Backcountry skiing

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Backcountry skiing near the Arlberg, Austria

Backcountry skiing, also called off-piste or out-of-area, is skiing in the backcountry[1] on unmarked or unpatrolled areas either inside or outside of a ski resort's boundaries. This contrasts with alpine skiing which is typically done on groomed trails benefiting from a ski patrol. Unlike ski touring backcountry skiing can include the use of ski lifts including snowcats and helicopters. Recent improvements in equipment have increased the popularity of the sport.[2]

Terminology[edit]

The terms backcountry and off-piste refer to where the skiing is being done, while terms like ski touring, ski mountaineering, telemark, and extreme skiing describe what type of skiing is being done. Terms for backcountry skiing exist according to how the terrain is accessed, and how close it is to services. Backcountry can include the following:[3]

  • Frontcountry: off-trail within ski area boundaries where ski lifts and emergency services are close at hand.
  • Slackcountry: terrain outside of the ski area boundary that is accessed from a lift without having to use skins or bootpack. Usually this also includes area with access back to the lift as well. For purists, this could also include where people use a car as a shuttle.
  • Sidecountry: terrain outside marked ski area boundaries yet accessible via ski lift. Typically sidecountry requires the skier to hike, skin, or climb within ski area boundaries to reach or return from the sidecountry area, or both.

Safety[edit]

Avalanches result in about one fatality per month in the United States.[4]

In Europe and Canada off-piste skiing is generally permitted at ski resorts. In the United States off-piste skiing may or may not be; regulations vary by ski area. Many ski resorts prohibit it outright and some simply post warning signs that skiers are leaving the patrolled ski area boundaries.

References[edit]