"But really, it's not that much fun. I mean, who wants to go out into a spectacular mountain range in perfect weather and have it all to themselves for a week or more, gliding along over a silky smooth blanket of sparkling white, knowing that you are enjoying a truly rare privilege to see what you are seeing?"
You know, now that you put it like that, I think I might just stick to summer backpacking. ;-)
It sounds like we're all likeminded on this board as far as the reason for skiing in the backcountry. As for winter camping, I already started following your advice last year Paul. :) I went camping in Mammoth just a couple hundred yards off the side of the road. It taught me a lot of valuable lessons as far as gear and techniques were concerned. it opened my eyes to fresh snow as opposed to old snow, and I learned a lot about fire starting, cooking, and keeping water from freezing. It was a very cold and somewhat miserable experience, and I also learned a bit about proper sleeping gear (who would have thought that the pad plays such a key role...haha).
Luckily, what I lack in the ski experience department, I make up for a bit in navigation. I've completed the Army's advanced land nav course at Ft. Hunter Liggett, part of which was at night (no GPS's allowed). At night and in the redwoods, as many of you local guys know, is "navigating by brail" as my buddy used to say, in regards to terrain feature recognition. After 15 years (and counting) on SAR, I've had to become pretty decent on this. Plus, as a K9 handler tracking people in the woods I use nav skills almost weekly. But still, winter and snow will bring a new element to it that I'm excited to learn about. I'm definitely not one of those guys that knows everything about a subject, and I can't wait to learn more.
Avalanche skills are something I know absolutely nothing about (I did just read the recent article here on it). I'm looking forward to getting some training and skills on the subject.
Thanks for all the great tips, links, and advice you guys. Please keep it coming. I'm sure I'm not the only one who appreciates the information and is looking to get into this exciting new hobby.