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Thread: Tips and locations for someone new to backcountry snowboarding?

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    Member Seabass417's Avatar
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    Default Tips and locations for someone new to backcountry snowboarding?

    Hi all! I moved to Alaska this past June and I'm really hoping to get into some backcountry snowboarding. I grew up snowboarding in Wisconsin and the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota and, needless to say, "backcountry" snowboarding was an entirely different animal than it is here. I was hoping someone could share with me some good locations (all I know of is Hatcher Pass) and tips regarding hiking/snowshoeing in and of course safety tips and any avalanche forecast websites. Thanks!

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Welcome aboard, Seabass. Backcountry riding is indeed a different animal, but the rewards are spectacular if you put in the time and effort. Safety is of course the primary thing you need to be concerned with. This link will take you to the Chugach National Forest avalanche forecast site. Though it is specific to Turnagain Pass and Summit Lake, it is by far the best information available. There is work being done to expand avalanche forecasting to the Eagle River and Hatcher Pass areas, but to my knowledge nothing formal is in place yet. In addition to reading up on conditions, it would be wise to take at least a basic class in avalanche safety. On top of that, always traveling with a partner, wearing beacons, and knowing how to use those beacons and associated rescue gear (with adequate practice) is key.

    As for locations, I ski a lot right here in Eagle River up Hiland Road. You can either park at the trailhead (turn right at Mile 7.2 and follow the signs) to ride the right side of the valley or you can head to the very end to ride Harp Mountain. Both areas have some low-angle stuff that is usually stable and some moderate angle stuff that can be dangerous in given conditions. The area also gets a lot of wind, so hard, icy conditions are not uncommon. Hatcher Pass seems to be a solid area early in the year, but it doesn't get as consistent snowfall as areas to the south. By far the best snow conditions are usually found in Turnagain Pass - 1,000" of snow in a season is not uncommon - but it's a two hour drive to get there, so plan on a whole day to go make a couple of runs.

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    www.telemarktips.com has reports from alaskans who post regularly on backcountry trips and snow conditions

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    Member Seabass417's Avatar
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    Hey, thanks for the replies guys! I live in Eagle River and I've been up Hiland Rd into the South Fork Valley and I've seen folks heading up to ski/board what I believe is Harp Mt at the very end of Hiland Rd on the left side of the valley. However, there are "No Trespassing" signs all over the place, yet it doesn't seem to stop anybody from snowshoeing/skinning right on in. What's the deal with the signs? Oh, and do you know where I can take an avalanche safety course?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seabass417 View Post
    Hey, thanks for the replies guys! I live in Eagle River and I've been up Hiland Rd into the South Fork Valley and I've seen folks heading up to ski/board what I believe is Harp Mt at the very end of Hiland Rd on the left side of the valley. However, there are "No Trespassing" signs all over the place, yet it doesn't seem to stop anybody from snowshoeing/skinning right on in. What's the deal with the signs? Oh, and do you know where I can take an avalanche safety course?
    You can find a lot of information if you just do a quick google search for "Alaska Avalanche Safety Class". One of the first ones gets you to the DNR website and you can link to the Alaska Avalanche School (http://www.alaskaavalanche.com/Home.html). They have an extensive schedule (schedule tab at the top) of lectures and workshops.

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    REI also does a free Avalanche Safety course. Looks like there is only one spot still open for the next one on December 8th. Here is a link to the page where you can check it out and register: http://www.rei.com/stores/16

    Probably lots of options out there, these are just a couple that I came across quickly.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seabass417 View Post
    What's the deal with the signs? Oh, and do you know where I can take an avalanche safety course?
    There's a legitimate trail if you stay low and go to the right of the signs. The trail sidehills around for maybe 30-50 yards and then hooks back to the left before hitting the ridge.

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    Member Seabass417's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the replies guys! I'm glad to know about the Harp Mt trail at the end of Hiland Rd. Does anyone have any recommendations for gear? I don't really have the money to spring for a beacon right now (although I did just get a promotion at work), so I may have to wait until later in the season or next year before really getting into this. I also haven't had a pair of snowshoes since moved from northern WI to Kansas City 6 years ago, but I've seen some decent bargains on craigslist (I just don't know how serious a pair of snowshoes I should consider investing in). I imagine a rescue shovel and a probe would also be a necessity. The only thing I really have at this point is a board that does well in deep powder. I did backcountry riding on the the plateau slope of the north shore of Lake Superior, which mostly constituted 3-4 ft of powder, log riding, dodging trees, and bumping the occasional rock. Is there going to be a strain on my board much more than that?

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    use what ya got.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rjj15 View Post
    use what ya got.
    True, but investing in a beacon, shovel, and probe are absolutely necessary if getting into backcountry riding.

    As for your snowboard, it sounds like what you have will work great - BUT - you might consider investing in a split board if you're really going to get into backcountry riding. It can't be overstated how much more pleasant (and efficient) it is to ski up the mountain instead of hiking or snowshoeing. I ski but have a friend who has ridden with me a few times, and after the first time he tried to do more than one run in a day his next stop was a snowboard shop for a split board. Way easier, faster and more enjoyable.

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    Thats what I want/need a splitboard. I'm holding out for a coupon @REI to get the Voille complete package. Fingers crossed for a sweet black friday deal, but I doubt there will be one.

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    Hatchyourtrax has good weather and avi info for the Hatchers Pass area. http://www.hatchyourtrax.com/

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