Think you’re the skinning shizzle? Pah! Bet you’ve not even been winter camping. FWT skier and backcountry beast Neil Williman tells you how to go deeper, further, and… better!
Neil up above Axams, near Innsbruck, his home town for three seasons | Photo Tom Platts
1. Mt Cook, New Zealand
The key here is getting a biplane in, so you can carry enough supplies for a week or more. Yes, you can hike, skin and climb in from the valley, but not with much kit and you need it as where we’re staying – Kelmin, my favourite hut – is not catered or staffed.
So save up, get air-dropped on top of the glacier and keep your energy for skiing the huge walls that jut out of the valley. In good condition this place is absolutely world class, with a load of high quality 1000m peak or shoulder descents in return for five or six hours’ work.
2. Aleyska, USA
If you get good weather, Alaska is incredible and this Girdwood resort is a great base to explore the Chugach mountain range. I was there two years ago and we got lucky with four sunny powder days in a week, so I’m desperate to get back. If you’ve no budget for heli or cat, touring is the answer. And it can be so, so good. Especially if you can punch 20 or 30 miles in via sled and then winter camp. Most people go too late, waiting until everywhere else is done. But I’d aim for March or even February and more stable snow conditions.
3. Axamer Lizum, Austria
This is my third season living in Innsbruck. I love Axams as it’s so close, just a short bus ride from the city. It’s hardly a secret though, so you need to go further for the best lines. Tour for two hours or more from this resort and the effort-to-reward ratio is perfect. There are plenty of high-quality, north-facing couloirs and you get great fresh lines even a few days after new snow, and even if the mountain is very busy.
4. Temple Basin, New Zealand
The vibe is amazing here and the terrain too, representing all that’s best about the New Zealand club field ski scene. I love it so much I’ve made it my adopted NZ home resort. And I’d not actually call it that. More half resort! In a good way. No cars, not many tourists, not much infrastructure bar some rope tows and lodges. But if you can tour and skin you can access world-class options that are pretty easy to get to. I couldn’t tell you how many days I’ve skied here. Lots!
5. Revelstoke, Canada
The weather can be unpredictable, and the secret is out with the whole ski world now knowing about Revy, but it gets such a good quantity of snow and the lines are so rowdy it’s definitely worth it. Some of the best touring is at Rodgers Pass, but last time I was here, filming with Whiteroom Productions, we just went out the back of the resort and poached all the cat skiing area. I’m not sure what the rules are on this, but it was great! Mount Sale near Revy Dam is really good too, but you need a sled.
Neil Williman’s sponsors include Fischer, Surfanic, Planks, Pieps, GoPro and Komperdell.