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Backcountry Skiing FAQ

Filed in Uncategorized by on October 20, 2017

What is the difference between alpine, cross-country, and backcountry skis?
Alpine skis are great for lift-service ski areas because of their locked down heels, wide bases and metal edges. Little to no flat terrain is encountered with this equipment.   Cross-country skis are great for moving over flat to rolling terrain because the equipment is light and kick-and-glide or skating techniques make for efficient travel. Cross-country skis work best on groomed track or on low-angle trails. Ski bases can be waxed or come with textured ‘fish scales.’ Both offer forward glide with minimal backward slide.

Backcountry skis, whether telemark or alpine touring (AT), or randonee, are the best of both styles. They allow a skier to maneuver on flat, rolling or sloped (downhill and uphill) terrain thanks to metal edges and a free-heel climbing position.

Telemark skis have a cable binding with a fully free heel that makes for efficient climbing and a graceful ‘tele’ turn descent. Alpine touring skis have a binding that can be released to allow for for free hill climbing, but then locked down for alpine-style descents.

I’m new to backcountry skiing – is that OK?

If you’re new to backcountry skiing, going on a custom tour with a private guide is a great way to be introduced to the skills, equipment, and terrain that make up the backcountry experience. Your guide will offer tips on efficient backcountry travel – from setting an up-track to removing skins – and will select a tour that complements your skiing ability.

Shouldn’t I be worried about avalanches? 

Colorado’s snowpack is notoriously unstable at times and demands your full attention and respect. The potential for avalanches is always our number one safety concern. Big lines in steep terrain in mid-winter is not what we offer. We select conservative routes that are appropriate to the condition of the snowpack, time of year, and size of group. Our guides have a minimum Level II certification from the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE). From December through March, Paragon Guides announces the daily avalanche report, issued from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, on KZYR 97.7 FM. We require that all participants wear a beacon and carry a shovel and probe. We provide this equipment on our custom tours and hut trips. Equipment is available for rental if you’re participating on a scheduled Paragon Ski Club tour.

What are climbing skins? 

hutsystem2Climbing skins are used on both Telemark and AT skis for uphill travel. Skins are simply a strip of bristled nylon or natural mohair that attaches to the base of the ski. The skin allows the ski to slide forward and grip so that you don’t slip backwards. They’re kind of magical! Once you’re ready to descend, you remove the skins, fold them, and stow them in your pack or jacket until you need them again.

What skis do I need for a backcountry tour? 

You have two choices: a backcountry ski with a telemark binding (and telemark boot), or a backcountry ski with an alpine touring (AT) binding (and AT boot). Telemark set-ups allow the skier’s heel to be free both climbing and descending. If you’re new to backcountry skiing, telemark skiing can be challenging to learn without first spending time at a resort. For this reason, alpine skiers who are new to the backcountry often prefer AT equipment, which allows for free-heel climbing and locked heel descending. Paragon Guides’ runs the Vail Valley’s only Dynafit Test Center, exclusively renting and retailing Dynafit AT boots, skis, and skins. Telemark packages are also available for rental at our Backcountry Center.

Backcountry Fly Fishing

Filed in Summer Day Tours by on May 8, 2017

Join us for a backcountry fishing experience unlike what you might find on the bigger rivers. Our guides have been hiking and wade fishing our local small streams, beaver ponds and lakes for many years and are looking forward to sharing these places with you. There are “drive to” and “hike to” options throughout the Vail area. Come discover the other side of Vail fishing.


Small streams provide the angler with less intimidating wading so you can focus on fishing for brookies, browns, and native cutthroat trout. If you are new to fly fishing, our guides can show you the basics. If you are a seasoned “trout bum,” come explore the pools and riffles with us.

What You Get

  • Guides: Maximum participant to guide ratio of 3:1 
  • The Day: Trip length is from lodging pickup to drop-off. Full day is 5-7 hours, Half Day is 3-4 hours
  • Transportation: We will pick you up and drop you off
  • Food: Snacks are provided on the Half Day trips. Lunch is provided on the Full Day trips.
  • Gear: Fly rods, waders, and tackle included
  • Rental: We rent rods and waders for self-guided trips. $20 each or $25 for both per day
  • Not Included: Colorado Fishing License (one day license available at local shops or online: Under the age of 16 does not require a license

Why Paragon Guides

  • Experience: Paragon has been guiding in the Vail backcountry since 1978.
  • Reputation: The majority of our participants come back year after year. Click HERE to see what our previous clients think about us.
  • Terrain: We have one of the most extensive permits in the White River National Forest including both the Holy Cross and Eagles Nest Wilderness areas.
  • Time: Save time by letting us plan your day. Your vacation has enough going on.


# of Persons Half Day Full Day
1 $295 $435
2 $185 ea $270 ea
3 $160 ea $210 ea

Note: For groups of 2-3 participants, an additional guide is often hired to provide for more individual instruction and assistance; cost is $100 for a Half Day and $200 for a Full Day.