Whether you call it sidecountry or slackcountry, the value of resort-based backcountry skiing is obvious: wild snow, untracked lines and a new, deeper relationship with the snowy mountains. And it’s all the rage. Fast and quick forays into the deep end of nature’s snowy pool have a unique draw that doesn’t exist inbounds at most resorts. And for those who learn to swim, the rewards are worth it.
Several companies know this, and are making sleek, streamlined packs that are designed to carry essential avalanche equipment (beacon, shovel, probe) along with skis or snowboard, and still offer a little spare room to bring an extra layer, water and some sundries. Their low-profile design also makes them ideal for wearing onto chairlifts.
Most sidecountry packs range from a svelte 15 liters up to a more traditional 25-liter day pack. Also, most come with hydration compatibility, so whether you’re happy lapping up the inbounds terrain or searching for wilder experiences beyond the ropes, these packs will help you ski all day, from bell to bell.
Mammut Nirvana Ride 22
This intuitive clamshell design is clean and easy to manage. Built with a separate avy compartment for rescue shovel and probe, this svelte 22-liter pack is trim enough to use every day at the resort, but can accommodate slightly bigger objectives from the trailhead. The Ride can accept skis or snowboard for bootpacking, and features an insulated hydration sleeve and SOS label with emergency instructions.
First Ascent Vert
The upside-down teardrop shape is effective for a pack of this size. This 18-liter clamshell opens wide for easy access to extra layers or rescue gear. A clear, waterproof pocket for essentials lives on the inside of the main pocket. Ski and snowboard straps are stowable to retain a clean exterior that doesn’t get hung up while riding lifts. A waterproof pocket and insulated hydration system round out its core features. All zippers have longer cord extensions for ease of use with gloved hands.
Osprey Karve 16
Osprey’s designers spend a lot of time making packs that surpass expectations, and the Karve 16 provides ample proof of that. A comfy, thermo-sculpted back panel sheds unwanted snow, while diagonal lateral compression straps snugly hug the pack close to your body for an optimal skiing experience. The trim waist strap distributes the load equally over the hips for maximum comfort and dexterity, and external sleeves make use of limited material for quickly accessing the shovel handle and probe. A fully insulated sleeve keeps your hydration hose working on the coldest of days.
Deuter Provoke 16
The 16-liter Provoke features a single main compartment with designated shovel and probe sleeves, plus a hydration sleeve and zippered mesh pocket with key chain to keep everything organized. Compression straps double as a vertical snowboard carrying system, and also feature stowable straps for diagonal ski carry. The wide but nimble hipbelt distributes weight evenly for carrying skis and snowboard. Quick-hit emergency literature is located just above the hydration sleeve, and a single padded goggle pocket lives outside of the main compartment.
Marmot Sidecountry 20
Closest in size to the Ride, the Sidecountry 20 liter is a slightly more robust pack that can accommodate both ski and snowboards for longer bootpacks around the resort, but can handle longer trail-based backcountry projects as well. The clean design keeps straps to a minimum, and won’t get caught up riding chairlifts. The insulated hydration compatibility keeps your water source from freezing up on chillier days. One small, zippered pocket lives on the waistband to access lip balm or a quick snack while on the move.