Medical Alert: Dealing with unexpected emergencies in the mountains

Physical injuries—otherwise known as trauma—get a lot of attention in backcountry first aid. But there’s a whole other realm of dangerous and deadly emergencies that skiers and riders should be aware of and prepared to manage. We spoke with Nicholas Kanaan, an emergency physician based in Salt Lake City, Utah with a background in wilderness medicine, to learn more.

Mountain Skills: Phone Frenzy

Given the range of possibilities cells phones offer, what are the best and safest ways to use them when headed out of bounds?

Mountain Skills: Cody Townsend Ditches Deviance

What do space shuttles and backcountry skiing have in common? According to freeride skier Cody Townsend, it’s a relationship that stems from an explosion and a theory. Better yet, he’s adapted a method of assessing off-piste risk based on that relationship.

Mountain Skills: Digging doesn’t need to be the pits

Analyzing snowpack starts before you leave for a tour and only ends when you’re safely back home. After reading the morning’s forecast, digging a snow pit in the field can better enhance your understanding of they day’s snow stability. But without a process for gathering and implementing upon the information pits present, digging and analyzing a pit’s layers can be tedious. Here are a few tips to streamline the process, so you can gather information in a timely and informative manner.

Mountain Skills: Social Media vs. Snow Safety

Given the prevalence of social media in our lives, it can be difficult to filter out the good information from the bad, and it’s important to remember that social media is a small snapshot of a greater picture. While there can be negative consequences from reacting to this medium, there are also positive takeaways. Here is how to use it to your advantage in the backcountry.

Mountain Skills: Good, Better, Beacon Practice

We all know we should practice avalanche rescue more, but making it happen can be a sizable hurdle. Sometimes we try to bust out a couple laps in “search mode” at the beginning of the season to dust off the cobwebs. Other times, we’re lucky enough to have access to a beacon park at the local resort, presenting a chance to practice our skill set before heading to more dangerous terrain.

Mountain Skills: Understanding Alpha Angles

Picture this: You’re skiing across low angle terrain, but need to traverse below a steep open face with no cover. Your avalanche awareness bells start chiming, “Danger!” so you decide to ski out of your way to remain clear of the possible slide path. But there are no trees around to give clues about where you’ll be safe if it slides. So how far is “far enough” from the suspect slope?

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: The Importance of Higher Ed

It’s no secret that even good things go stale—from relationships to that loaf of bread you forgot about in your cupboard. The same applies to our understanding of avalanches: how we analyze and approach them has changed dramatically over time.

Mountain Skills: Planning a trip to an offbeat location requires more than Google

Chamonix. Hokkaido. Portillo. Certain locations are synonymous with international ski travel, meaning resources for trip planning are as plentiful as some places can be crowded. But what about planning a trip to Kosciusko, Aoraki, Vielha or some other little-spoken-of locale with limited beta, few available maps or no guidebooks? Where do you start?

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