It’s October, and you’ve already booked a hut week in the Monashees, a yurt trip in the Sawtooths or a weekend in the Wasatch. But how will you know what conditions will be like at, say, the end of February? And, more importantly, how can you be familiar with the snowpack and deal with avalanche conditions when you arrive in an unfamiliar backcountry zone?
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.
If you’re like most experienced backcountry skiers it’s been more than 50 backcountry days and a few years since your last avalanche course. According to Scott Schell, the program director for the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC), that’s not cool. So, in an effort to fill the avy education gap, Schell developed an affordable way for Seattle skiers to keep up on their avy training.
“We’re trying to create a new norm that really embraces avalanche safety skills,” says Tom Murphy, director of operations at the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE), of the Project Zero initiative. Project Zero aims to reduce the number of avalanche fatalities to zero. And the initiative’s latest project is a community-sourced video contest and education campaign called Know The Snow.
Beacons get all the glory. They’re expensive, tech-packed pieces of gear that backcountry users covet for finding partners and getting found. But shovels and shoveling deserve more credit. After all, when avalanche debris sets up like concrete, and your partner is buried deeply, your job doesn’t stop at pinpointing them with a fine search and a probe strike. Here’s a video of how to dig safe and dig fast.
Look at any beginner skinner, and you’ll likely see an act of distress akin to uphill roller-skating on black ice. Look at someone who’s been at it for a while, and they might appear as comfortable sidehilling a sheen of breakable crust as a child frolicking through a meadow. Here’s how to become that skinner.
When was the last time you dug a snow pit? During that Avy 1 course you took a few years back? On that one hut trip last winter to a zone you’d never skied before? Digging pits is often seen as time consuming, but, in reality, there’s no better way to understand the snowpack upon which you’re traveling. Here are four videos to refresh your skills.
Last April, pro skier KC Deane joined photographer Mason Mashon and friend Kye Peterson for a photo session near the Pemberton Icecap in British Columbia’s Coast Mountains. KC and Kye skied a test run, made several ski cuts on their intended line and dropped a cornice nearby to no hazardous effect. But when KC dropped into his intended line, he took a wild ride.