Tools of the Trade: When, where and how to use your ice axe, crampons and rope

Jackson, Wyoming-based internationally-certified guide Mike Poborsky has three basic considerations when planning for a day out: Is the mountain going to fall on him? Will he fall into the mountain? Could he fall off the mountain? The first question helps him avoid avalanches, while the second two dictate what he needs for technical gear, like an ice axe, crampons or rope. For those looking to step into steep couloirs, onto exposed faces or around glaciated terrain where a slip could mean falling off or into the mountain, both carrying these tools and knowing how to use them is crucial.

Behind the Memes: Uphill Fiend share more than just jokes

Three years ago, an eight-year-old explained memes to me. I wish I’d written his definition down, because I’m sure that it was better than my own descriptions of the combinations of pictures and captions to create culturally relevant jokes. Now, in 2021, there are memes for every niche, from movies to politics to—you guessed it—backcountry skiing. In the past year, two anonymous memers under the Instagram handle Uphill Fiend have entertained us backcountry skiers and riders and now have over 10,000 followers. But the fiends have more to say than just poking fun at tele skiers and splitboarders. With ever posting, they take the time to think about how to educate the backcountry community and create a more inclusive space in the mountains.

Traslin Family Traditions

Andy Traslin first ventured into the backcountry as a teenager while on a family ski trip to Whistler, B.C., in the mid ’90s. Inspired by Scot Schmidt in Blizzard of Aahhh’s, he wandered out of bounds and started hiking along a ridge. “I just started walking randomly with no gear. It was definitely a learning curve,” he says. Mike, Andy’s older brother, remembers him heading off, adding, “We were like, where did Andy go? I guess he saw where he wanted to be and went and tried it.” This Forest Gump-like attitude of getting an idea in his head and going all in has earned Andy the nickname “Andy Gump” from his older brother. It’s also been a driving force for the brothers’ many endeavors, which for three decades have exemplified the sort of understated yet bold skiing for which the Sea to Sky is known.

Unstable Snowpack Nationwide: Forecasters talk what caused it, how do you manage it and when it will heal

In the vast majority of forecast zones, a weak snowpack has combined with a pandemic-driven uptick in backcountry use and excitement over fresh snow after prolonged dry spells. And as winter continues to gain momentum, avalanche centers are pushing through these challenging circumstances to communicate the risks of traveling in avalanche terrain through their daily forecasts.

The Art of the Sufferfest: How to make the worst ski days into the best memories

Maybe you’ve watched a few episodes of The Fifty and think Cody Townsend always seems to be having fun. The truth is that he—like most ski mountaineers—probably isn’t, but Townsend has learned that the secret to huge days in the mountains lies in having the right attitude. Though I haven’t been picking my way through the 50 classics (in fact, I generally avoid them), I have had my fair share of sufferfests in the mountains, and there are a few tried-and-true ways to make them less suffer-y.

Gearbox: Ortovox Diract Voice

As an avalanche instructor, I spend a lot of time calling out directions to my students: “Zig-zag until you find a signal! Follow the arrows! Make sure the numbers are going down! Get lower to the snow! Now pull out your probe!” Well, imagine a world in which I don’t have to yell those things, because your beacon is doing that for you.

New Hights: Snowboarder Elena Hight trades halfpipes for high peaks

At the age of six, Elena Hight traded sunny beaches of Hawaii for snow when her family relocated to Lake Tahoe, California. “My dad was a surfer his whole life, so the first thing he did when we moved to the mountains was teach us all how to snowboard,” says Hight, who joined the professional competition circuit via the halfpipe at age 13. Since then, Hight has reached the highest stages of snowboarding, including two Olympic Games, a Winter X Games superpipe gold and becoming the first snowboarder to land a double backside alley-oop rodeo during a halfpipe competition. After retiring from the competition scene in 2018, Hight refocused her energy into exploring the world of backcountry freeriding.

Solving for Z: Zahan Billimoria Balances Risk and Reward

Zahan Billimoria, better known as Z, is a Jackson, Wyoming-based mountain guide with an extensive résumé. He’s guiding seasoned athletes and professional skiers alike. He’s guided for Teton Gravity Research (TGR), Redbull, works with Exum Mountain Guides and runs his own training and big mountain-focused company, Samsara Experience. Through it all, Billimoria has learned that […]

Travel Wisely: How to safely explore and enjoy the backcountry through a global pandemic

With Covid-19 still spreading across the globe, the only answer to the question, “What happens next?” seems to be “Who knows?” Ski resorts are just one example of a disrupted industry, and while a season with minimal chairlift use might be standard operating procedures for some, a human-powered winter is a brave new world for […]