of course familiarity with the terrain. Having a guide can take the stress out of the experience while maximizing enjoyment.”
I know many members of the Aspen Alpine Guides team, and I can tell you that they are the best of the best in terms of expertise and showing clients a good time.
The best part of backcountry skiing in Aspen is that it’s so easily accessible from town. If you’re not up for skinning all the way from the base of a mountain to get some great terrain, you can opt for a day that starts at the Aspen gondola and accesses runs out of bounds on the backside of Aspen Mountain. If you’re up for more of a challenge, there are 10th Mountain Division huts where you can stay overnight all over the Aspen Snowmass area.
Aspen Alpine Guides event runs a “Leave the Boys Behind” program for female skiers who want to get out into the backcountry without the guys. I can’t think of a better bonding experience for a group of girls than an avalanche course in Aspen’s backcountry.
There’s still six weeks of ski season left in Aspen! Grab a pass, a hotel deal, and some gear and head into the backwoods.