Backcountry travel requires knowledge, training and equipment. KNOW BEFORE YOU GO!
When the powder hunt is all tracked out from the lift-accessed goods, utilizing back country access points is a great jumping-off point to find better conditions. With the proper training, equipment, and plan in place, you can exit out your familiar ski area into entire new zones of mountain fun.
Here’s 5 basic tips to explore the back country just outside the ski area:
-Wait Till The Inbounds Terrain Is Hammered
Avalanche danger is the highest after recent snowfall, and there is no reason to risk your life when good conditions are available on safe controlled slopes. Exiting backcountry gates is a good opportunity to find freshies between storms, or well after the soft turns are available inbounds.
-Avalanche Gear Is Always A Must
Just because you access a slope from a ski area does not mean it is controlled, or mitigated for danger in any way. The terms ‘slackcountry’ or ‘sidecountry’ are extremely misleading, since major avalanches frequently occur in zones right outside the major ski areas. A beacon, probe and shovel are basic necessities for any and all backcountry travel. The training and practice with your rescue gear, along with good decision making, is the real backbone of staying alive in avalanche terrain.
-Set Up-Shuttles Or Plan Rides Out
Venturing from the ski area into the backcountry terrain will often lead you into other drainages or basins away from your initial origin. Using the ski area infrastructure to access back country is all about avoiding the big hikes, and arduous traverses. Consider leaving a shuttle vehicle or planning a ride to avoid getting stranded and/or clogging up the highway with your thumb out in a snowstorm.
-Get The Scoop
Skiing outside the boundaries presents its own inherent risks, since ski patrol is not here to rope off the cliffs, stumps or avalanche paths– all of which can easily ruin your day. Getting reliable beta on terrain from local sources is irreplacable and as always– if you don’t know, don’t go. Or you can end up on the front of the paper for being rescued– your choice.
-Always Use Designated Exit Gates
The ability to freely exit ski area boundaries is still a new trend as it concerns ski area policy. Not too long ago, accessing out-of-bounds terrain was illegal. We are thankful that those days are mostly gone but with added access comes added responsibility. By accessing the backcountry via safe access points, ski patrols won’t get dragged into dangerous situations as much as they would otherwise and you’ll be that much safer on the way to your line.