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We have all come across those out there that seem unprepared, you skin up to this person and say “good day”. Sweaty with no backpack in site looking a little lost he asks; “where am I?” This is the question all of us dread hearing in the backcountry, you don’t want to be lost when out in an unfamiliar place. You tell this young gentlemen where you are standing and ask him where he is heading, he smiles and tells you he’s headed up to the ridge where all the good snow is stashed away. You cringe for where he’s going by himself is the worst place he could go. Now I don’t want to admit it but we all started out this way, we crept into the unknown with imagination and summit fever in our heads. My first trip into the backcountry was by myself into Rocky Mountain National Park to ride the divide where I thought I was safe. Being a little bit more seasoned I would never do this by myself, and I most definitely didn’t have the right gear for my first trip. I want to leave you with a few ideas that will keep you safe this year in the backcountry.
Bring a friend:
Never travel along in the backcountry without a partner. If you were by yourself and something was to happen, there would be know one to help get you out of your situation. Sometimes a small incident can turn into a major ordeal if your friend or backcountry buddy wasn’t with you. Don’t forget to tell somebody where you are going just in case something happens and you don’t return.
This not only means bringing the right backcountry gear such as prob, shovel, and beacon but also to check the weather and dress accordingly. Make sure to bring water and food with you, there is nothing worse then getting to where you need to go just to bonk and fall out because you are desperately hungry. A mountain instructor once told me, always pack something warm enough to make it thru one night, for you could get stuck and have to bear out a night in the frigid cold.
Technology! take advantage:
Not all of us can afford a massive crew and helicopter to wisp us to the mountain tops, but technology has been ever evolving for those that want to move under human power. I am a splitboarder and can’t think of a better way to move then under my own power. Before there was a board to split and skins underneath me there was snowshoes. Today there are small ascent skis, gps, airbags, and even polls that break down and fit into your pack. All of these things can help make you more comfortable in the backcountry and make your experience more enjoyable.
What’s your risk:
Lastly I would like to touch on risk, every person that steps into the backcountry has to decide how much risk they are willing to take. I am not a super risky snowboarder when it comes to my avalanche decisions, but I know a few riders that take much higher risks then I would. When in a group setting sometimes it’s easy to get pushed by pear pressure to ride something that makes you feel uncomfortable. When you and your riding crew gets together make sure you let everybody know how much risk you are willing to take. It’s your life and you want to be safe and if this means putting your foot down on something that makes you feel uneasy, do it!
There are so many factors when it comes to moving and riding thru the backcountry and these are just a few that I think are important to keep in mind when you’re having fun. Look back to that moment when somebody walked up on you and asked how you were doing and you looked at him with that confused look on your face “where am I?” Be more prepared to begin with and you will do just fine.