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submitted 11 months ago* (last edited 11 months ago) by FearTheCron to c/backcountry

If there is one thing that never changes about the outdoors it is that nature is trying to kill you. Back country snow sports put you right in the middle of a dynamic natural environment making safety training and constant decision making crucial to your safety.

This post is meant to raise awareness only, please find a qualified local organization to take in-person training. Never use internet strangers as your only source of information!

In this post, I will talk about a few topics that I have found to be important in my 15 years of back country skiing. This is not an exhaustive list and only briefly introduces each topic.

  1. Avalanches

  2. Rescuing people in the back country

  3. Physical injury unique to back country

  4. Communication with your group

  5. Regional Specific Safety (crevasses, undermined snow etc)

  6. Contingencies

Avalanches

An avalanche occurs when a layer of snow slides down a slope. These happen extremely quickly and can become terrifyingly large. A skier caught in one of these slides can be buried or injured severely. Most of your avalanche training will center around identifying how and where avalanches will form and how to safely avoid them while planning your route. Some of the training also covers what happens if an avalanche occurs. However, its important to point out: once someone is buried in an avalanche, their chances of survival go down significantly.

Here is a video capturing an avalanche and parts of a rescue. This group made some mistakes that got them into the avalanche in the first place, but their rescue effort after the fact is quite nice in my opinion. The end of the video leads into my next point nicely.

Rescuing people in the back country

Getting an injured person out of the back country can be extremely difficult. The video linked earlier has an extremely fast rescue at the end. In my experience, it takes search and rescue closer to 12 to 24 hours to get to an injured person (when they know the location). The search and rescue team in my area is fantastic, its just an extremely hard job.

You need to have the equipment, skills, and competent ski partners to survive for the time it takes to get rescued if you get injured. Contrary to the movies, helicopters are often a last resort for rescue operations due to the danger of landing in the mountains on uneven terrain. You are more likely to be carried out on a sled.

Physical injury unique to back country

You will hear a lot about avalanches but they aren't the only danger in the back country. In no particular order, here are other things to watch out for safety wise:

  1. Make sure you have well-adjusted boots and bindings. It is not uncommon for serious leg injuries to occur if your binding isn't set up right. (This is the same for resort skiing)

  2. Hidden rocks under the snow. Ski resorts often mark such obstacles but there is no such markings in the back country. Catching a rock can really hurt, especially if there are more rocks or shallow snow nearby.

  3. Head injuries. This is pretty much the same as resorts. I strongly recommend wearing a helmet and replacing it every 5 years.

  4. Snow blindness. Good sunglasses or goggles are a must, reflections from the snow make the landscape significantly brighter than normal and you can become temporarily blind without eye protection.

Communication with your group

Above all, the thing I have found to be the most important for safety is good communication with your group. If you see something that looks unsafe speak up! Never let one person convince the group its safe when you still have your doubts.

This communication should start when you are planning your trip, each member of the group should know where you are going, what the risks are and how you plan on mitigating them.

Regional Specific Safety (crevasses, undermined snow etc)

Always be aware of any specific hazards in an area. You should always read about your area and talk to knowledge people before you go. Here are a few examples.

Crevasses form when snow and ice flow downhill and create gaps in the snow. These are usually associated with glaciers which have their own set of safety precautions and training.

Flowing water can create undermined snow that can fall out from underneath you. Creeks, swamps, waterfalls and more can present various hazards to back country travel on the snow.

Holes can form next to trees when the snow accumulates around the tree but not as much underneath. It is possible to fall into these and get seriously stuck. Search for "tree well" for more info.

Contingencies

Your first line of defense against accidents, injuries, and catastrophes is the group you go with. If someone breaks a leg or is buried by an avalanche seach and rescue will not get there fast enough if you cannot take the first steps with rescue and first aid. However, it is good to plan on how you will get in contact with search and rescue if an incident occurs.

It is considered good practice to let someone know where you will be and when you expect to be back. Such instances are rare, but if something happens affecting the whole group, there will be someone who knows where to look for you.

In a more typical situation, you have someone in your group go to the trailhead and contact search and rescue from there. When doing this, you also generally want to leave someone with the injured person if possible. (This is the most common scenario in my experience).

Some people like to use personal locator beacons (PLB for short) which can transmit your location directly to search and rescue. I know people who have used PLBs and believe they are critical safety equipment. However, no technology can substitute good planning and training. As I mentioned earlier, it can take hours or sometimes even days for search and rescue to get to a location. Also, technology can fail, batteries die and satellite communications can be disrupted by weather. The PLB sould not be your only contingency plan.

Anyway, thanks for reading this far. Comments, suggestions, questions, criticism are all welcome!

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submitted 10 months ago by FearTheCron to c/backcountry
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submitted 11 months ago by [email protected] to c/backcountry

Summer has started and the itch for snow hit me hard! Reminiscing about last season and going through trip pictures. This was from a March trip to the Wendy Thomson hut. Big system rolled through a few days before, had time to settle for a few days, and we were the first ones in after! Spent three days with an untouched playground in every direction.

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submitted 11 months ago* (last edited 11 months ago) by FearTheCron to c/backcountry

I just wanted to make a post with a quick thank you to @Pat12 who moderates /c/skiing for helping out with moderating this community. @Rudd made a good point that each community should have enough moderators that spam won't sit around.

I think it is important to have more than one moderator for wilderness sport communities in particular. Many of us enjoy trips beyond cell phone range and the community deserves prompt attention to spam and other undesirable content.

My goal is to build a community where we can discuss back country skiing on our own terms. I chose lemmy.world because the overall server rules appear to be reasonable. I don't intend to make any additional rules unless something becomes a problem. I do hope that others will volunteer to help moderate this community as we grow.

