Backcountry Skiing Beginner's Guide

Backcountry skiing is an inspiring activity. In Australia, it is unique, with a landscape and scenery unlike anywhere else in the world. The Ski Resort areas in Australia are limited to around 1% of the snow covered terrain. So when you start backcountry skiing you begin to explore the other 99%.

As a sport, it is a great way to get outside and explore the mountains, and it's a great workout. It might be daring and there are some inherent risks, but with proper equipment and preparation, it can be an incredibly rewarding and safe experience.

backcountry skier beginner climbing the mountain

What is Backcountry Skiing?

Backcountry skiing, you may be surprised to learn, is "skiing in the backcountry", away from groomed trails and lift-serviced ski areas. Backcountry skiing can be done wherever there is enough snow cover to allow your skis to slide.

If you are a first-time backcountry skier you should be aware of the risks and take the necessary precautions before venturing into the backcountry. Backcountry skiing can be challenging and potentially dangerous, but with the right planning, preparation and guiding, it can be a truly memorable and inspirational experience.   

group of backcountry skiers climbing up the mountain

Start easy

If you have no experience with backcountry skiing it is better to start with some easier trips before progressing to harder ones. It's important to get a feel for the equipment and the terrain before venturing into more difficult areas. Always check the snow conditions avalanche forecast even when you think it is low risk. Of course, taking a guided trip is the best introduction as all of your questions about gear, technique and safety can be answered by someone with experience. Check out the best guiding services here.


Prepare your body for a day of backcountry skiing with some simple exercises. Backcountry skiing can be a strenuous activity, and it's important to warm up your muscles before heading out. Aid your knees by doing some squats, and practice standing on one leg to improve your balance. Some cardio will get your heart pumping and help you warm up for the day.

Where do you start

Backcountry skiing is all about exploring and finding new terrain. Obviously, you will need to be a competent skier who is not daunted by variable snow conditions. Once you're comfortable with the equipment and the basics of backcountry skiing, you can start with a few short trips just to test your legs and your skills. K7 Adventures offers introductory backcountry trips from Thredbo.

Safety tips

When venturing into the backcountry, you'll need to go with someone who is familiar with the area. It's important to have someone who knows the terrain and can help you to avoid getting lost or injured. Sudden shifts in weather conditions and avalanche risk are both considerations when planning a backcountry trip. Make sure to check the weather and avalanche forecast before heading out, and be sure to tell someone where you're going.

What do you need for backcountry skiing

There are various things needed for backcountry skiing, but the most important thing is to have the proper equipment. This includes your safety equipment, avalanche shovel, and avalanche beacons. Backcountry skis are different from traditional skis, and they're designed for skiing in variable snow conditions including deep snow. Backcountry boots are also different from traditional ski boots, and they're designed for comfort and flexibility. You can hire backcountry equipment from Wilderness Sports in Jindabyne or Rhythm Snowsports in Cooma.

backcountry skiing gear and equipment


A good pair of skis is essential for backcountry skiing. You'll want a pair that's lightweight and manoeuvrable, so you can navigate through the trees and powder. Heavy, bulky skis will just slow you down when climbing. Your skis can be paired with lighter-weight tech touring bindings.

Winter-ready clothing and equipment

The cold weather and remote locations make backcountry skiing a challenging winter sport. You'll need to prepare all your backcountry gear. Depending on the weather forecast you might want to include a lightweight survival shelter to get out of the wind for lunch stops, extra clothes, and food. You'll want to dress in layers when you go to the Australian backcountry. Fleece or wool layers will help you stay warm even when wet, and having plenty of zips in your outer layers for cooling down when you are climbing is a good idea.

A small sturdy backpack is a good idea since you'll be carrying around your backcountry equipment including all avalanche safety gear like shovels and avalanche probes. 


A good set of backcountry ski poles is convenient. These poles will help you with balance and they'll also help you push when climbing up hills, offering extra momentum. Experienced skiers use adjustable poles for better storage and because the length can be changed to suit the terrain. Often, longer poles are useful when climbing.


Bring ski boots to match your backcountry skis. With some bindings, you can use the same boots that you use for skiing in the resort but the best backcountry boots are very light and comfortable for a long day of skiing and climbing.


Bindings are what keeps you attached to your skis. but backcountry bindings also allow your boot heels to be freed for easier climbing and walking.


For more serious backcountry skiing, ski "skins" are used when climbing uphill, providing traction to stop the skis from sliding backwards. They are long strips with a texture much like fur that is smooth when you rub one direction but bristle in the other. The skins adhere to the skis with clips and a glue-like tackiness so they can be fixed and removed from the ski base quickly.

Backcountry Skiing in Australia

Here in Australia, we're lucky to have some spectacular and accessible backcountry terrain. You can start in Thredbo, from the top of the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift or from the nearby Dead Horse Gap Carpark. There is backcountry skiing terrain to suit for all levels of fitness, from easy walking on the snow-covered terrain out towards Mt. Kosciuszko, or more challenging downhill runs into areas like Bogong Creek and Leatherbarrell Gorge with tough but rewarding climbs back out. The Australian backcountry ski season usually starts sometime in June and goes until October or even into November in a good year.

skier enjoying the view of the snowy mountain

Backcountry tours

Having an experienced ski guide with you is the best way to go backcountry, especially if you're new to the sport. The guides have up-to-date information on snow conditions and avalanche risk and can take you to the best terrain for your skill and fitness level.

A guide can also offer advice on the equipment and clothing you will need for your trip so you can just focus on enjoying the experience.

Visit these backcountry tours to help you start off your adventure:

Start your Backcountry Skiing in Thredbo

Make your base camp in Lantern Apartments for backcountry skiing. Thredbo has a lot to offer when it comes to backcountry skiing. With over 35 kilometres of trails, you're sure to find the perfect route for your skill level.

And if you ever get tired of backcountry skiing, you can always take a break and enjoy the other activities that Thredbo has to offer.

accommodation in thredbo

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your backcountry ski trip today and enjoy a wonderful stay with Lantern Apartments. Contact us at