Five Rules to Keep Us Safe in the (crowded) Backcountry

Increased crowds and the challenges of CoViD-19 will compound decision-making this year.

Five Rules to Keep Us Safe in the (Crowded) Backcountry
by Alex Lee
(published on on November 12, 2020)

Mountains offer a rare freedom in a world where gyms, bars, and bowling alleys come with new risk. The respite of outdoor recreation coupled with actual pandemic-level cabin fever—as well as limited resort openings, increased work-from-home schedules, and garage shelves stocked with every available Costco trail snack—means that more skiers and riders will head into the backcountry this coming season than ever before.

Record backcountry stoke comes with increased pressure on access points, heightened avalanche risks, and new potential for user group conflicts, not to mention the challenges of CoViD-19 compounded decision-making. The way I see it, a few simple (but deliberate) conversations and considerations can help us stay safe and sane this winter.

Photo Credit: Howie Garber

1. Be Conscientious
It would be easy to let disaster fatigue lead to complacency, but coronavirus still requires consideration alongside persistent weak layers and wind slabs in backcountry-tour planning. Our actions impact others more than usual this year.

Carpooling carries new consequences—think about when it makes sense and when it doesn’t; step aside to pass others or to let others pass you on the skin track; wear a mask when you buy donuts at the gas station in the morning (or maybe just add baking donuts at home to your list of quarantine hobbies). Backcountry skiing is an exercise in risk management. Let’s add a bit of CoViD-19 conscientiousness to the decision-making process.

2. Care and share public lands
When we close our news feeds, sign off of Zoom, and finally blink our bleary eyes at the end of the week, we need wild spaces more than ever. Unfortunately, 2020 has pushed already-funneled access to public lands past capacity in many places around the country. Challenges of recreation outstripping access infrastructure aren’t new, just fast-tracked.

Responsible and sustainable recreation takes stewardship and warrants public investment. Parking lots and trail signs might not be sexy, but without them, most people can’t access the public land resources that belong to all of us.

Let your local elected officials know recreation matters to you, let managers know how you use resources, pick up trash, donate extra TP to the pit toilet, and ally with other user groups. Remember, we’re all on the same team.

3. Don’t cut corners
If you are new to the backcountry, don’t skimp on education or safety gear—no matter how cheap that used analog beacon on eBay sounds. If you are a veteran backcountry skier, don’t cut corners on snow assessment, rescue practice, and refreshing safety skills.

Instead of rewatching Tiger King, I am going to reread Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain. If you haven’t already, sign up for an AIARE 1 class, or, at the very least, attend a Know Before You Go.

Many avalanche education providers are doing their best to offer online resources or hybrid courses this year if in-person classes aren’t an option. Get out for some early season beacon practice. Know what’s in your first aid and repair kits (have you replaced those zip-ties, Band-Aids, and duct tape you used up in March?).

Also, if there is a skin track already in, literally, don’t cut corners.

4. Have a backup plan
The vast majority of access issues seem to stem from too many cars in too few spots. More people and less carpooling will be a trailhead challenge. Once cars spill out onto the highway, block a right-of-way, or park others in, they create safety hazards that set skiers back with landowners and can force local managers to shut down access. If you get to your favorite trailhead and it’s just too crowded, head down the road. Use the crowds headed for Teton Pass, Turnagain, Baker, Smuggs, or Loveland Pass as an excuse to explore a new zone. Call in from the hill and ski mid-week if you can. Be adaptable. I might even give up any semblance of sanity and leave a pair of Nordic skis in my car this season just in case. Always have a backup plan, right?

5. Be kind
Laying down those ski edges in a mask of cold smoke is not a mere distraction from masks of a different sort, but a solace we all need right now. Give folks a break if they set a skin track across your favorite slope; don’t ski down on top of others; be patient; submit observations to your local avalanche center; share information; help each other out. You may even have to share your secret spot this year.
Let’s all remember that too many people in the outdoors is a beautiful problem.

Five Rules to Keep Us Safe in the (crowded) Backcountry ultima modifica: 2021-03-22T04:58:00+01:00 da GognaBlog

1 commento su “Five Rules to Keep Us Safe in the (crowded) Backcountry”

  1. 1
    albert says:

    la  5..parte finale, dovrebbe valere anche al supermercato alimentari: fornire informazioni, aiutare…essere pazienti…oltre che mascherina e guanti.Invece..passate le  occhiute guardie all’ingresso ( se ci sono) , giu’ la mascherina e toccamento alitante e tossicchiante  di confezioni di cibarie a mani nude.    Fatta la doverosa indagine su data  di scadenza ed etichetta,  spesso  rinuncia all’acquisto  e merce riposizionata nello scaffale .Una gran mano l’hanno data certi gestori che in piena zona rossa, hanno stravolto le disposizioni delle merci negli scaffali costringendo i clienti con lista a vagare come anime perse.Obbedienza ai meschini espedienti del marketing. Nel Backcountry o nello Shopping gli umani son sempre troppo umani.

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