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Backcountry: To go or not to go…equipment is the question.

February 10, 2011

We all love playing in the snow, that is a given. We all want to ski and ski and ski till someone like a doctor tells us not to and even then we are more likely to ski until we get caught or…well lets not get into that.

Skiing in the backcountry has become in the last few years extremely accessible. It’s not for the “granola munchers” (ski bum hippies) who hike for hours on end to get one run, other who compete with each other to see who hiked the most vertical in one day and my favorite are the ones who do multi day “journeys” and sleep outside in the middle of winter sometimes in a snow cave. And please don’t get me wrong what they are doing is great and I’m sure super fun, but for us regular people who love to ski and go home to our warm houses…an hour or so hike is just perfect.

But here is the question, where do you go for your hike? Here in Whistler you can do some amazing hiked right outside the area boundary. We have DOA, Corona, Hu-su-mi, Disease Ridge and Decker just to name some. It’s easy to think, “well it’s just outside the area boundary, I will be safe.” “So close I won’t need any gear.” “I’m following that person who looks like they know where they’re going.” Those are some of the classics.

JD (another Extremely Canadian coach) and I decided to head for a hike; DOA and Hu-su-mi were the plans. What did we do first, we told some friends that we were heading out there for the day, check the weather and avalanche sheet, next pack our bags with equipment (peeps, probe and shovel), and of course food and water. And just for good measure I packed extra gloves, goggle lens and an extra layer. You just never know when plans change and you might want to go elsewhere.

Just as we got to the boundary gate, no joke, almost every other person didn’t have a pack. Nothing. I don’t feel out of line to say I’m sure they didn’t even have food in their pockets. It wasn’t a big snow day and the avalanche hazard was low…but…still. I was so shock. People of course asked us where to go and even looked at us as if we packed too much. Not cool. If something did happen to them we of course would feel compiled to help them, potentially put us in danger because of some else being careless.

Some Rules of play:
1. Travel with people (preferable one of those people knows where you are going)

2. Tell people when and where you are going and when you could be coming home

3. Have equipment and know how to use it. Take an avalanche course. Very good three day course to get you prepared.

4. Carrying a pack is great, put all your stuff in it, hang your jacket there if you are hot, and put you skis/snowboard to your back (your shoulders will love you for it)

5. Pack food, water and extra stuff (ie. Goggle lens, clothes, duct tape, sunscreen, gloves)

It may seem like over kill to just go outside the area boundary, but isn’t your life and others worth it?

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