The average adult vocabulary is about 20,000 words. Despite all the possible options, I opted with “Yeeeeoooowwww!” – It’s the best summation of how I felt at the bottom of Ski Dreams Couloir, a line on the east side of Matterhorn Peak in the Eastern Sierra. Dropping off the ridgeline, the backcountry ski run is just over 1,000 feet long at just less than 40 degrees, with a small choke near the middle.
Wind scoured on the top, the softer snow huddles in the middle and bottom of the run, protected by granite walls on both sides. That’s where it gets fun and not coincidentally, where I started yelling as loud as I could.
Many mountain ranges and mountain towns across the U.S. recorded record snowfall this winter, eerily similar to “Snowpocalypse” two seasons ago. From early December to late March this produced ample “sick days” from work, in-bounds face shots, and whiteroom captions on Instagram – all signs of great turns on the slopes.
While a big winter like this past one creates larger avalanche hazard during the season, it also opens up steep ski lines and big-mountain objectives in the spring, as the snowpack starts to stabilize. Thus, many of us are gleefully enjoying the start of spring touring season.
Like my home base in the Sierra, other mountains like the Tetons, Wasatch, and Colorado Rockies all saw heavy snowfall this winter and will likely have a few months of turns left on their slopes. Getting up high and harvesting corn turns is an absolute joy, but not something you should take lightly.
Conditions are still variable, weather can move in quick, and there are never free passes in the mountains. One way to improve safety and fun is by bringing along the right gear. Below is our list of the key things to bring on your next spring ski outing.
Skis and Bindings: DPS Tour1 Wailer 112 and Dynafit Rotation 10 Bindings
The most important component of a great spring ski is weight. With lots of vert to climb I prefer a carbon ski that won’t slow me down. The second thing to consider is turning radius. Many objectives like couloirs require quick turns to safely descend. The last is stiffness, because it’s fairly common to have icy slopes and bulletproof snow in the morning.
GPS, Tracking and Communication: Garmin Instinct Watch and InReach Mini
The Instinct is durable, reliable, and simple, covering my three main prerequisites for a quality outdoor watch. It offers GPS tracking, altitude, heart rate and has a long battery life, without any unnecessary features. I use it regularly for running and hiking, and have found it to be a perfect ski touring companion too.
The InReach Mini is one of the few things I take on every single trip, from a long road trip to the most extreme backcountry adventures. It’s the most reliable two-way communication device on the market, allowing me to check in and get weather updates almost anywhere in the world.
Helmet and Goggles: POC Obex Spin and Fovea Clarity Goggles
For most pieces of gear I try to find a balance between weight and performance, allowing me to go farther and still enjoy the process. I make a few exceptions to that rule, primarily when safety is involved. A good helmet and goggles are a priority for me and I’ve become loyal to POC for their quality, design, and emphasis on safety. The Fovea goggles work in a wide variety of conditions with a huge field a view, allowing me to see more as I fly downhill.
Crampons and Ice Axe: Petzl Gully Axe and Leopard LLF Crampons
For ski objections that are on snow, I prefer lighter, aluminum sharps like the Gully and Leopard, both made by Petzl. Designed for snow travel and steep slopes, this combo provides great grip on bootpacks and hardpack, without adding excessive weight to my pack. The Leopard’s lever lock enables me to attach them to my ski boots in seconds, keeping transitions quick.
Snacks, Coffee, and Food: Trail Butter, Alpine Start Coffee and Good To-Go Meals
There are dozens of options on the market for a good trail snack and my recent favorite is Trail Butter. It has convenient packaging, is packed with a slow-burn energy, and most importantly, is delicious. I often swap out a granola bar for a Trail Butter packet and stash it in my hip belt.
For all kinds of camping trips including ski touring I rely on Alpine Start in the morning – the best tasting instant coffee I’ve tried.
Lastly, for all my dinners and some slow lunches I feast on Good To-Go, a small outfit from Maine that turns real food into tasty, dehydrated meals.
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