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June 08, 2022
The thrill of getting away from the crowds and acquiring that complete solitude is what draws people to want to venture into the backcountry. Venturing outside the controlled boundaries of the resorts and into an uncontrolled backcountry environment can be very exciting, however, must be done responsibly. Here are several tips on getting started in the backcountry.
1. Educate yourself on the terrain that you plan to travel.
2. Know your fitness level and skill ability.
3. Pack the correct gear.
4. Plan your trip and let others know where you plan to venture.
Educate Yourself on the Terrain
When you are in the backcountry there are a lot of things that can go wrong and unlike being in a resort, there is no one to assist you but the people you are with. Knowing the type of terrain you will be snowshoeing in, and the dangers associated with the terrain, is extremely important. When snowshoeing in mountains the obvious risk of avalanche is always going to be one of your main concerns and should never be taken lightly. There are hands on avalanche rescue courses that you can take that teach you about companion rescue, using a probe and beacon, as well as avalanche risk mitigation. These courses will also provide information about where you can access avalanche risk reports in the area you're snowshoeing.
There are also risks involved for snowshoeing on frozen lakes. In the spring and early fall frozen lakes can be very dangerous as the ice may still be thin in spots and a misjudgement can be fatal. Ensuring the ice is thick enough to support you is extremely critical.
Know your Fitness Level and Ability
You do not have to be an Olympian to go backcountry snowshoeing but snowshoeing can be very tiring, especially if you plan to do uphill hikes in deep snow. Being honest to yourself about your fitness level and skill will make it much easier on you and everyone around you, as no one wants to be the one holding up the rest of the group. Keeping your personal fitness up throughout the off season will help ensure you have a great time in the backcountry.
Pack the Correct Gear
When it comes to backcountry gear, forgetting one important item can make the difference from the trip of a lifetime to a complete nightmare. Bringing backcountry specific gear is extremely important. There is not an option to go into a lodge and warm up or go purchase what your forgot from the store. I find writing a check list of the gear needed is the best way to remember everything. Be sure to read our previous article “Everything you need to know about what to wear on your next snowshoe adventure” to assist you in your clothing choices.
When in avalanche terrain having avalanche specific gear is also crucial. It is also very important that you get comfortable using your gear before you go out. In a worst case real life scenario you want to be confident in using your abilities.
**We will be following up on another blog with a complete backcountry checklist to help ensure you remember everything you will need.
Plan your Trip
Don’t Go Alone
Any sort of travelling deep into the backcountry is always much safer with a buddy system instead of going alone. Especially in high danger avalanche terrain. Having the ability to have multiple people spread out when snowshoeing makes it much safer. Also, even in mellow terrain having a companion that can assist if you injure yourself such as a sprain will give you peace of mind.
Let Someone Know where your Going
It’s also very important to let someone know where exactly you are going and when you plan on being back. In a worst-case scenario where a rescue is needed, the search and rescue team will be able to locate you much faster when they can narrow down the search area.
Check the Avalanche Forecast
When planning your next backcountry snowshoeing trip make sure to check the Avalanche Forecast for the area you will be snowshoeing.
Choose Your Destination
There are plenty of available resources online to help you plan your next trip. Word of mouth is also a great way to discover new areas. Now you just need to get out there and do it!