Backcountry skiing is hard.
It’s worth letting that simple statement rest by itself, because just as backcountry skiing is about using fancy sticks to go up and down hills, the meanings of hard have infinite variation.
When the snow is good, like it has been the past four weekends, skiing can be easy. When the snow is a bit funky, like it was today, things are a bit harder. And nightmare snow conditions make backcountry skiing into the most frustrating outdoor activity I’ve ever experienced. By a fair margin, over even the worst bushwacking.
The terrain upon which the snow rests is equally variegated; bad snow can make simple terrain impossible, and good snow (lots of it) can make impossible terrain easy. And everything in between. Throw in altitude, a necessary constituent of skiing, and you can experience an impressive range of conditions and challenges to your skills in the course of 30 minutes. Which is of course what happened today.
I picked a drainage almost at random, the goal being merely to get out, get some exercise, see some stuff, and do some ski practice. Only way to get better is to get amongst it, a lot. I followed a goofy, bushwacking skin track from earlier that day. Those folks work was much appreciated when things steepened and I was able to fly up the already set booter. I ended my ascent at 6500′, fearful of getting too high and up into serious avalanche terrain. For the first 1000′ there was close to a foot of settled powder over the solid crust, and the steep little chute into which I dropped was fast, fun and easy. As I lost altitude, the snowpack got smaller, the snow got less uniform, and powder layer got thinner, and the terrain got more interesting.
See the line? Such as it was, anyway. A good learning experience, in extensive side slipping and panic turns.
There’s always more to learn.