Every year, more skiers and snowboarders are accessing off-resort and uncontrolled areas of the backcountry in pursuit of adventure and a truly unique experience. The payoff from a long skin up a remote ridge can be a once in a lifetime experience – just don't cut your lifetime short by being unprepared and foolish.
With Red Bull Cold Rush just a few days away, freeskier Tatum Monod spent some time in Revelstoke Mountain Resort, Canada brushing up on her avalanche safety skills at the resort's Avalanche Ranch. As one of the largest competitive backcountry ski events in North America, safety is a priority, with weeks of preparation, planning and maintenance going into ensuring the stability of contest zones. But where backcountry zones aren't this well maintained, the responsibility for safety falls on the individual.
Here, Monod shares a few key tips to consider before heading into the backcountry, in addition to completing proper safety training and certification with Avalanche Canada or similar international organisations.
1. Check the avalanche bulletin
Be aware of what the current weather forecast is before going into the backcountry, and also check out Avalanche Canada for up to date information on local conditions.
2. Get studying snow
Educate yourself about the layers of the snowpack.
3. Carry a beacon, shovel and probe and know how to use them.
Beacons, or transceivers, are worn close to the body and send out a radio signal that can be identified by other transceivers in the event of a burial. While a beacon will get you close to the buried target, a probe will help actually find them. Probes snap together like tent poles and can be used to poke through the snow in the area of a beacon signal. A shovel is key to speed up the digging process. Something lightweight and durable is best.
4. Be responsible for yourself
Acquire the knowledge to make your own decisions on backcountry travel and safety, don't put all your trust into other people and their decision making.
5. Have a game plan
Where is your exit point if a slope slides? How will you contact help outside if there is an emergency? Are there overhead hazards to be aware of? Make sure you know all these things.
6. Keep an eye on things
Make observations through the day. Be in tune with your surroundings.