Know Before You Go – A Message About Going In The Backcountry

November 25, 2015 D'Arcy McLeish

The backcountry is a wonderful and dangerous place. As soon as you leave the relative safety of the ski resort, there is an increase in risk. Over the last five years we’ve seen more and more folks heading out of bounds in that never ending search that skiers and riders know so well; the search for deep, untracked turns away from the crowds. But the mountain environment is never to be taken lightly. There are myriad risks out there that don’t exist in your local resort. Nor is there the safety net of being with a trained and qualified guide in a heliski or ski touring operation.

This Is Why We Go Into The Mountains. Booya.   Photo - Dave Silver
This is why we go into the mountains. Booya.
Photo – Dave Silver

With that increase in traffic, and don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that more folks are heading out into the mountains, has come an increase in avalanche incidents across North America. For those of us that work in the mountains, we are all too familiar with what can happen when something goes wrong. The snow doesn’t pass judgement on anyone. It’s an equal opportunity day wrecker. The key to surviving out there is managing the risk.

One Of The Best Ways To Manage Your Risk Out There Is To Hire A Guide. At Last Frontier Heliskiing, All Our Guides Are Certified By The Acmg And Have Spent Their Lives Looking At The Snow.  Photo - Hidehiko Chiyasu
One of the best ways to manage your risk out there is to hire a guide. At Last Frontier Heliskiing, all our guides are certified by the ACMG and have spent their lives looking at the snow.
Photo – Hidehiko Chiyasu

Recently, the Colorado and Utah Avalanche Centres, in cooperation with Avalanche Canada, Travis Rice, Redbull Media House, Sherpas Cinema and host of other players in the snow industry released a short film about managing risk in the backcountry. It’s one of the better educational pieces I’ve seen in the last few years and it’s an absolute must watch for anyone, from the joe to the pro, who is planning on spending time in the mountains this winter.

The Mountains Can Give And Take Away, So Learn About Them. Learn About The Snow And Managing Your Own Risk.  Photo - Jun Yanagisawa
The mountains can give and take away, so learn about them. Learn about the snow and managing your own risk.
Photo – Jun Yanagisawa

Entitled, Know Before You Go, the film discusses five critical things you need to do before heading out for your day in the backcountry. Everything from having the right gear, the training to use that gear, understanding the weather to paying attention to what you see when you’re out there with your buddies. The film is by no means a blessing to motor out there into the unknown, but it’s an awesome way to get acquainted with what you need to do to prepare yourself before you go. 

This Is What Skiing Is All About To Me.  Photo - Reuben Krabbe
This is what skiing is all about to me.
Photo – Reuben Krabbe

And that’s the critical part. Know before you go, other wise, don’t go. There’s no shame in staying home when the hazard rating is ‘High’. Further to that, there’s no shame in backing off an objective once you’re there. Avalanches happen. They are an all too terrible possibility in any steeper terrain with snow. So have a watch and do yourself a favour this winter: get educated. There are a bunch of different ways to do that, from watching this film to taking an avalanche course to hiring a guide the next time you want to get out for some fresh turns. Just don’t motor off without the proper equipment, training and knowledge necessary to affect good decisions in the mountain environment.

Be safe, ski hard.