Winter starts now! In the blink of an eye winter has evolved from sparse snowfall across the western states to an abundance of wonderful powder everywhere. Welcome to my annual reminder about Backcountry Avalanche Awareness. I am no expert on the subject, but my wife and I are aways eager to traverse wilderness terrain in search of an off the beaten path adventure. When you leave the cozy confines of the groomed trails at the ski resorts/nordic centers, you need to understand the environment that you are in as well as the potential consequences of not being adequately prepared. There is a great article from Kate Siber, “Can Human Judgement Handle Avalanches?” This was originally published in November of 2019 and is a great short read.
With that being said, I have outlined below, in no certain order, what everyone’s pack should contain when traveling in the backcountry during the winter when in avalanche prone areas. Backcountry avalanche awareness preparation is key! Never travel alone, and leave instructions with someone about where you are going and the expected return time. Lastly, never walk out the door without knowing the latest avalanche forecast.
Whether you are skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing or snowmobiling, you need to heed the dangers of recreating in the backcountry. Having a pack with the necessary gear is just as essential as understanding snow conditions, when and where it is safe to travel in avalanche prone areas and what to do if one encounters, or is personally trapped in an avalanche.
Following the Backcountry Avalanche Awareness Winter Essentials is a video of KBYG – Know Before You Go, which provides a great overview of avalanche preparedness, plus a link to AIARE – the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education. AIARE provides hands-on training that will allow you to make smart decisions in avalanche terrain. One comprehensive book that I happened upon was “Staying Alive In Avalanche Terrain” by Bruce Tremper. This book is not a substitute to the AIARE training or at minimum a basic course in Backcountry Avalanche Awareness; however, it provides a thorough overview of traveling in avalanche terrain, and may provide some helpful information and tools. Have fun, be safe and be prepared!
BACKCOUNTRY Avalanche Awarness WINTER ESSENTIALS
- Avalanche Preparedness
- Snow Testing Gear
- Cell Phone, Map, Compass and GPS
- Personal Locater Beacon
- Extra layers, Hat & Gloves
- Headlamp and/or Flashlight
- Extra Batteries
- First-Aid Supplies
- Matches, Lighter
- Waterproof Storage Container
- Repair Kit & Tools
- Multitool and/or Knife
- Hydration & Nutrition
- High Carbohydrate/Caloric Foods
- Extra Food
- Emergency Shelter
- Bivy and Reflective Blanket
Backcountry Avalanche Awareness Resources
AVALANCHE.ORG – Avalanche.org
Colorado Avalanche Information Center – CAIC
Utah Avalanche Center – Utah Avalanche Center
Bridger Teton Avalanche Center – Bridger Teton Avalanche Center
Sierra Avalanche Center – Sierra Avalanche Center
Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper