Please review all the information below to learn what type of condition you need to be in for this ski descent. For those who have not specifically trained for mountaineering and backcountry skiing  in the past,  we recommend using a targeted training plan to help you prepare.

Books to consider:

Training for the Uphill Athlete: A Manual for Mountain Runners and Ski Mountaineers by Steve House and Scott Johnston

Personal trainers that are familiar with the demands of backcountry skiing / riding are highly recommended as they can create personal training plans utilizing both indoor and outdoor locations with long range objectives and criteria.   Trainers and training programs can help build a program based on your location, access to gyms, and outdoor training venues.

For those who have not trained for backcountry skiing / riding or want to refine their training with industry professionals, we recommend:

Steve House and staff at the Uphill Athlete

Preparation for Mount Baker Climb and Ski / Ride Descent

Mt. Baker (10,781 ft.), the highest peak in the North Cascades of Washington, is considered to have some of the best glacier skiing/riding in the US, and is the primary location for AAI’s North Cascades training courses.

This three day climb and ski/ride of the of Mt. Baker is a serious undertaking. Just because you exercise regularly (four to six times per week) does not mean you have the conditioning needed to climb Mt. Baker. Plenty of people who can run a marathon fail to summit Baker. Pure cardiovascular fitness is simply not enough. You need to be able to ascend 4-5,000 feet in successive days with substantial weight on your back. Expect to carry at least a 40 lb. pack of gear and food to Base Camp. The ascent to the summit, comparable elevation gain to the approach, involves carrying a pack weight of about half that of your approach pack.

Prioritize your training efforts in the following way, assuming that you are in good health and injury-free:

  • Strength training – for the lower and upper body
  • Cardiovascular training – including both aerobic and anaerobic workouts
  • Flexibility training

Please let us know if you have any questions about your fitness or training for backcountry skiing / riding.

Skiing and Riding in the Backcountry

While it is important to have a high degree of fitness, it is vital that participants are familiar with downhill skiing or snowboarding skills. Participants do need to be advanced/expert riders, but the more experienced you are at skiing or snowboarding, the more fun you’ll have. Participants should feel very comfortable on black diamond runs. Prior experience skiing off-piste (terrain that’s off groomed trails) will pay dividends in the backcountry where snow conditions can vary greatly. You may encounter deep snow, bumps, steep slopes, chutes, and crud in a single run! If you are still working on basic ski techniques, we recommend taking a lesson at a ski resort before venturing out in the backcountry.

If you are new to backcountry touring, we would encourage you to take the backcountry ski seminar. Please make sure you are familiar with your gear prior to coming to the trip. We strongly recommend practicing with your equipment at a ski area.

• Make sure your climbing skins fit your skis or splitboard and are properly trimmed.
• Orient yourself to the tip and tail hardware of the skins and ensure they are adjusted to the right length.
• Try putting on your climbing skins on your skis / splitboard and ripping them off several times to get the hang of it.
• Practice switching your bindings from ski mode to tour mode and back again.
• Unlock the walking hinge on your boots and practice skinning, aiming for a smooth and rhythmic slide.
• Try using your heel risers in every setting and practice adjusting them smoothly with your ski pole.

We are happy to help you learn the techniques and skills to be a competent backcountry traveler, but we want to make sure you get the most of your day and don’t get bogged down in the details of using your equipment.

Feel free to give us a call at 206-378-1927 if you are unsure about your skiing / riding ability.

“Fantastic wilderness experience!  Mt. Baker feels like it’s a million miles from anywhere.”


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