Backcountry skiing & splitboarding: a few practical and planning tips
Even though splitboarding and backcountry skiing have been gaining popularity for a number of years already, the Covid19 restrictions have dramatically accelerated its further growth. Infection risk in crowds and closed resorts have left winter sports fans yearning for an alternative way to enjoy fresh snow and achieve that amazing sense of freedom and fulfilment that the backcountry provides.
One of our favourite destinations is Høgevarde, only two hours drive from Oslo. It is a relatively quiet mountain plateau that is linked to the more famous and crowded Norefjell area, and because of its north-east orientation, it often has better snow conditions. The terrain is very open and therefore easier and safer to navigate. There are many alternative routes to the top, and only very few avalanche prone areas. Høgevard is a relatively prominent summit and provides a 360 degree panorama towards iconic Gaustatoppen, Jotunheimen and Hardangervidda, amongst others.
I usually park the car and start the ascent from Gulsvikseteren, around 950masl. The climb to the summit at 1459m takes about 1,5 hours and if you feel like it, you can easily take one or two extra laps up and down in a day. As mentioned previously, there are several safe routes up and down, and snow usually is of good quality as winds blowing from the south-west deposit snow on the northeast oriented leeward side of the mountain. The blue itinerary is the most obvious and safest way to the top - the purple routes are fun alternatives for the ride down, if you want to explore a bit more terrain than by descending the way you came up. Just make sure you adapt your route to the snow conditions and don’t venture in avalanche prone terrain or run-out zones.
Check it out - I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!
All the best,
Christophe - Ulvang Brand Manager
A few tips when planning your first backcountry ski or splitboard trip:
- Start safe and easy. It’s better to get a few easy trips under your belt to gain experience than to risk pushing yourself and not enjoy the activity to the fullest extent. Picking an area you know is also advantageous, as it makes the planning process a lot easier.
- Plan your route carefully with a topographic map (app) and look for a plan A and B and perhaps even C, where B and C are more conservative than your preferred A route. Ut.no and Varsom have great maps and are free of charge. Safe itineraries can be found in books such as Fri Flyt’s ‘Trygge Toppturer’.
- If you plan a route in Norway, use the Varsom Regobs app, which illustrates the steepness of the hill sections that you plan your route on. In general, if you stay in areas that are under 30 degrees steep, and away from potential avalanche runout zones, you should be safe. The Varsom app cleverly visualises both steepness with a color gradient going from no color (under 30 degrees) to green, yellow, orange and red depending on the terrain’s gradient.
- Check out the weather forecast for the area you’re visiting and use the Varsom app or site to get the latest information on snowpack and avalanche conditions.
- Share your plan with others in case you’re taking the trip alone - and preferably go with a group of experienced riders the first times you’re venturing in the backcountry.
- We hope to meet you at High Camp Vatnahalsen - one of Norway's annual tourski and splitboard gatherings with guided hikes, fun side activities and cosy socializing opportunities.
- Borrow gear from friends, buy second hand or rent via specialized services such as Vandre.no, Bua.io, Finn.no.
- It’s always better to pack one or two extra layers than running out of dry / warm gear if the weather suddenly requires. Here are some tips on how to layer up properly.
- Never set out in the backcountry without an avalanche beacon, probe and shovel.