How to Plan for a Day of Backcountry Skiing

Salt Lake City, UT: Backcountry skiing and snowboarding has seen a meteoric rise in popularity over the past few years. Drawn by the allure of solitude, fresh powder, and a day spent exploring the winter wilderness, it's easy to see why so many are looking to earn their turns. According to the Winter Wildlands Alliance, nearly 6 million skiers and snowboarders traveled in the backcountry during the 2013/14 season. With these numbers increasing each year, it is imperative that folks plan ahead and prepare for travel in avalanche terrain. This preparation can minimize the strain placed on search and rescue resources and ultimately help keep your group safe. Watch the video below for some quick tips, and read on below for more detailed information.

Avalanche Conditions

  • Check your local avalanche forecast. Find a forecast from your local avalanche center and be sure to read the report each day before you head into the backcountry. 
  • Know the terrain you are traveling in. Resources like caltopo.com provide phenomenal terrain maps with the option of highlighting different slope angles to avoid avalanche prone slopes. 
  • Check your weather forecast for the day. Heavy snow, high winds, or rapid warming are all red flags for avalanche danger and should be taken into consideration for your route planning. 

Essential Gear

  • Avalanche Transceiver/Beacon. These beacons should be carried and and worn by every member in your backcountry group. These help others locate you if you should become buried and help you find your friends should they become buried. 
  • Avalanche Probe. Once a buried person is located by the beacon, a probe helps pinpoint their location under the snow. 
  • Avalanche shovel. These ultra-strong, ultra-compact shovels are designed to chop through avalanche debris to uncover buried persons.

Choose to only travel in avalanche terrain with other skiers/snowboarders who carry the above gear and know how to use them. Get educated in avalanche travel, decision making, and rescue by taking an AIARE Level 1 avalanche course before you consider venturing into the backcountry. 

Enjoy Your World. Lave No Trace.

Leave No Trace's Donielle Stevens and Aaron Hussmann are part of the 2017 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Fjallraven, Eno, Deuter, Thule, Smartwool, and Taxa Outdoors.