WHAT IS MEANT BY BACKCOUNTRY?
Backcountry refers to all mountain regions off the piste. In this "backcountry", snowboarders in particular look for the powdery deep snow, the so-called powder, for their descent. This type of snowboarding is also called freeriding or deep snow skiing. Freeriding focuses on experiences in untouched nature, beautiful snowy landscapes and the feeling of unlimited freedom.
In contrast to freeriding is riding on the marked slope - for example freestyle with jumps and turns or alpine snowboarding with races and slaloms.
WHICH SNOWBOARDS ARE SUITABLE FOR FREERIDING?
You can use different boards in the backcountry, but some are better suited than others, depending on what you focus on:
- Basicall, All-mountain boards are suitable for any mountain region. If you already have experience with an all-mountain board in official ski areas, you will also be able to use it off-piste.
- Freeride boards are, as the name suggests, made especially for freeriders. They have a longer nose that doesn't sink into deep snow as quickly, and the board is generally wider. This generates more lift when riding and you benefit from a more airy feeling.
- Splitboards combine the fun of freeride boards with a special flexibility. The board can be split in the middle enabling you to climb mountains under your own power, without changing your boots - our absolute recommendation for backcountry tourers.
TOURING: HOW DO I GET TO THE SUMMIT?
In the backcountry there is usually no lift to facilitate the ascent, which has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, you can experience unique landscapes, on the other hand, you face a long way up! Summits can be reached either in the classic way by hiking, mountaineering, touring by helicopter, or splitboarding.
Touring in deep snow away from the mountains is a challenge for your physical condition, but is rewarded by unique experiences that hardly any other sport can offer.
Splitboarding has established itself as the most practical way of touring. With splitboarding, the board is split lengthwise into two for the ascent. So-called splitboard skins are mounted on the "skis". The skins should be dry and as wrinkle-free as possible so that they have sufficient grip in the snow. In particularly difficult terrain, such as on ice or on steeper slopes, crampons, whose prongs hook into the ground, can be used in addition to the skins as further climbing aids. Boots and bindings are particularly important when skiing: they should be comfortable and not too heavy.
When skiing, the tips of the skis must point outwards, which may seem unusual at first glance and need some getting used to. Use touring poles for support and to stabilise your upper body. Make sure the distance between the “skis” is close when ascending and don't lift them too far off the ground - this will save you energy. By walking upright and shifting your weight to your heels, you can push off better.
HOW DO I BEHAVE PROPERLY IN THE BACKCOUNTRY?
Skiing in open terrain is not an easy undertaking. Beginners should first learn to ride on the piste before venturing into the deep snow. In addition to the usual risks of snowboarding, there is the danger of being buried by avalanches when freeriding. In the backcountry, knowledge and experience are therefore the basic prerequisites. It is important to correctly assess the ground beneath the snowpack and not to trigger an avalanche under any circumstances.
You should be with a group that is neither too big nor too small - definitely not alone. Three to four people are ideal, so you can look out for each other. Make absolutely sure that no one can come towards you on the ascent as well as on the descent and that you do not ride too close to other groups. Another point is not to overestimate yourself, especially with regard to the length of a tour. Glade boarding, or glading, through sloping terrain involves dangerous obstacles such as trees and rocks. These routes are only for absolute backcountry experts.
In any case, you should respect the environment and nature conservation. Here are the most important rules for the backcountry:
- Respect protected areas, sanctuaries and exclusion zones
- Observe wildlife only from a distance
- Avoid noise
- Keep your distance from trees and bushes
- Limit tours to bright times of day
WHAT ARE THE BACKCOUNTRY ESSENTIALS?
Your safety in the backcountry depends above all on having the right equipment. The four absolute backcountry essentials include:
- Avalanche transceiver (LVS)
- Avalanche shovel
- Avalanche probe
- Map or terrain map of your tour
Although there are now smartphone apps that work with GPS for navigation in open terrain, an analogue map is still useful. In the backcountry, smartphone batteries don't last very long because the devices search more often for mostly weak signals and because they generally discharge more quickly in the cold.
In addition to the essentials, professional equipment includes a slope meter to determine the inclination of the slope and a thermometer to measure the snow temperature.
THE TOURING BACKPACK
Your touring rucksack should have enough compartments and fastenings for all your equipment, for example goggles, avalanche gear and board holder (if you don't decide to go splitboarding). Capacity is one of the most important factors in your choice and averages around 20 litres.
When planning your tour, make sure you pack enough drinks and a proper snack, as you will be out for several hours. To protect yourself from UV radiation, don't forget a sunscreen. Due to the cold temperatures in the winter landscape, you often underestimate the risk of getting sunburn. But the radiation exposure is much higher, especially in the mountains, and the strong reflection in the snow does the rest.
WHAT OUTDOOR CLOTHING DO I NEED?
The ascent is a great sporting challenge. Keep in mind that you will sweat a lot. The best outdoor clothing protects you from the cold when freeriding, but is also breathable. Functional underwear keeps sweat away from the body and ensures that you don't get too cold. Outerwear includes special snowboard jackets and trousers that work with water-resistant materials. Simple hats and bandanas are enough to keep your head warm.
When going uphill, it's best to wear sunglasses and normal gloves. You can change them for snowboard goggles and snowboard gloves for the descent. This way you stay fresh the whole time and can fully enjoy your adventure. “Frisch bleiben? Auch mit einem Sonnenbrillenwechsel?
WHERE IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BACKCOUNTRY TOUR?
- The Stuibenkopf
- The Riffel below the Zugspitze
- The Eckbauer
- The Stupfarri-Köpfle
- The Weißseespitze
- The Aifnerspitze