Mtn Guide Rob Coppolillo on Backcountry Travel, Education, & Gear (Ep.119)


  • The story behind Rob’s family name (2:03)
  • Growing up: skiing, hiking, climbing (3:40)
  • When did you start guiding? (5:33)
  • Rob’s first book: Holy Spokes (7:22)
  • 2nd Book: The Mountain Guide Manual (8:49)
  • New Book: The Ski Guide Manual (10:10)
  • “Decision Making” vs. “Snow Science” (16:27)
  • Most common “flawed decisions”? (23:00)
  • Avi packs & risk perception (28:36)
  • Most effective way to travel in the backcountry (36:30)
  • Where are you guiding most these days? (43:35)
  • 57 Hours as a backcountry safety tool (48:35)

Rob Coppolillo is an IFMGA / AMGA mountain guide who grew up in the Denver Colorado area, and currently lives in Chamonix, France. Rob is also the author of The Mountain Guide Manual (one of the official textbooks of the AMGA), and the forthcoming book, The Ski Guide Manual.

So we talked to Rob about his background and how he got into guiding; the current state of backcountry and avalanche education; his take on the pros and cons of avalanche airbag packs; and we get into the fundamental question of the most effective way to travel in the backcountry (aka, skin track angles).

Rob Coppalillo joins Jonathan Ellsworth on the Blister Podcast to talk about guiding.
Rob Coppolillo

3 comments on “Mtn Guide Rob Coppolillo on Backcountry Travel, Education, & Gear (Ep.119)”

  1. Love the insight on skin track angles. I’m prone to be doing rather steep angles myself, especially if there is not a lot of deep snow as I hate traverses on broad skis. Also too flat of a skin track sucks, especially in steeper terrain because it means more kick-turns.
    Totally agree on the snowshoeing point though, it utterly sucks and I’ll try to aim for the 12-14° angles for the rest of the winter.

  2. Wait, what’s wrong with kick turns?
    I’ve never done back country stuff or skinning, bit I’ll use a kick turns casually like whatever. So what’s wrong with them?

    • Hmmm, you’re doing kick turns but you’ve never been skinning? Then I’m not sure we’re talking about the same thing here.

      I think Rob explained this pretty clearly in the episode, but long and short: if a backcountry skin track is so steep that it requires kick turns, then you are likely exerting more energy than you need to or ought to in terms of moving efficiently in the mountains.

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