Backcountry participation continues to rise
The Rise of the Backcountry
More and more ski resorts around North America are opening their boundary gates and allowing users to travel into uncontrolled, backcountry terrain. According to SnowSports Industries America, some 5 million skiers and riders are now exploring the backcountry, one of the highest growth sectors in the industry.
Before You Go
In the images that follow, we'll list some of the best resorts for accessing backcountry terrain. But before you go, it's critical to get educated. Sign up for an avalanche safety course, get the required safety gear and learn how to make smart decisions.
Peak 6 at Breckenridge, Colo. -- formerly backcountry terrain -- will now be lift-accessed and mitigated by professional avalanche technicians, which started last week with Breckenridge's opening day. The expansion offers 543 new acres and increases the resort's skiable terrain by 23 percent.
Mount Bachelor, Ore.
Oregon's Mount Bachelor has received approval from the Forest Service for a 700-acre terrain expansion, which will be lift-accessed inbounds terrain by the fall of 2014. But for this winter, the resort will be offering guided backcountry riding in the new zone.
Extremely Canadian Backcountry Clinics is launching a new guided backcountry program at Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C., this winter. The program is designed for advanced to expert skiers and riders looking for a guided tour of the surrounding backcountry.
Crystal Mountain, Wash.
Crystal Mountain, Wash., has a southside zone called Silver King, a short bootpack from the top of the High Campbell chairlift. The zone is controlled by the resort, but they still suggest bringing your backcountry safety gear when heading back there.
Colorado's Vail Resort abuts a frequently ridden backcountry zone called East Vail Chutes. The area is avalanche-prone and you'll need the right gear, caution and experience.
Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Wyoming's Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has opened their boundaries up to backcountry access since the 1990s. But the resort now offers guided backcountry tours and on-site avalanche safety courses and clinics.
Squaw Valley, Calif.
Squaw Valley, Calif., was one of the last resorts to open their boundaries when, last winter, Squaw opened their first backcountry gate to access neighboring Alpine Meadows.
Mount Baker, Wash.
Mount Baker, Wash., has some of the best lift-accessed backcountry terrain in the U.S. They also have a strict backcountry policy: If you leave the boundaries without the proper gear, a partner or avalanche knowledge, you could lose your ski-area privileges.