After promising early season snowfall, skiers and snowboarders across the United States are finding favorable conditions in the nearby backcountry.
With just a few ski resorts open, and enough powder to ski in easily accessible zones, many new and inexperienced backcountry riders are heading out there for the first time. But before you go taking road laps at Loveland or Teton Pass, here are a few suggestions to protect yourself and also respect your fellow backcountry travelers.
Don’t Boot-Pack The Skin Track
If you lack uphill equipment such as skins or snowshoes, you’re gonna have to pay the price for earning turns. Post-holing through the snow in an established skin track is an easy way to make enemies in the backcountry. It may be easier to boot pack a beautiful, compacted skin track. However, a single hiker can be detrimental to countless other users.
Always Carry Avalanche Safety Gear
The temptation to explore the backcountry before your local resorts open is a decision that should solely be based on your avalanche awareness. Backcountry skiing is an uncontrolled environment, where knowledge and training ultimately will save your life. The early season is no time to risk getting caught in a slide. Before you head out to earn turns, even in mellow, low angle terrain, take the time to practice with your beacon. Carrying a beacon, probe and shovel are just the cusps of what you will need before getting deep in the pow.
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Plan Your Shuttles & Act Reasonable
Driving up famous high mountain passes in the early season, it’s becoming increasingly common to see 10-20+ people all attempting to hitchhike for turns simultaneously. In any group bigger than 2, consider planning a shuttle and reducing the congestion. Good karma goes a long way in getting rides, and its hard to be fair picking up riders when the line has no definitive start. The ultimate Jerry move is to take road laps with an overly large crew, and not offer rides to anyone else.
Be Conscientious Of Other Users & Motorists Below You
No different from skiing inbounds at a resort, it’s equally important to watch out for others when touring around the backcountry. Easily accessible terrain can bury roads, cars, or even skiers below you if you’re not careful. Always take the extra effort to watch out for our fellow skiers and snowboarders, so this can be a season to remember, not a tragedy to forget.