Mountain Skills: Travel Wisely

Spacing is the tactic people think they are most comfortable with, which leads to the answer, “One at a time.” The variable students forget to consider is the size of the hazard.

Mountain Skills: Hydrate or Die

We lose fluids through perspiration (sweating) and respiration (breathing). While ski touring, high elevation and drier air make this even more dramatic. And during the spring, warm weather further exaggerates the amount of fluid lost. Dehydration leads to a drop of performance—in stages from slowing down to bonking to needing medical attention.

Mountain Skills: Knowing When To Turn Around

As spring approaches, the days get warmer and the snow on the ground changes; the daily cycle of snow warming and freezing heals many of the deep instabilities that persisted throughout the winter; typical instabilities become easier to predict. And while wet avalanches—either slab or loose—are easier to predict and run more slowly, they can still pack a punch. Therefore, getting off a slope before it becomes dangerous is important.

Mountain Skills: Anticipating Point Release Avalanches

As the spring approaches, many of us turn our attention to steeper, more technical lines higher in the mountains. The layers of snow that formed throughout the winter begin to gain strength and the avalanche problem is less complicated—it’s ski mountaineering season! But as the temperatures climb, wet avalanches become a more regular, primary concern. […]

Mountain Skills: Skiing with Sharp Objects

Ski crampons, boot crampons and a simple ice axe should be a part of every backcountry skier’s kit. You won’t need them everyday, but knowing when and how to use them can greatly improve security and enjoyment. Here’s how.

Mountain Skills: Set a Plan and Stick to It

You’ve been playing it safe all day. Even though the avalanche bulletin called out “Considerable” hazard for the day (natural avalanches are possible and human-triggered are likely), you haven’t observed any signs of instability while skiing lower angled terrain in the trees. Close to where you’ve been skiing, there’s an untracked slope—and it’s only slightly […]

Mountain Skills: Exploring with Modern Navigation Tools

“My map and compass never have dead batteries.” This is the most common rationale I hear for not learning and adopting new technology. Film still works in cameras and the Postal Service still gets information from place to place, but there are better ways these days. The same is true for improving the way we tour plan and navigate. Here’s how to use modern navigation tools.

Mountain Skills: Making Better Observations

Turn to someone you trust—a more experienced friend or maybe a guide—and you’ll likely find out that they don’t dig too many pits, and they certainly never trust their life with the information gained in one snow pit. This disconnect can be confusing—after all, we learn to dig pits early in our education, but in reality most skiers don’t bother. Here’s when and how to dig to get the most information.

Mountain Skills: Budgeting Time for Success

Do you always carry a headlamp when skiing in the backcountry? Find yourself using it a little too often? Then you might want to figure out why you’re always late. Understanding how long it takes to travel through the mountains will help you summit more peaks, ski more powder, not be pushing it as darkness looms and get home when your friends and family expect you. Here are some techniques from a hypothetical outing that you can apply to your tours and adapt to your needs.

Mountain Skills: Get the Most Out of the Uphill

While backcountry skiing or riding, we tend to spend more time going up than going down. And, simply put, skinning done poorly is not fun. There are three primary ingredients to a good day of touring: establishing a proper pace, setting an appropriate skintrack angle and avoiding kick turns whenever possible. You’ve likely come into the backcountry to escape the rat race, so learn to enjoy the climb up and the whole experience will get a lot better. Here’s how.

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