Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Backcountry Awareness Week

The lure of the skiing in the backcountry is unmistakable.  The thought of endless fresh lines, earning your turns and getting away from the crowds is enticing to more and more athletes.  I am one of those athletes.  Earn your turns is a mantra that not only makes for fun times in Utah's mountains, but makes for great exercise and instant adventure.  Not to mention the money saved on lift tickets.

But the draw of the backcountry should never overshadow the real dangers that exist out there.  People die in avalanches.  Experienced and novice alike take too much risk and end up at the bottom of a slide.  But even the most careful BC travelers can get caught.  Its just the nature of being out there.  While the risks of BC skiing can be mitigated, its important to understand the risk of avalanche is never 100% gone.

When I started BC skiing about 7 years ago, one of the first things I did was go to an avy awareness class.  These classes are usually free and cover the basics of BC travel.  There are plenty of opportunites to get more advanced training as well. In Utah, the best resource for any and all of this info is the Utah Avalanche Center.  Even though I only make it out skiing 10 times a year or so, I usually check the avy forecast daily.  It gives me a great history and background of the conditions and I'm able to take note of the season's trends.

For anyone going out into avalanche terrain, whether its snowshoeing, snowmobiling or skiing, don't go without 4 crucial and bare minimum pieces of equipment:  shovel, beacon, probe and a partner.  The real key is knowing how to use those things as well.

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I've taken some time to test my beacon at beacon parks at the local resorts.  If I have a friend buried,  I really don't want to be fooling around with equipment I'm not familiar with.  The practice ans training in my opinion is part of the joy of being out there.

You also have to be prepared to not ski.  I've been out before where we skied less than exciting terrain, simply because we felt conditions were too dangerous.

Local TV station KSL actually has a good piece this week about BC travel. Check it out below. Not only does it feature my favorite weather lady Jodi Saelan, but its a great starting point for anyone wanting to go out of bounds.

There's so  much to explore out there.  Keep it wild and keep it safe.

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