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Risk in the Backcountry

Know the real 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.

Read up online:

Grab a Book:

Buy a book about Avalanche Education to really commit to your learning. We recommend these:

Backcountry Safety planning

Take a 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.”

Avalanche Safety: Questions for Reflection

Below are some important questions to ask yourself before heading out for a day in the backcountry. Click on a question to view its description.

  • Do you have a plan?

    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 for winter backcountry exploration:
    Rent these backcountry accessories with TBR:
    BCA Tracker 2 Avalanche Beacon rental
    Avalanche Rescue Shovel rental
    Avalanche Rescue Probe rental
    First Aid Kit for sale in Jackson Hole
    Avalanche Airbag Pack Small (rental)
    Avalanche Airbag Pack Large (rental)
    Personal Locator Beacon rental
  • Are you equipped with the correct 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?
    Have you considered all the factors that could snowball into an unacceptable amount of risk?
    • 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?
  • Did you tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back?

    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.