Deep Snow, Making Friends and Staying Alive

Words: D’arcy McLeish

Cover Photo: Andy Bardon

What’s the best part about skiing? Ok, maybe the second-best part, as the first is snow. In all its forms, too. Deep snow, light snow, heavy snow, wet snow, dry snow, hard snow; they’re all pretty amazing, really. But the second-best part of being on snow is sharing that experience with friends.

The best part: snow. Photo: Chris Figenshau

At a ski resort, that’s fairly straightforward. Get up, grab some breakfast and a giant cup of coffee and head to the hill to shred. Meet up with some friends, or meet some new friends on the chair and spend the day blissfully going down the mountain. Pretty much the best day ever, really.

The second best part: friends. Photo: Zach Snavely

But in the backcountry, there isn’t that safety net. Ski Patrol won’t come take you down the hill if you’re a little tie tie and can’t go on. There’s no avalanche control or fencing to mark stuff off that might kill you. There are only wide open, beautiful slopes as far as the eye can see, all of which are begging to be skied but can make your day really terrible if you’re not careful.

And meeting friends can be more difficult. Do your friends ski tour? Do they have gear? Do they know how to use that gear? Do you know how to use that gear? Do any of you, or your friends, have any knowledge beyond skiing your face off and calling patrol if something goes wrong?

If the answer is no, it’s time to celebrate. Because with a few simple tools and a little bit of effort, you have pretty much the best and longest lasting Christmas present ever just waiting for you: a lifetime of learning about the backcountry. All of us started with that answer being no, at least to some of those questions. And it’s a great place to be. It means you get to start something new or improve on some of the stuff you already know. Both of which are always fun. The best part is, you’ll make some friends along the way. Friends that will help keep you safe when you’re out there, skiing where the punters don’t.

A lifetime of learning. Photo: Chris Figenshau

This February, Arc’teryx is hosting a series of backcountry clinics taught by professional guides and athletes designed to get you the knowledge, experience and know-how to stay safe in the backcountry. There are all kinds of awesome clinics, from ski touring, to ski mountaineering, crevasse and avalanche rescue to specific things like how to rappel into a couloir. ‘Cause you are going to rappel into a couloir at some point in your backcountry life, so maybe learn how to do it properly instead of learning it on the fly and almost getting your ticket punched (that may or may not have happened to the author of this article).

The best part, well, maybe the second-best part of the Arc’teryx Backcountry Academy, is it’s a real social affair; with live music each night, speakers, films and a general ambiance of shared passion for the mountains. The first, most bestest part, is that it’s in Jackson, Wyoming, on the doorstep of the Teton Mountain Range, which is hands down one of the most spectacular ranges to ski and play in, anywhere in the world. Jackson’s a great place, too. A true mountain town in the American West sense. Cowboys, good beer and deep snow.


So, this February, if you’re keen on learning, making some new friends and skiing some awesome terrain in what promises to be good snow (remember that’s the best part about skiing and riding), book yourself a trip to Jackson and sign up for the Arc’teryx Backcountry Academy. It’s an absolute hoot and you’ll learn to stay safe, have fun and ski or ride your face off.

Learn about the clinics, seminars and parties offered at the 2019 Arc’teryx Backcountry Academy in Jackson Hole HERE.

Photo: Andy Bardon