If you're new to skiing/riding Whistler Blackcomb and are starting to comprehend just how quickly in-bound freshies are chewed up here, you might be contemplating hitting up some slopes outside of the ski area boundaries to get your powder fix. After all, there are loads of tracks out there, and if other people are doing it, it must be safe right? Staying Alive In The Whistler Backcountry | From An Avalanche Awareness Guide | Unofficial Networks

Staying Alive In The Whistler Backcountry | From An Avalanche Awareness Guide

snow pit

Staying Alive In The Whistler Backcountry | From An Avalanche Awareness Guide

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Staying Alive In The Whistler Backcountry | From An Avalanche Awareness Guide

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avalanche safety

By: Sid McMillan (@whistlerskibum)

If you’re new to skiing/riding Whistler Blackcomb and are starting to comprehend just how quickly in-bound freshies are chewed up here, you might be contemplating hitting up some slopes outside of the ski area boundaries to get your powder fix. After all, there are loads of tracks out there, and if other people are doing it, it must be safe right?

staying alive in the whistler backcountry

Blackcomb Avi Dog

Before you start ducking ropes you should understand one simple fact. The backcountry can kill you.

On the upside, being in Whistler gives you direct access to the some of the greatest educational tools on the planet when it comes to avalanches and safe backcountry travel. Availing yourself of these resources will greatly diminish the likelihood of you offing yourself over a feverish bout of powder frenzy.

snow pit

Step 1. Educate yourself

Whistler Blackcomb offers free, guided Avalanche Awareness Tours daily at 1230pm at the top of Solar Coaster chair on Blackcomb mountain. These tours are run by Blackcomb Ski Patrol and are a great introduction to the world of avalanches and snow science. Any intermediate or higher skier or rider is welcome to join. The tour is a casual 2 hour affair involving skiing around the mountain with your guide, visiting a weather plot, checking out Bomb Trams and an Avalauncher gun, stopping by the Avalanche Hazard Forecasting room in the Blackcomb Patrol building and finally doing an avalanche beacon search. You might even get to meet one of the avalanche rescue dogs. Topics covered include the nature of avalanches, snow stability tests, safe backcountry travel, and companion rescue, among others.

The next step is formal training in the form of an Avalanche Safety Training course. AST1 and AST2 courses are an amazing value for the money and will give you a much deeper understanding of just how far down the rabbit hole goes. Check out Canada West Mountain School for more info on these programs.

staying alive in the whistler backcountry

Step 2. Equip yourself

There are 6 crucial things you need to travel safely in the backcountry. A shovel, a probe, an avalanche beacon, the knowledge to use those tools, the education to prevent you from having to use those tools, and a partner with the same equipment and knowledge. The AST1 course will start you on the right track.

stay alive in whistler backcountry

Blackcomb Patrolboard

staying alive in the whistler backcountry

Step 3. Inform yourself

Traveling safely in the backcountry involves making the right decisions. Making the right decisions is a direct result of having the right information. The following links are a great way to start gathering good information before venturing out beyond the boundaries.

avi danger scale

Avalanche Resources:

Canadian Avalanche Association Public Avalanche Bulletin

Whistler Blackcomb Avalanche Bulletin

Wayne Flann Avalanche Blog

Weather Resources:

Whistler Blackcomb Mountain Weather Forecast

Environment Canada Weather Information

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