A Look At College Backcountry Clubs

By Peter Conti | Monday, October 31

Why do universities hesitate to fund student backcountry clubs?

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In today’s growing popularity of backcountry skiing, students are creating and joining backcountry clubs in droves. This poses a dillema for universities, because unlike on piste skiing, there are signifigantly more costs and saftey concerns involved.


Backcountry skiing is a dangerous sport, and that makes it a liability - something that most colleges shy away from, lest something happen that can be jumped on by the circling lawyers. Not only that, but it’s expensive. Presumably, the majority of students that would join backcountry clubs would have their own touring setups, but what if a club wants to have rental equipment - or rent a hut for a weekend? Schools with a limited budget for student activities are more liable to throw money at less exclusive activities, like a chess club, or a club based around resort skiing.


And clubs like those are a lot easier to get schools behind, because they remove a lot of the variabilities that are involved with backcountry skiing. Avalanche danger, inexperience, and group mentalities are mostly negated. So a proper backcountry club really has to make their case based on having experienced members. At my university's backcountry club, the popular saying among club officers is “We’re not guides”, and they can’t stress that enough. These club trips aren’t for learning, and there’s too many negatives to bringing people new to the sport.


But, backcountry clubs at universities are awesome ways to meet people that are just as passionate about the sport as anyone else. And if you are one of those newcomers, many clubs offer discounts on Avy classes and guide services, in order to promote membership and safety. And in a sport as exclusive as backcountry skiing, it’s nice too see this kind of welcoming attitude.


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