When he's not backcountry skiing, Dave Waag is a search and rescue volunteer and editor of Off Piste magazine. He knows a thing or two about what happens when things go wrong. So before the northern hemisphere's snow season kicks off, we asked him to list five tips for staying safe and injury free.
The snow is coming and you're itching to get out there. But are you really ready? Consider the following golden rules before you load up and start ripping down.
1. Give your gear some love
Is your ski stuff in the same corner where you piled it at the end of last season? Take the time to pull it out and give it the once over. Wash your Gore-Tex with a product like Nikwax that renews the durable water repellent coating (DWR). It really works.
Consider remoulding your boot liners for a renewed comfy fit or to address hot spot issues from last season – today’s heat-formable liners can be moulded annually provided there are no tears in the outer material.
If you’re headed for the backcountry, check your electronic gear, whether that's an avalanche beacon or GPS. Did you pull the batteries out last spring? Now’s the time to install new ones and check its functionality.
2. Know the forecast
Old Man Winter is unforgiving. Read the mountain weather forecast and plan accordingly. Too many search and rescue calls are the result of poor planning and underestimating the power of Mother Nature. Just because you planned to go, does not mean you have to go.
Some days are best spent enjoying the confines of that mountain village, while others are made for backcountry adventure. Be prepared to adjust your plans according to what the weather delivers.
3. Make good decisions
Don’t let your enthusiasm trump the conditions of the day. Always consider the snow conditions and avalanche hazard in your decision-making process, and always tell someone your plan for the day.
Remember, Aron Ralston [the guy who got trapped under a boulder and sawed his arm off to escape, a story immortalised in the Hollywood film '127 hours'] may have avoided his ordeal had he only told someone where he was headed.
4. Take it easy
There’s no sense ending your season before it begins. Consider your fitness, skill level and objective hazards like the snow conditions before hucking off the nearest feature or climbing to the highest peak. Give your body — and snowpack — a chance to come into form before putting the pedal to the floor.
5. Keep it fun
It sounds simple enough, but the power of the human factor when making group decisions and choosing objectives has a way of pushing the envelope of ability and conditions of the day. Communicate with your ski partners and keep in mind you want to ski another day, not play one-upmanship.
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