Whether you’re heading up the skin track for human-powered backcountry skiing or using a snowmobile to get further into a zone, it’s vital to remember that avalanche safety doesn’t stop with the forecast and the appropriate gear. There’s an undeniable human factor that plays into each outing and this video, featuring Backcountry Access ambassadors Will Mook and Matt Schebaum, and Jackson Hole-based pro skier Sam Schwartz, digs deeper into the individual elements that often affect an adventure out of bounds.
Familiarity doesn’t equal safety — “When you ride the same zone a lot, it’s easy to become complacent,” says Schebaum. “Having local knowledge of the terrain can be a huge asset, but it’s also important to recognize that it can be a liability in your decision-making process.”
Leave your ego at the trailhead — “It’s easy to let social media impact your decision-making,” notes Schebuam. “It’s important to recognize your reason for being out in the mountains.” Just because you saw others exploring a certain zone doesn’t mean it’s the right place for you—be intentional with your experiences in the backcountry.
Be a good communicator — Set up designated places to stop and discuss next steps with the group. Let everyone in your group have a voice and be sure to speak up if you’ve seen a red flag anywhere along the way. If you’re further away from your ski partners, radios like BCA’s BC Link 2.0 are an easy way to stay in touch while you’re on the move.
Keep your group size manageable — Keep it tight and be selective with your partners. “We all love to be out [in the backcountry] with as many buddies as we can, but sometimes there are too many people,” says Mook. “One of the most unpredictable things are the people we’re with… with a larger group it’s often harder to have good group management.”
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