I am always open to suggestions about how to run the community better so feel free to comment or send me messages.

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submitted 11 months ago by space_gecko to c/backcountry

Alta still has plenty of snow!

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submitted 11 months ago by FearTheCron to c/backcountry

I was resistant to carrying these in addition to all the other safety gear. However, the last couple years have shown me that they are very useful and can make a huge difference in an emergency.

Now the real question: should we use the "walkie talkie" naming convention for all our gear? I propose henceforth avalanche beacons be called "slidey findies".

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submitted 11 months ago by Pat12 to c/backcountry
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submitted 11 months ago by FearTheCron to c/backcountry

Sometimes skins aren't enough to get up steeper sections. In this photo, I am climbing Snow Lion couloir. I have metal spikes on my ski boots called crampons that allow me to kick into the hardened spring snow. Also, there is a whippet ski pole in my right hand to stop myself if I slide down the mountain (not visible in the photo unfortunately). This is similar to an ice axe but combines with the ski pole for ease of use. For more information, you can read about the self-arrest mountaineering technique.

Snow stability: In Colorado and many other areas with contenental snow packs, this kind of slope presents a high risk of avalanche for most of the year. However, prediction of avalanche danger becomes more reliable in the spring when the snow melts and sticks together more (known as isothermalization). However, one must always be aware of other factors affecting the snow such as the temperature the night before, rain fall, time of day, and more.

As always, seek proper in-person training before attempting this kind of thing. This post is simply to satisfy curiosity and drive discussion.

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submitted 11 months ago by FearTheCron to c/backcountry

The photo is of Mt. Neva from the top of Jasper peak. Great day with perfect snow.

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submitted 11 months ago by lwuy9v5 to c/backcountry

What are your favorite spots to go in New England?

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submitted 11 months ago* (last edited 11 months ago) by FearTheCron to c/backcountry

Since things are pretty small right now, I am going to make a few posts introducing the sport of back country skiing. Remember the first step before going into the back country is to take an in person avalanche course (see the side bar). All the titles will start with "Back country skiing 101" so they can be found easily. As always, questions comments, or snide remarks are welcome!

One of the first questions people usually ask me about back country skiing is "How do you get up the mountain without a chair lift?".

There are a few different ways but the most common is called "skinning" as shown by this photo. The skis are pretty similar to resort skis (but often lighter). I use bindings that can be released at the heel and pivot near the toe letting the ski slide along as you walk like a cross country ski. There are skins attached to the bottom of the skis that allow the ski to grab the snow rather than sliding backwards. These skins also allow the ski to slide forward easily. The skins attach using a combination of removable glue and hooks on the front and back of the ski (the orange tails on the back of my ski are where these hooks mount).
The boots are also a little different from what you may find in a resort, the ankles can pivot freely until you lock them in place. At the top of the hill, I remove the skins, lock the boots and heels in place and ski down.

I hope this is helpful for people, let me know what you think of this kind of post.

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submitted 11 months ago by FearTheCron to c/backcountry

I created this community to be an alternative to the back country skiing and snowboarding subreddit /r/backcountry. However, I realize that the name "backcountry" is broader than that.

Feel free to voice your opinion or just post examples of the kinds of content you would like to see.

I prefer we stick to human powered backcountry sports, but I'm pretty open beyond that.

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submitted 11 months ago by FearTheCron to c/backcountry

We all have those times when we are terrified in the moment but it makes a great story later.

Here is mine: "The white strip of doom" when you are cruising along a one-ish foot wide strip of snow with rocks and bushes on either side. Perhaps road rash from skiing is a rite of passage?

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submitted 11 months ago by FearTheCron to c/backcountry

Nearly a perfect day climbing Dead Dog Couloir and skiing down the Grays-Torreys saddle. We bailed on skiing the west facing couloir as the snow was starting to soften, but the north west slope was perfect.

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submitted 11 months ago by FearTheCron to c/backcountry

backcountry

196 readers
1 users here now

For snow sports outside of the resorts. This community includes back country skiing, snowboarding, telemarking and more.

Posting Guidelines

Anyone can comment or post regardless of their experience with snow sports in general. We welcome all those who want to ask questions or share their adventures.

Safety

Always know your limits when going into the back country. If you are just getting started, in-person avalanche training is essential.

Remember that anyone can post to this community regardless of experience so do your own research.

Books

Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper

Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering by Martin Volken, Scott Schell, and Margaret Wheeler

AUTONOMY MASTERY AND PURPOSE in the Avalanche Patch, Bruce Kay

Mountaineering the Freedom Of the Hills

Avalanche Forcasting Centers

Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center

Sierra Avalanche Center

Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center

Mount Shasta Avalanche Center

Alaska: Chugach Avalanche Center

Canada

Montana

Sawtooth (Idaho)

General Avalanche Information

US Forest Service Avalanche Center

US Avalanche Center

Canadian Avalanche Center

Trip Planning and Mapping

USDA NRCS - for finding where the snow has accumulated

Hillmap

Cal Topo

GaiaGPS (non-free)

Google Earth Pro (free)

Acknowledgement

A thank you to /u/pragmaticminimalist and the /r/backcountry community on Reddit for supporting a great community for over 12 years. Many of the links in this side bar come from /r/backcountry as they are good resources.

Moderators

If you are interested in helping to moderate this community, please contact @[email protected].

We prefer moderators who have formal avalanche training (E.g. AIARE level 1 or equivalent) and a few years of back country skiing experience, but lets see how this goes.

founded 11 months ago
MODERATORS