Backcountry skiing (more politically correct users will refer to the sport as Backcountry Snow Riding), alpine touring, Randoneé skiing, whatever you call it, we have tons of it in Southern California. And if you include the Sierra Nevada mountains, you have access to backcountry nirvana. Why, you ask? Well, sir, allow me to count the ways. For one, the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains are quite steep and consistent at that. Furthermore the slopes that contain trees are often sparsely populated such that you will have access to some of the best gladed tree skiing in the USA, or in the world for that matter. Access is plentiful (see the specific pages for more info on access) and close by. In fact, I've driven just under an hour from Caltech to ski epic slopes doused in 2 feet of powder. The snow that we receive is often wet and therefore our snow packs tend to be quite stable even only a day or two after a storm. But this leads into some of the downsides. Most of the skiing destinations in So Cal tend to start at 6000 to 7000 feet above sea level, and it is not uncommon at all for these mountains to receive vast quantities of rain instead of snow. And there are some years where drought means that there is hardly any snow at all. In my experience, you can break down a decade of backcountry skiing in So Cal by the following: 1 year will be all-time classic, starting from December and going all the way into late spring, 2-3 years will be very good years with plentiful snow, 3-4 years will be marginal, with periods of good skiing, but also periods where the snow pack is either damaged by rain or becomes thin due to lack of snow, and finally maybe 1-2 years where you will be lucky to get out at all. However, even these bad So Cal years do not mean that you cannot ski, you will have to migrate further north into the Sierras to do so.
Now onto the beta. Lets first consider how much experience you have in avalanche terrain. Personally, I'm extremely conservative, so I do not venture into prime avalanche country until the snow pack has been given time to stabilize. In the Sierras, this often means waiting until the spring skiing season, often beginning sometime in April. Even though So Cal and the Sierras offer some of the world's most stable snow packs, avalanches are a huge concern and people have been killed in the areas described here, so use good judgment and play it safe.
One bummer about So Cal is that the ski shops suck here. As of the writing of this page (October 2010), there is no mountaineering shop in the So Cal area that careers Alpine Touring gear, so you'll have to make the drive up to Mammoth Lakes and visit the Mammoth Mountaineering store. The good news is that these guys are totally on it and have all the latest gear, and I've found their staff to be knowledgeable and helpful.
The club itself has some skis and snowboards for free-of-cost checkouts: look at our equipment page!
More advice from club members on purchasing/renting skis
- I went to ski net sports for a boot fitting- the guy there really does know what he's doing, and you'll get a great pair of boots, but you'll also pay top dollar. So its good if you are or want to become more serious about skiing, but probably not worth it if you're more of a casual skier. They also don't do AT stuff- only downhill.
- If you just want something cheap to play around with on groomers a few times a year, the Ski and Snowboard Liquidation center is pretty good. They sell new, name brand stuff for much cheaper than most places, but its mostly entry to intermediate level stuff. They also really don't know much about what they sell, so do your homework before hand. however, if you're just looking for entry level stuff, its not all that important what you get- any pair of all mountain skis that roughly fit you will work.
- If you're looking for AT stuff, mammoth mountaineering is pretty much the closest thing to LA that I know of. Mammoth Gear(I think they do downhill stuff too, but I'm not sure). They have a store in mammoth that sells new gear and one in bishop that sells used gear (the latter is what nate mentioned). They list some (most?) of their used gear online here, and they will ship it. I got a pair of used BD Verdict skis with frischi bindings on them that have served me well. They rent AT gear too.
- REI Arcadia doesn't sell ski gear, but some of the other REIs in the LA area do- I think maybe the Northridge and Hawthorne stores do? check their website.
- I've heard great things about Ski Net Sports in Burbank, but I haven't been. If you can make it to bishop, you should check out the consignment shop there. You can find great deals there.
Alpine touring gear is VERY expensive, but there is a way to work around this for beginners who want to ease their way into the sport. In fact, all of my first backcountry skiing gear was obtained on eBay and similar websites where I was able to buy very nice used gear. And of course the alpine club has some of the essentials like avalanche beacons, shovels and probes.
So that about covers the basics, so the next step is to figure out where you want to go. I've tried to note on the area pages which places are good for beginners and which should be only visited by expert skiers that are experienced in backcountry travel. So please be safe and enjoy one of the jewels of the outdoor adventure sports. I think you'll find that as you explore our area more and more, you'll realize that you've just landed in a small slice of heaven!
This category has only the following subcategory.
Pages in category "Backcountry Skiing"
The following 13 pages are in this category, out of 13 total.