It’s so important to get that backcountry ski gear prepped and ready. It may have been sitting in the cupboard or garage for months now. Or you may have been lucky enough to have spent some snow time in the northern winter.
The backcountry skiing season is still offering awesome turns in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere. There have been some great Instagram posts from the Tetons, the famous background to Grand Targhee Resort, the location of our next conference in the snow, Medicine in the Mountains 2020.
Now is the time of the year in the Southern Hemisphere when the southern ocean generates massive storms that provide southerly snow for skiers and snowboarders and some sizeable swells for surfers.
Winter is coming to the south.
It’s time to check the backcountry ski gear and prepare for the southern ski touring season.
The first step before the snow hits the ground is to do a quick inventory of all your equipment and check they are working order.
Pre-Season Backcountry Ski Gear Check
Avalanche Transceivers: are the batteries at full charge? Do you have spare batteries for a trip? Are they working in transmit and receive appropriately?
Practice using the avalanche transceiver you will take with you. Do this with a friend in the backyard to hone your transceiver search skills. If you lack the skills or need a refresher- check with your local avalanche training centre on what courses are coming up and book in!
Avalanche Shovel and Probe: get them out, assemble them and disassemble them. Ensure that everything is functioning properly. Attend to repairs as required.
Backpack and First Aid Kit: is everything working as expected? Are the straps and zippers on the backpack intact? Need any items replaced or restocked? Do you have a whistle? Do you have a functioning head torch? Do you have an emergency bivvy?
Repair Kit: Do an inventory of your backcountry repair kit. Replace any missing/used items. If you have new gear is there something you need in the repair kit to cover these items in case of breakage? Do you know how to repair the gear you have?
Touring Skis or Splitboard: Check your bases and edges. Do they need a tune before you get on the snow? Get your bindings checked by a certified tech familiar with your system.
Touring Boots: Ensure there is no excess wear on the boot soles which may interfere with binding release or cause issues for hiking. Make sure the liners don’t have any areas that could irritate your feet, cause blisters or other problems.
Ski skins and split board skins: are they functioning properly? Do they need a reapplication of glue? If you have new skis, do they fit? Do you know how to put the skins on your skis?
Backcountry clothing. You can refer to our article Ten clothing essentials for backcountry skiing and riding to ensure you have the right clothing for your adventure.
Pre Season Practice
Early in the season, everyone is eager to get out in the backcountry. It’s a time of year that is often cold with the snowpack still shallow and developing. This can lead to a very unstable snowpack. If you are unsure what this means then you need to make yourself familiar with the different types of snow you may encounter before you consider skiing the backcountry.
A good, safe way to get into the swing of things first is within the patrolled ski area.
Check with the resorts ski patrol on their skinning/ascending rules. It’s important to adhere to these as they may relate to the local ski patrol’s avalanche control activities, heavy machinery use, etcetera. Using unregistered slopes could be very dangerous for you and your party.
You can also find a safe area to practice transceiver use. Many ski areas have a specific location set aside for you to do just that with the option of trying single or multiple burial scenarios. Grab your backcountry skiing buddies and practice. See who can find the hidden transceiver the fastest.
Remember the small ski areas. In this era of mega resorts and mega passes, these places are often a great way to hone skills required for backcountry skiing. There is often ungroomed terrain that isn’t just a bump run, fresh stashes to practice those powder turns, and often some awesome side country.
Again remember the familiarity heuristic trap we mentioned in our human factors article.
If an in area slope is unpatrolled it still potentially offers the same risks as any backcountry terrain!
Before heading into any backcountry areas, whether you are going side country skiing, accessing through a resort gate or backcountry skiing, Be Smart. Use our free Snow SAFETY Risk Assessment checklist to make sure you have covered all bases before you leave the carpark. This simple to use checklist is our way of making sure we go out to the backcountry as informed and prepared as we can possibly be. You can download it here.
Get out there, have fun, be prepared and be safe!!
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