Types of Winter Travel Explained
Understanding the variety of winter sports can be overwhelming
But Buena Vista Mountain Adventures focuses on making the backcountry accessible
Entering into a winter sport with the right gear and a clear understanding of what you can encounter sets you up for success.
Alpine sports focus on the rapid descent of an outdoor enthusiast down a snowy incline
However, the kind of terrain and activity level you encounter in downhill resort skiing is very distinct from backcountry touring.
Riding a lift up to the top of a cleared run, and wearing equipment (skis or board) designed strictly for decent.
Backcountry gear is designed to travel across, up and down a wide variety of terrain. Ski bindings are made with a free heel setting so you can move with ease across flat areas. Skis have skins applied for uphill travel. Skins are a microfiber hair that glides forward (with the nap), and catches the snow (against the nap) as you push against them, allowing for uphill travel. When you prepare to descend you remove your skins, lock down the heel of your ski, for stronger control in deep untracked powder.
Nordic Ski Sports
Nordic ski techniques date back to the origin of skiing, then used to traverse deep snow and hunt during winter months
These ski techniques have continued to provide people access to varied terrain and have lead to a culture of winter play around the world.
Telemark is a free heel technique for downhill travel where the skier lunges into their downhill turn.
When moving across rolling terrain or open flat areas, traditional cross country gear is ideal. The skis are designed with free heels, thinner and longer, with wax or scales to bite into the snow. Cross country skiing uses a rhythmic pushing, similar to rollerblading, to move across winter landscapes. Wax on skis interacts with the snow crystals at different temperatures to give forward momentum. Waxless, or scaled skis, catch the edge of the scales to push you forward. Cross country skiing can be done at a stately pace, or can be almost like running on snow—depending on your skill level and need for speed.
Snowboarding or Riding
If you are a snowboarder and are ready to seek out the deep snow and varied terrain of the backcountry, then splitboarding is the way to go.
Designed in the 1990s by riders ready to get into the wild, splitboards separate to form two short “skis” that allow the boarder to ascend hills and traverse flat areas. Skins are applied to the bottom of the separated board, hills climbed, skins removed, board joined together and bindings shifted-- now you are ready for descent.
Snowshoes are an ancient method of winter travel accessible to all skill levels. Using platforms strapped onto winter boots, snowshoeing distributes your weight across the top of the snow so that you don’t sink. For deep snow and weighted travel, longer and wider snowshoes are used. For short winter trails, lighter and smaller snowshoes are used. Metal or plastic teeth are incorporated onto the bottoms of some snowshoes to provide additional stability when climbing trails. Snowshoeing can propel you into the woods, or to the tops of peaks.