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Safety In The Backcountry

Posted by Abby Cooper on
Photo: Abby Cooper

A journey to powder through mountainous terrain complete with adventure, views, fresh air, ideally good company and finished with face shots – this is why backcountry skiing is trending. Golden, BC is home to some of the best backcountry skiing/snowboarding opportunities in North America, and we’re keen to share it with you, but first make sure you’re ready for what awaits.

Whether it’s your first backcountry mission or you’re a seasoned backcountry user, it’s important to return to the basics and brush up on your skills. Where to start for the first time or for a refresher? Right here.

ESSENTIAL GEAR

  • Transceiver: An avalanche transceiver has both transmit and receive capabilities used for avalanche rescue. Three antenna beacons are standard now. If you’re using less than three it is time for an upgrade. If you are in the market for a transceiver Avalanche Safety Solutions, Higher Ground Sports and the Dogtooth Climbing Gym have plenty in stock to choose from. If your transceiver was in storage during the summer with the batteries installed, check to make sure the contact points haven’t corroded and in the future store without batteries installed. Check your transceiver manufacture online to see if there are any software updates or recalls for your model 1-2 times a season.  
  • Probe: A length of three meters is standard, we always hope for a deep snowpack so be prepared with a three-meter probe. After a season in storage check where the wire bends to make sure it’s not rusty from trapped moister in your pack.
  • Shovel: get reacquainted with your shovel or choose a new shovel that has a comfortable grip and fits in your bag.

Additionally SUGGESTED GEAR

  • First Aid Kit: medical tape, blister kit (disks and moleskin), gauze pads in various sizes, medical gloves, antibacterial/alcohol wipes, painkillers, Benadryl and an emergency dose of sugar (tablets or goo packs work well). Ideally, all of this is in a waterproof bag.
  • Repair Kit: multitool, zip ties, duct tape, lighter, fire starter, wire, extra screws or parts specific to your gear.
  • Snow Saw: A bone saw that can cut snow, branches and is light is ideal.
  • Communication: spot device or satellite phone.
  • Bivvy: sil-tarps are small, light and have multi purpose.
  • Layer: It’s a good idea to have a designated extra layer in case of an emergency. A compact synthetic down is ideal.

Having the right gear is important; equally important is knowing how to use that gear. An AST (Avalanche Safety Training) course is a great place to start, but knowing your gear inside and out means practicing on your own and with friends until it is second nature. Education helps to teach you not only how to use your gear but also how to navigate to avoid backcountry hazards – regardless, feeling confident you can respond timely in an incident is curial for yourself and your partners. Want to take it a step further? After AST1 and AST2 push your skill set to include crevasse rescue or technical terrain management. Here are a few local resources to get you acquainted or reacquainted with your gear and terrain management in a formal setting.

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES

Online resources are extremely easy to access provide you with up to date forecasts and conditions. Here are a few that you can flag on your browser for easy monitoring.

REGIONAL TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES

The backcountry is a wild place filled with untapped adventure and equal opportunity for havoc. Proper preparation will give you the smarts, the gear and the right attitude to explore the backcountry for seasons to come! Stop by Higher Ground Sports to get local maps, backcountry gear or ask one of the friendly staff about some powder stashes. Happy exploring! 

Abby Cooper

A lover of all things outdoors, Abby Cooper is a splitboarder, hiker, adventurer, year round snow seeker, photographer and writer. She's living life one adventure to the next with her dog by her side. 

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