It all starts here. Being able to travel safely in the backcountry requires strong foundational skills in snow travel, and Mike Zawaski's new book goes deep into the basics with a few gems for the experienced as well.
Part of the great Mountaineers Outdoor Expert series, Snow Travel is the perfect introduction to those just starting their backcountry journey, and a great review for those who have been doing it awhile. The book is divided into seven chapters covering gear, ascending, using your ice axe, descending, self-arresting, traversing/resting/other skills, and hazards and how to avoid them.
The chapters cover what their titles indicate, and there is very good photography accompanying each technique discussed. In gray boxes titled Learning from Experience, Zawaski provides helpful "No shit there I was, knee-deep in hand-grenade pins," relations of personal experiences that serve to effectively reinforce his points. The "other skills" chapter had a nice summary of how to carry skis and snowboards, as well as how to use them as climbing aids and how to put them on while on a steep slope. Kudos to the "ice axe throne" as well, which was new to us!
The book provides only very basic information about avalanche safety, and almost nothing about rope techniques or glacier travel, but there are plenty of good books in the same series on those topics. Snow Travel maintains a tight focus on walking on snow with good technique, crampons and axe, and for that it is a great book and well worth the nominal price.