The list of skills and knowledge needed to get into the mountains is never ending. In fact, it’s subject matter that numerous careers are built on, but safe and efficient backcountry travel doesn’t necessarily require a PhD in snow science or a guide’s certification. It takes common sense, good partners, a willingness to learn and, above all, the following 10 things that every skier and rider should know.
SAFETY GOES BEYOND AVY GEAR
Beacon, shovel, probe: it’s the universal morning checklist for skiers and riders. But often not included in this list are items of equal importance like a headlamp, bivy sack, first-aid kit and spare pair of gloves.
“If you have wet clothing and nothing to change into, that can be pretty dangerous, actually, especially if you’re stuck out overnight, unplanned,” says Jeffery Halleck, a former University of Utah internal medicine resident, who explained the effects of hypothermia on buried avalanche victims in the December 2016 issue. Preparedness means more than knowing how to use a beacon—it means being ready for the unexpected.
NERDS SAVE LIVES
In the mountains, nerds are your friends. From understanding how to properly operate avalanche gear to knowing how to read terrain, pursuing an advanced backcountry education is critical to safety, and learning is an ongoing process.
“Take a course and advance your knowledge. Then, take the next level course,” Sarah Carpenter—a certified guide and co-owner of the American Avalanche Institute, an avy ed organization—says in a recent story on backcountrymagazine.com. “There are tools in each course for recreationists and professionals alike. If it’s been a while since your last course, take a refresher course.”
And while learning about avalanche safety is crucial, it’s not the only subject to study—sharpen first-aid skill with regular CPR refreshers and courses in wilderness medicine, too.
AVOID THE DREADED BONK
Being well fed and hydrated means more laps and more face shots. And being well fueled is vital for having the energy required to make sound decisions and travel comfortably and efficiently through cold environments.
“Things change in the winter, and the cold changes how we keep hydrated and fueled,” says Dr. Allen Lim, a sports physiologist and the founder of Skratch Labs, in a recent story titled Can what you eat earn you another lap up the skintrack?
Bonk avoidance requires bringing the right food and the self-awareness to know to stop and chow down or drink. Claudia Pearson, Rations Manager at the Lander, Wyo. Rocky Mountain branch of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), advises the following: “What we have always said here at NOLS is to eat a variety of food, eat throughout the day and hydrate often.”
Read the full story here.