Pointers on Partners
All the same, here are some things to consider. Do they have the ten essentials in their pack plus a beacon, probe and shovel? Do they know how to use them? How will you know? Ski Ability
How well do they ski? This can affect the line you take, both up and down. Can they keep up with you, and vice versa, and will each of you be looking out for the other? My backcountry mentor wasn’t much of a skier, but he was solid. He never put himself in a precarious situation or made himself a liability to others. Even if he couldn’t flash a slope in style, he knew how to get down safely or find another way.
While it may not be accurate, gear does tend to indicate a level of experience. If they’re young and come with the heaviest bindings available on their skis, I get suspicious. If they’re using Dynafiddles or Switchbacks I assume a few years experience, but it never hurts to ask about how long they’ve been earning turns. Depending on how they answer, it can indicate their level of hubris or humility. If they’re on Targas or Cobras, I pity them.
In the long term, the qualities I look for in a ski buddy have more to do with their general attitude and perspective on life. While some prefer to avoid discussing topics on the skin track with depth, my favorite partners are more than willing to talk about stuff that matters. While this often includes discussions of the weightier subjects of life, I mostly look for people who can exchange advice on how to deal with the wife, the kids and the bills. Being able and willing to share, discuss, or carry on a civil debate is essential to being classified as a true ski buddy in my book.
While I like to think I can get along with most anyone on the skin track, I prefer those who share my preference for a meanderthal track with a slow but steady pace. Those who prefer a competitive pace cease to be partners because separation is inevitable.
Another aspect of a good partner is to have a set of skills that overlap, but not completely. It is far better to be with someone you can learn something from, whether that is improving your ski technique, avalanche assessment or even just the recommendation for a good mechanic, plumber or boot-fitter.
Topic du Jour
This article first appears in Telemark Skier magazine #20 (Volume 11, #4) and is reprinted with permission. Get your subscription to Telemark Skier mag here.