Backcountry Skis

Experience the Freedom of Back Country

Some History …

In the beginning, all skiing was backcountry skiing. Indigenous tribes from mountainous regions of Norway, Russia and China developed skiing as a way to hunt game during the long snowy winters of the northern latitudes.

Closer to home, legendary Snowshoe Thompson delivered the U.S. mail twice a month from Placerville to Virginia City during winter from 1856-1876. He typically covered the 200 mile round trip in five days on ten foot long skis. Think you’re fit? Try that sometime!

The 1970s and ’80s saw an explosion of interest in backcountry skiing in the Sierra.

The late Bela Vadasz and his wife Mimi Maki-Vadasz founded Alpine Skills International In 1979. ASI likely was the first school and guide service in the US to emphasize ski mountaineering. Since then, ASI undoubtedly has introduced more skiers to the California backcountry than any other group; these founding visionaries opened the gates to California’s vast backcountry ski terrain, pointing the way for all of us to enjoy the backcountry experience in our own ways.

Backcountry enthusiasts including Robert “SP” Parker, Doug Robinson and the late Steve McKinney and Allan Bard blended cross country and mountaineering to define backcountry skiing as we know it today.

Here at California Ski Company, in the spirit of Vadaz, Parker, Robinson, McKinneyand Bard, we encourage you to try backcountry skiing both as a way to enhance and broaden your ski skills and to enrich your life.

… and a Primer

If you are interested but unsure how to get into backcountry, come on in; we’ll help you get started.

First, though, let’s debunk some myths.

Backcountry skiing does not require you be an expert skier nor to have the fitness level of an Ironman triathlete. On the contrary, it is an activity anyone can enjoy and, especially, it’s a great way to introduce kids to the natural environment. Apart from completing an avalanche awareness course (AIARE-1), no special training or skills are necessary. If you can ski a resort, you can ski the backcountry.

A great way to start is to rent some gear and hire a guide (see links and resources). We can outfit you with all the gear you need and help you find the guide service that will best suit your needs.

Likewise, when you’re ready to jump in and permanently gear up, we can steer you to an outfit that you will enjoy for years to come.

Sound interesting? Drop by and we’ll get you on your way to some back country bliss.


Caltrans_Road Conditions: 1-800-427-7623

Guide services and instruction

Alpine Skills International 

Rich Meyer Alpine Guide

Mountain Adventure Seminars

Shasta Mountain guides

Sierra Mountain Center

Bardini Foundation

Avalanche awareness

Avalanche Safety Resource Guide

American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE)

Sierra  Avalanche Center

US avalanche centers

Mt. Shasta Avalanche Ctr. – Shasta Lassen

Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center:
Tioga Pass to Mt Whitney, Yuba Pass to Somnora Pass

Backcountry Library: Guide books

Backcountry Skiing California’s High Sierra, John Moynier – amazon

50 Classic Ski and Snowboard Summits in California: Mount Shasta to Mount Whitney / Edition 1, Paul Richins – amazon

Wild Snow: 54 Classic Ski and Snowboard Descents of North America, Louis W. Dawson – amazon

Technique and skills

Allen and Mike’s Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book, Revised and Even Better, Allen O’Bannon, Mike Clelland – amazon

Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, Don Graydon and Kurt Hanson – amazon


Tahoe Backcountry Alliance

Winter Wildlands Alliance

Protect Our Winters