VIDEO: 2 MILLION Skiers Entered the Backcountry Last Year | Have We Pushed the Limits?

Sergei Poljak | BackcountryBackcountry

Whistler-Blackcomb just released the third segment of their 4-part series “The Big Picture.” This episode deals with safely navigating a backcountry scene that has grown by at least 40% in the last ten years.

While any backcountry activity is categorically dangerous, few pursuits compare in risk that of backcountry skiing. The inherent dangers of skiing run the spectrum from those of a high speed sport, to reliance on snowpack, to predatory terrain features like rocks, crevasses, cliffs, and trees. The fact of the matter is, there are a million ways to die skiing. Any backcountry skier should, at the absolute minimum, have: shovel, beacon, probe, knowledge of how to use it, working knowledge of avalanche conditions and access to a forecast, a partner, and a plan for self-rescue. 

A backcountry gate at Jackson Hole. Resorts work to promote backcountry safety, but ultimately responsibility falls upon the individual. Photo: Mountain Weekly News

Mountain guide Keith Reid states, “You’re inevitably, regularly going to see people who are there probably [in the backcountry] for the first time who are, in all likelihood, really underprepared.” The video focuses on some of Whistler’s efforts to promote safety, but concludes that, in the end, the responsibility will always fall on the individual to conduct themselves on a rigorous safety standard.

Knowledgable users must step up, shed their “elitism” and take steps to educate those with less experience. Concurrently, it must be reiterated again and again that individuals new to the sport cannot simply venture out in the wilderness without a solid foundation of knowledge, not just for their own safety, but the safety of all those frequenting the backcountry.

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