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.

Free Spirit: A Tribute to Luca Pandolfi

As backcountry skiers and riders, we’re understandably keen to study avalanche fatalities, so that we may learn from them and avoid the same fate. But rarely do we analyze a life—particularly a life well-lived—with the same scrutiny. Luca Pandolfi, a 47-year-old Italian big mountain snowboarder who passed away in Italy’s Gran San Bernardo Valley on March 17, lived one such life, both on and off the hill.

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.

Hunting for Wind Slab: A custom continuing ed avalanche course

In any Level 1 avalanche course, we learn about the different types of avalanches. Each is its own beast and carries its own unique challenges. Some problems hide deep in the snowpack while others live on the surface. They can be prevalent across big regions or very specific to isolated locations. Yet with such finite time in Level 1 and 2 avalanche courses, it would be cumbersome to truly dive into the nuances of each. After experiencing wind slab so vividly, I wanted to learn how to bring my avalanche knowledge to each specific avalanche problem in hopes that I could more confidently answer that important debrief question: Were we lucky or were we good?

Colorado Reports Twelfth Avalanche Fatality of the Season

A skier was killed Monday, March 22 in an avalanche outside of Colorado’s Beaver Creek Ski Area. According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), the skier was traveling below tree line in an area known as the Sanctuary Chutes—a steep, northwest-facing chute—at approximately 10,500 feet when they triggered the avalanche around 3:00 p.m. This is the 12th fatality in Colorado this season and the 35th in the United States.

Renowned Snowboarder Luca Pandolfi Dies in Avalanche

Italian snowboarder Luca Pandolfi died in an avalanche on Wednesday, March 17. He was splitboarding in Italy’s Gran San Bernardo Valley, which is located in the Aosta Valley near the French boarder. Pandolfi is being celebrated and remembered as a freeride champion, guide and visionary splitboarder.

A Return to Skis

The lifts are about to close as I skin up the groomed slope of Buttermilk Mountain outside Aspen, Colorado, on a February afternoon. The last skiers and snowboarders whiz by on their way back to their cars after riding chairs all day. A father and his boys make one final lap through the mini terrain park as I pass by on my slow upward path. I feel heavy, laden with piecemeal equipment that is far from the latest, lightest, greatest stuff on the market. That’s OK. As a beginner ski mountaineer, lightness isn’t the most important thing anyway. The first step is to learn efficiency with the basic tools.

Mountain Mentors: Going It Together

Mountain Mentors, a nonprofit that serves communities in Vancouver, Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton, B.C., offers a new way to venture into the mountains. The volunteer-led organization began in 2016 and works to pair and facilitate one-on-one mentor/mentee relationships, with the overall goal of creating backcountry spaces where everyone belongs and can safely participate. Mountain Mentors president Rosie Langford expands on what their mission means and what growth may look like for the community-driven organization in her own words.

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.

The Art of Doing Nothing in Avalanche Terrain

In October of 2005, Ed LaChappelle, the man viewed by many to be the grandfather of North American avalanche forecasting, published a paper in The Avalanche Review (24.1) under the title, The Ascending Spiral. Of the many important points made in this paper, one stands out: do nothing in haste.

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