If you are an adventurous spirit and a skilled skier, then backcountry skiing is something which is probably worthy of your attention. Put simply, backcountry skiing is taking yourself off marked trails, and testing your ski skills on unpatrolled and ungroomed routes, often in woodland.
This type of skiing is not for the inexperienced or the faint of heart, though. There are numerous dangers to face, whether it be avalanche, physical exhaustion, or simply experiencing an accident in a remote location. A backcountry skier is also more likely to encounter challenging terrain, and can suddenly find themselves faced with extreme danger, in the form of cliffs, sudden changes in the weather, or rock falls.
But the thrills can be immense, and there are some wonderful sights to be seen when skiing off marked routes. The uncertainty adds to the excitement, and there is a real, visceral thrill about testing oneself in this way.
There are interesting and adventurous backcountry skiing routes in most countries where you can ski. Obviously, countries such as the USA and Canada can offer some especially good routes, simply due to the fact that there are greater areas of wilderness there. The Rocky Mountains, in particular, can offer some really stunning backcountry experiences. Some resorts in the USA do not permit skiers to leave marked routes, but others do, so always check before booking a trip to America.
Perhaps one of the best regions in Rocky Mountain Canada to hit the back trails is at the Kootenay National Park. Located in the south west of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Kootenay was established as a national park in 1920. While local skiers have known about the possibilities that the region provides for backcountry skiing for years, it is perhaps less widely known about amongst the wider skiing community. Since the forest fires of 2003, there have been even more routes available through the woods, with great peak ascents like Whymper and Storm offering some challenging experiences. The Chickadee Valley region also provides plenty of places where adventurous skiers can test themselves.
If the opportunity comes, then it is also worth checking out what California can offer, as some of North America's better routes can be found here. In between the Sierra Nevada and the Southern Cascade Mountains, there are some wonderful places to explore on skis. If you are based in Europe, then the Alps also has plenty of superb locations. Chamonix is a resort where skiers can find some adventure off-trail, if they are prepared to look. The Haute Route is also good, with its trails around the Mont Blanc Massif, and the Swiss Matterhorn.
But before anyone goes out to hit these famous routes and trails, it is vital that they have the right equipment and training. While specific kit requirements can alter with changes in location, one piece of equipment you should never be without is a beacon, or avalanche transceiver. This is vital for finding anyone who goes missing in the mountains.
Many ski resorts offer good avalanche training courses. It is also possible to book a place on specific backcountry skiing tours, where an experienced instructor can teach you the skills and tips you need to survive in the mountains. Skills and experience are vital, and you should possess both before heading out away from marked trails.