02 – Backcountry Ski Touring

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Physical Stretch Quest

Level of Discomfort: 4/5 

The Rocky Mountains are a wild, dangerous and awe-inspiring place – somewhere that for me truly feels like the last frontier. It is a place that attracts me like a magnet and I find myself drawn to the mystery and adventure that awaits out there.

Towering stone peaks and snow-covered slopes above are both stunningly beautiful and treacherous for those who decide to explore them. As a long-time freestyle skier and coach I have made the mountains an integral part of my life, spending almost every weekend of the winter there amongst the towering peaks.

Lake Louise has become sort of like my home base, I know the mountain like the back of my hand and i’m often well within my comfort zone there. That being said, the vistas that I often find myself gazing into might as well be another planet because beyond this sliver of comfort within the bounds of the resort I am in the unknown.

Recently, I have decided to embark on a new chapter in my skiing career that being the world of backcountry ski touring. Ski touring is essentially a cross-country ski ascent zig-zagging up a mountain and a downhill ski descent back down.

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For the first time I went out with a group of friends – some with experience and others like myself with none. There are a lot of things that scare me about being in the backcountry and it is important to be conservative and logical when it comes to decision-making. Avalanches, cliffs, becoming disoriented are just a few of the dangers that face you in the backcountry.

I was all ears for my peers who educated me on snowpack, terrain traps and other hazards to be avoided. Physically it was a challenging ascent that demanded proper technique and good cardio (something I have been lacking lately). I was able to push through keeping up a steady breathing rhythm and at times leading and setting the pace for the rest group.

All said and done it was a great first experience in the backcountry and I feel like I pushed my physical comfort-zone significantly. Although in the grand scheme of things it was a small first step I am both excited and at the same time nervous to explore new areas and learn more about safety and the techniques of backcountry ski touring.

 

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Author: Austin Coll

Student studying Information Design at Mount Royal University in Calgary, AB.

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