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by Ethan Shaheen December 01, 2021 3 min read


It All Started With Outdoor Education

I often get asked where my love for the outdoors came from– most assume I grew up camping and exploring the outdoors with my family. As fun as my parents are, hiking many kilometers and sleeping in a tent isn’t their ideal weekend of fun. Outdoor Education was an optional course in junior high and my teacher during that time really sparked my interest for camping, hiking, biking, all varieties of skiing, and most importantly safe practices on any adventure. This gave me the foundation of knowledge and a glimpse into the endless possibilities that our beautiful mountains offer us right in our own backyard. 

Hiking has always been one of my favourite activities, and backcountry trips in particular. It gives you the opportunity to explore wild landscapes and go places not many others frequent. The winter months limit the options for day hikes due to snow/ice conditions and accessibility, and, to be honest, I’m not sure I’m ready to take on camping in -20 degrees. This is where my interest for backcountry skiing began! I saw it as a door to more accessible winter hiking and a really fun way to get back down to the car. I took my AST 1 in January of 2020 and have been itching to get more experience since. While I tried to assure myself ski touring was for me, I stuck to renting gear before committing to my own set up. However, during the pandemic there were limited options for gear rentals which made my ski touring days limited last year. I was lucky to get out for a day on the Red Skis with Adam and Cam, and although they aren’t advertised as their backcountry ski, I still found them very light and great for coasting in the freshies. 

Have you considered giving touring a try?! I recognize it’s a big investment if you truly want to commit to it, but you don’t have to go all in right off the bat. There are a handful of places in the Calgary and the Bow Valley area renting gear again that can give you the opportunity to get out without having to put in the upfront cost immediately. As always though, safety comes first and you should take your AST 1 before venturing off into the backcountry amongst any avalanche terrain. Below are a few great places to take  your AST1 or rent gear to get out this winter!

AST1 Course DONE

AST Courses:

Yamnuska Mountain Adventures (Calgary) – Day 1 Online Classroom, Day 2 in the field (typically Bow Summit) $250

University of Calgary – Day 1 Online Classroom, Day 2 in the field. $250 

Avalanche Canada lists certified AST1 courses throughout Alberta and BC here! 

Gear Rentals:

Calgary Outdoor Centre (University of Calgary) –Items are rented individually. Sum of the gear for a one-day rental is ~$80

Gear Up (Canmore) – Day rental for skis/splitboard/avi gear is $60/$65/$25

MEC (Calgary downtown) – Unfortunately they still aren’t renting, but keep your ear out for when they do again. I found this location and deal the best because you can pick up after 3pm the day before your adventure and return by 1pm the day after and only be charged for a one-day rental. The entire get-up (skis, skins, boots, poles, avi safety set) is ~$55

I’m excited to head into this ski season on my own pair of Reds and really put them and my touring skills to the test!

See you on the switch backs!

- Jenn M. 

Paradise Skis

In The Backcountry

Ethan Shaheen
Ethan Shaheen

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