Backcountry skiing is an aspect of the sport that is growing in popularity and it’s easy to see why! It embodies the spirit of exploration and alpine travel. It can be dangerous, but with the right equipment, attitude, and best practices, it can be a wonderful lifelong sport. I love backcountry skiing because of the simple movement and the ability to transport myself uphill under the power of my own feet.
It can seem overwhelming to get into, but once you understand the rescue equipment and develop a routine, you’ll feel more comfortable. It’s all about having a checklist and a process to make sure you don’t forget crucial equipment. I like to think of myself as a pilot and have layers of redundancy built into my safety measures. As a pilot, a mistake can be fatal, and your mistakes can put others at risk. It takes training and constant vigilance.
An example of this: I never go backcountry skiing without my avalanche beacon, probe, and shovel. At the trailhead, I always do a beacon check to make sure my beacon and my partner’s beacons are turned on and functioning. This is a safety step I never forget.
Checking beacons at the trailhead is an important step because it starts the day with everyone on the same page knowing that safety is the first priority. With safety equipment comes the responsibility of knowing how to use it. Before heading into the backcountry, make sure you educate yourself on the dangers of avalanche travel. Start by taking a course, hiring a guide, or finding a mentor. A great place to start is by watching the “Know Before You Go” series.