Your friends have stopped buying lift passes, you’re tired of the resort scene, and you’re signed up for an Avalanche Safety course. What gear do you need to make your backcountry ambitions a reality?
There are a few obvious items you’ll need. Dedicated skis, bindings and boots will look a lot like your resort setup, but will weigh less and offer the ability to go uphill as well as down. You’ll need climbing skins for uphill traction. And you'll need some basic avalanche safety gear. Consider an avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe to be required equipment.
Beyond these items, there are several other things that you should have with you. A snow-specific pack will carry better, won’t attract snow, and will have places for all your safety gear.
Telescoping poles can be helpful if you want longer poles for slogging across a flat meadow or shorter ones for booting up a steep face. If you’re in consequential terrain, it might be a good idea to bring your ski helmet (that ski-specific pack will have a place to store it).
A first aid kit with a SAM splint is worth having with you. A lightweight down puffy and spare gloves can mean the difference between a fun day out and fighting hypothermia. A couple of carabiners and some p-cord are useful for anything from splinting a leg to hauling someone out of a crevasse to keeping your climbing skins attached if the glue gives up.
Voile ski straps weigh almost nothing and also have many uses, from holding a damaged boot together to helping build a rescue sled.
Finally, pack more food and water than you’ll use on a given day. If a half-day ski turns into an all-day epic, keeping your energy up can be critical.