Risk in the Backcountry

Know the risks in any backcountry scenario and question your plans with careful consideration.

Words hardly describe the excitement surrounding a day in the winter backcountry. Embarking on such a journey demands respect and responsibility from the traveler to understand the inherent dangers of traveling in avalanche terrain.

The first part of obligation to you, your skiing companions, other skiers in the area, and your loved ones is education. The plethora of avalanche education out there gives you absolutely no excuse for ignorance.

Useful Online Education:

Grab an Avalanche Safety Book:

Risk in the Jackson Hole Backcountry

Take an Avalanche Safety Class:

One of the best ways to educate yourself is to take an avalanche safety course. With a level 1 Avalanche curriculum you get classroom training paired with real outdoor practice sessions. Below are a few places in Jackson to get trained up:

 “Remember: Going out is optional, coming home is not.”

Staying safe in the backcountry: questions for reflection

As yourself these simple questions before heading out for a day in the backcountry. It might save your life.

Did you tell someone where you're going , and when you'll be back?

Is it the right one for today’s conditions? Part of answering this question is checking the daily avalanche report at JH Avalanche.

Where are you going? How do plan on getting there? Have you been there before? Unfamiliar sites add an additional factor of danger.

Have you written down your route plan and left it with someone you trust? It’s important someone knows where you are going and when you’ll be back, so incase of emergency they can accurately direct search and rescue.

Are you equipped with the correct gear and tools?

Suggested gear and amenities for winter backcountry travel:

Do you have the right knowledge?

Do you have the skill set to read the changing snow conditions in the field? Are you with someone that can evaluate the snow?

Have you practiced your avalanche rescue technique recently?

Do you know how to use your gear? Otherwise, why bring it at all?

Do you know the weather forecast? Any storm systems predicted?

Have you considered all the factors?
  • Unknown/new location?
  • Favorable avalanche conditions?
  • Travelling in a large group? With dogs?
    • Sometimes group dynamics can negatively affect even the most educated backcountry travellers. Be aware of this!
  • Traveling with strangers or people that are not familiar to avalanche travel?
    • Do these people have attitudes that can sway group decisions negatively?
  • Is the location difficult to access if emergency response is required?
Do you have a plan?

Always tell someone where you are going and when you’ll be back. If you don’t show up when planned, this person can go for help.