Ah yes, snowhopper, the eternal dilemma: What to buy that backcountry skiing fanatic on your list. Forewith:
Grandma doesn’t understand what the word “shralp,” means, and thinks a pipe is something from the 1960s? Set her straight with a subscription to The Ski Journal. Works for all other ages as well.
Every backcountry skier should have a decent pozi-drive screw driver lurking in their junk drawer or glove compartment. Sure, they might have a pozi bit for the power driver, or a pozi in the repair kit. But having just a regular old screw driver with a pozi on the end is nice. Take my word for it. Slidewright has a a good one that’s made in Sweden by women with blue eyes, blonde hair, and an interest in male backcountry skiers. Make sure you explain that on the gift card, that is unless the giftee is a female backcountry skier, or your spouse. In either case, you might want to consider a much snazzier gift. So keep reading.
How about the perfect stocking stuffer? Get that backwoods slider a pile of lithium AA and AAA batteries. Just remember to remind her that liths work great in headlamps and FRS radios, but are not compatible with most avalanche beacons. I usually pick my lithiums up at Walmart, but sometimes catch them online if the price is right and shipping doesn’t stack up. Amazon can be a good bet.
6-Volt Lithium batteries here for those light headlamps like the Black Diamond Ion. Better yet, give them a light but bright headlamp that takes AAA’s, like BD’s Gizmo or Cosmo.
If your giftee gets lost in the wood, you might think satellites and a GPS will save him or her. But what if the batteries run out? At WildSnow we are proponents of always carrying a magnetic compass. If it’s somewhat likely it’ll get used, the Brunton 8040G is a good compromise between price, size and complexity. For something slimmer that’ll slip easier into the emergency kit, perhaps grab him or her a Kasper, and if that backcountry zealot is also a weight weenie, stick a Brunton Classic in the little tiny stocking and be done with it.
Can’t leave out the foodie part of the equation. What do you do for holiday backcountry trail treats? Answer: chocolate. Get a dozen of any one tasty chocolate treat. If you’re backcountry skiing with your sweetheart around Christmas, slip the chocolate out of your rucksack during that special moment, and it will become even more special!
You can’t have too many socks. But we just can’t bear up to sticking socks on a Christmas list. So considering the fact that backcountry skiers also can’t have too many gloves, may we suggest the lightweight OR Omni for those warm days — or really any day as a liner glove or for backcountry skiers whose hands tend to not need big beefy gloves. I actually wore these things to the summit of Denali, at 20 below zero F, and only put my overgloves on at the summit. But then, I’m blessed with super human blood flow in my digits due to early experiments with winter alpinism (as opposed to my feet, which are damaged goods).
Every stripe of alpinist (including backcountry skiers) should have the book “Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills” on his or her shelf — especially when starting out in the alpine arts. The book isn’t specific to backcountry skiing, but covers just about everything else related to safe alpine recreation. Truly an excellent gift, and even if a person has a copy, a new edition upgrade can be wise, as early editions become dated due to developments in gear and technique. Shop for “Freedom of the Hills”
Better check who else is gifting this one to your target recipient, or she might end up with three. But the book of the year is of course Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America. It’s $59.95 and you can shop for it here. Yes, pricey for a book but the fact that whoever reads it might quit her job and become a ski bum makes that okay. Why? Because the ski descents — are there.
Chances are your backcountry giftology subject has an avalanche transceiver. But you can always upgrade them, and if he doesn’t like the one you pick he can keep it around for their friends to borrow. But if you get him a shiny new avalanche beacon, he’ll be giving his friends his old beacon and proudly wearing the one you gave him ever so lovingly. The BCA Tracker is an affordable option, but beautifully functional and the Jackson Hole ski patrol’s beacon of choice. The Pieps adds features such as an altimeter, and has some mighty amazing functions for finding groups of buried avalanche victims. Of course, finding a bunch of people buried under the snow, as opposed to digging them out alive, are two very different concepts. But we’ll leave that debate for another day.
Want to spend some bucks? Any serious backcountry slider who uses AT gear can always rock another pair of Dynafit Bindings. The FTZ12/110 ($579.00) has the stronger toe spring, goes to RV 12 (including 11, thank you very much), and the wide 110 mm brake can be swapped for a narrower one if the wide option is unnecessary.
Since we’re working our way up to really pricey, I’ll confess to what to me is the ultimate gift for the backcountry skiing devotee. Forget PLB’s and Spot Messengers, just cut to the chase and get that maniac a satellite phone. My fave and the one I’m still using after getting it for our Denali trip last spring: The Iridium 9555. Durable, small and lightweight. Call from anywhere on the planet with a view of the sky (doesn’t work for caving, but what does?). You’re gonna spend about $1,200 on this guy, plus you’ve got to pop for around $500/year of airtime to keep it working (or go to a pricey per-minute plan that still has a monthly charge). But did I say this was cheap? It takes some coin to keep 66 active satellites (and a few spares) flitting around up there. They work pretty well, though during deep valley and canyon use you’ll find you get your talk time limited to chunks of three to six minutes (in my experience, anyway.)
Well, that’s it boys and girls! Be good.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.