More people than ever are heading into the backcountry, it’s one of the fastest growing segments in the snow sports industry and it shows no signs of slowing down. The equipment is dialed, but are the people skiing above and below you? Here’s the best advice on how to think like a snow safety professional, from the professionals themselves.
FOLLOW THE AVALANCHE STORY
Billy Rankin, Snow Safety Director with Eleven Experience, starts his day with a cup of coffee and reads his local avalanche bulletin. He reads about the current snowpack problems, reviews the weather forecast, checks local weather stations, pays attention to how much snow has fallen, wind speeds and wind direction. He reads and examines observations and field reports and asks himself, how are these relevant to me today? Once he has saturated himself with specifics from local avalanche websites and resources, he forms his own opinion about what is going on with the snow and what he expects to see in the field. Check out AvalancheCenter.org to find the nearest avalanche center to you.
“The biggest piece of advice I can lend to users of the backcountry is to follow the avalanche story, and follow it every single day,” says Rankin. He compares a winter season and the associated avalanche conundrums to a complex novel. The plot thickens with every storm, wind event and new snow layer formed in the snowpack. If you pick up the story in the middle of the season, you will be lost. The same is true if you look at the backcountry forecast once a week, seldom or never at all. Pay attention every single day.