Backstory: Sunbowl Retreat

Whether on cross-country or backcountry skis, I enjoy the beauty and quietness of simply being out there—but there are other aspects even more compelling, which rouse more primal, visceral and satisfying feelings within me. Sitting at my desk, I thought of the past weekend, when Mike and I went to Lassen Volcanic National Park, with its jagged peaks amid ancient volcanic remnants.

Steep School: learning the tools for ski mountaineering in Montana’s Tobacco Root Mountains

It’s the end of April, and the Tobacco Roots, a quiet range 45 miles dead west of Bozeman and sandwiched between the Madison and Jefferson Rivers, are still cloaked in a midwinter snowpack rather than layers of corn. But that doesn’t matter to the four Canadians, me or the three other skiers here at Big Sky Backcountry Guide’s (BSBG) second-annual ski-mountaineering camp.

The Skills Guide: Four Steps for Managing Avalanche Hazards

Low, moderate, considerable, high, extreme—the avalanche hazard can be broken into fairly certain terms. But that simplicity belies a much bigger and more nuanced beast, ever changing and deeply complex, especially when paired with personal perspectives on risk and consequence.

The Skills Guide: Four Steps to Overcome Human Traps

Ian McCammon popularized the term “heuristics” in avalanche education in 2002. In his widely circulated article, “Evidence of heuristic traps in recreational avalanche accidents,” the National Outdoor Leadership School educator found that human factors—defined as familiarity, social proof, commitment and scarcity—play a significant role in avalanche accidents.

Alpenglow’s Golden Hour: A Tahoe-based ski shop’s annual mountain festival

After five years, a February storm was helping to bring California’s drought, the worst in 1,000 years, to a soft, white halt. In fact, it was halting everything. Alpenglow Sports, the Tahoe City-based backcountry and mountain-running shop, was hosting its fourth-annual Mountain Festival, offering a smattering of events like guided tours, avalanche courses and the Winter […]

The Skills Guide: Four Steps to Know Thy Self

Benjamin Franklin popularized the saying “God helps those who help themselves” in his 18th-century Poor Richard’s Almanack. And while Franklin’s country-dwelling character may not have been much of a backcountry traveler, his philosophy holds true today in the mountains: taking care of yourself and your gear leads to safer and more fun experiences.

The Skills Guide: Four Steps Toward Enlightenment

Many snow pros spend their lifetimes researching avalanches, safety or decision making. And while traveling the backcountry isn’t the career of most individuals who are out there, everyone can learn a lesson from those investing their life’s work in promoting mountain safety: education is an ongoing process, requiring constant commitment to practice, progress and inquiry.

The Skills Guide: Four steps for Blissful Ascents

There are few high-output activities as rhythmic, tranquil and calming as skinning. Indeed, the uptrack is a major draw for many, whether it’s deep in the mountains or alongside a resort-bound groomer. But achieving uphill bliss takes practice, attention to detail and the right gear.

The Snow Pro: Steve Banks engages friends and clients in terrain conversations

Steve Banks, a Crested Butte, Colo.-based IFMGA guide and director of mountain guide operations at Irwin Guides, believes attempting to outsmart nature is a fool’s errand. And he’s learned to approach mountains and avalanches with the respect they deserve.

The Snow Pro: Sarah Carpenter is cool with being a snow-science geek

Sarah Carpenter, an AMGA guide and co-owner, guide and educator with the Victor, Idaho-based American Avalanche Institute, believes in the art of the checklist and geeking out on snow science.