Backcountry Skiing Tips: From Ascent to Après with Michelle Parker

Pro skier Michelle Parker skinning up to do some backcountry skiing

Look at those lift lines! Let’s go backcountry skiing! But wait…there are some things to know before you go.

Backcountry skiing has increasingly grown in popularity. Year after year, I see so many more people exploring their backyards without lift access. The allure of fresh powder and views from the top is strong, especially with all of the new equipment that makes getting out there easier and more fun.

Before you decide to hike up a mountain, there are a few things that can help keep you and others safe and make your adventure more enjoyable.

Michelle and a friend celebrating reaching the summit of a mountain

Protect Your Feet

First hot tip is obviously having the right pair of socks! Darn Tough socks are made with Merino Wool, which is something that I consider to be of the upmost importance when hiking up a mountain.

You will sweat, and oftentimes I sweat a lot in my feet. The Merino Wool socks will help to regulate your foot temperature, keep bad odors at bay, and also dry far quicker than cotton.

Skier in the backcountry wearing the Outer Limits ski socks from Darn Tough

I need socks that fit in all the right places so they don’t move around on me as well, which helps to prevent blisters. My favorite pair of socks for backcountry skiing is the Women’s Outer Limits over-the-calf lightweight socks (available in men's too).

Choose Safety First

This next tip is arguably the most important of them all, go get educated! Skiing in the backcountry is dangerous. You and your team of friends are your lifeline should something go wrong. This is why it’s imperative to have proper education before you head out.

A group taking an avalanche safety course

Photo courtesy of Weston Shirley.

Take an intro to level 1 course or jump right in with your level 1 avalanche awareness course. These avalanche awareness courses pair well with wilderness first aid. Double down by taking both courses, so that you can stay safe and keep others safe as well.

I consider these safety courses to be mandatory, and I refresh them nearly every single year to keep the information fresh. If you don’t use it, you lose it!

Food, Water, & Backup

Michelle Parker at a ski base camp, brushing her teeth

Be prepared with food, water, a repair kit, a small medical kit and a means to call for help. Having spent a lot of time in the backcountry, I find proper nutrition to be one of the most important aspects of having a good day.

I bring a good lunch for myself and plenty of water and tea, as well as some salt tablets in case anyone starts to cramp or bonk. These salt tablets have come in handy so many times.

Also, it’s crucial to have a means to call for help. If you know you have cell phone service, you are stoked, but if not, you might want to invest in a Garmin devise or a locator so that you can call for help should something go wrong.

A repair kit is essential to fix a ski binding or boot malfunction, and a small medical kit will always come in handy.

Final Checks

The sun rising over the edge of a snowy mountain

Of course, always:

  • Check the avalanche report before you hit the slopes
  • Check the weather so you know what you are getting into.

Après-ski Pro Tips

Extra layers, warm gloves, hand warmers, and a fresh pair of Darn Tough socks to change into at the car is a pro move. My socks are soaked when I finish up. After working hard and sweating all day, I get the coldest on top of the mountain and when I am at my car. A quick sock change goes a long way.

I find the Mountaineering micro crew socks to be the warmest après sock around — they are so cozy. But really any of the midweight hiking socks will do the trick without a doubt. Changing into these socks feels so good after a day of hiking, and it also prevents your shoes from smelling like your boots!

About the Author

Michelle smiling in her ski gear, with frosty hair

Michelle Parker has been a professional skier for over half of her life. With a deep love for the mountains, sleeping in the dirt, skiing, mountain biking, skipping rocks, photography, ukulele, climbing, old growth forests, and long walks with friends for turns, she loves her time spent outside. Her favorite Darn Tough socks are the Women's Outer Limits ski and snowboard socks.