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28November 2017

Rudi’s 4 Rules for Backcountry Skiing

Rudi has been working and playing in the backcountry for decades.

You’d have to spend a few winters with him to even begin to absorb all that stored knowledge, but here’s four key pieces of advice for all that yearn to shred the good stuff out of bounds.

If you come on board with us to heli-ski, we’ll take care of these for you! But if you go out there with your friends, take Rudi’s advice along.

(1) Be educated, be prepared.

We should all recognize that avalanche safety, training and preparedness is key for being a competent backcountry skier or rider. If you don’t have a guide, that means understanding terrain choice to reduce avalanche risk, having the right gear and knowing how to use it.

It’s a lot to know, and takes experience to learn how to make good decisions. Be very aware of what you don’t know, get as much education as you can, and hire a guide until you’ve got lots of miles under your belt.

And along with AST courses and your avi kit, don’t forget the even simpler things. Make sure someone knows where you’re going.

Avalanches aren’t the only risk. What if you get pinned down by a storm, or get turned around long enough that you’ll have to spend the night out?

Rudi never goes into the backcountry without a lighter, a Swiss army knife (surprise, surprise) and a lightweight pot – i.e. something to melt snow in. The ability to make a fire to stay warm and get water to keep hydrated are essential survival tools.

ski tourers ascend a slope using skins on their touring skis over a rise to the top of a slope

(2) Bring a patient, flexible attitude with you.

Mother Nature doesn’t care if today is your only day off. If the conditions aren’t good for completing your objective, whatever slope or peak you want to get to, coming back another time is always better than pushing against a (literal) force of nature.

If it takes a few tries to have the day you dream of, be patient. That’s just that many more days of being out in the mountains and coming home safe. That’s good news. Strength isn’t always charging on no matter what. Strength is using good judgment and taking the long view.

(3) Go with people more experienced than you.

Even though Rudi is almost always the senior, the most experienced, in any given group, he has never given up a learning attitude. He commits to checking in with others, asking for opinions, considering things from a fresh perspective.

The backcountry is so incredible because it will always teach us something new. Thinking we have it all figured out is a hazard. Continue to seek knowledge, learn from other people’s experience, keep decision-making cooperative, stay open to being wrong. The environment is dynamic – we have to flow with it to fit in.

A group of skiers and snowboarders wave their hands in the air for the camera poised at the top of an untracked slope

(4) Want to improve your ability? Just keep skiing (or riding).

Want to shred with more confidence and ease in the powder, in the trees and in natural terrain? Rudi’s take: Keep putting on the miles.

It’s not that the right boots, bindings, skis or board don’t matter, but ultimately, fancy gear is not going to be the thing that takes you to the next level. The best way to train for skiing is not to go shopping – it’s to go skiing. Let go of fixating on tiny alignment details and follow the fun of going downhill!

Your body is learning a lot while you’re grinning and getting face shots. Trust that the time you put in will show.

BONUS TIP:

The old adage ‘No friends on a powder day’ only applies when the pow is limited – as in, at a ski resort with lots of other people. Out back, there’s plenty to go around. Bring your friends. Make new ones.

 

Planning for a guided trip of heli-skiing, not so much exploring on your own? Check out the DOs and DONTs of heli-skiing here.

 

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Yodel e-newsletter magazine cover featuring a skier descending a steep ridge while other skiers wait at the top with snow-covered mountains in the backdrop