5 Books for Aspiring Backcountry Skiers, Splitboarders, and Mountaineers

Every year, more and more people are discovering the thrill and beauty of backcountry skiing and splitboarding.   The ability to climb uphill without using mechanical means provides good exercise, solitude, and pretty much an unlimited amount of powder, conditions willing.

But many begin their backcountry career unprepared.  Some people are not aware of the tangible risks associated with backcountry recreation.  Not being aware of these risks can often mean the difference between life and death.

Luckily, there are a host of books designed to initiate those willing to learn about the complex yet rewarding sport of ski mountaineering. The following is just a few books to get you started.  We left the list fairly small at 5 books so as not to overwhelm you, but we encourage you to always pursue further knowledge and stay up-to-date on versions, as the information constantly changes as we learn more about the mountains and develop new techniques.

In no particular order, here are the 5 books for aspiring Ski and Snowboard mountaineers:

Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills – (The Mountaineers Books) - This can be considered the Bible for anyone wanting to spend time in the mountains.  It’s a thick reference that will teach you the skills necessary to survive in the high alpine.  If one puts in the time to read (and practice) the skills taught in this book, you will be well on your way to proficiency.

The Avalanche Handbook – (Peter Schaerer and David McClung) - The reality is that if you spend any time in the backcountry, you will likely encounter an avalanche in one way or another.  Hopefully the result is not something catastrophic.  Reading this book and understanding snow science will go a long way in allowing you to make the right decisions about these massive forces of nature.

Exploring the Coast Mountains on Skis – (John Baldwin) - The Coast Mountains provide some of the best backcountry terrain in the planet.  There is something for everyone, and the snowpack is some of the most solid found anywhere.  Anyone pursuing ski and splitboard mountaineering will want to spend time in the Coast mountains, and this book will show you the best routes, with detailed descriptions and photos to show you around this backcountry mecca.

Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering – (Martin Volken) - What wasn’t covered in Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills will be found in this book.  It is much more specific to ski touring than Mountaineering, as that book is more about ascension skills.  This covers going up, down, and everything in between on a pair of skis or a board.

In Search of Powder:  A Story of America’s Disappearing Ski Bum – (Jeremy Evans) - Reading only reference books can be a bit tiring on the brain.  This is a journalistic account of the change in ski culture from the hippie to the yuppie, and how real estate development and huge corporations have made the old ski bum culture very difficult to survive, almost to the point of extinction.  The account results in a witty, informative book that holds your attention as you delve into the heart of ski bum culture.

Anyone have other good books out there?  Let us know in the comments below!

By Steve Andrews