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Idiocy and the Back Country

Posted by Rephreshed On 5:14 PM

A couple months ago I posted about a missing snowboarder in Summit County, Colorado. Since finding out about his death and reading the news over the last couple weeks I have become extremely aggrivated at the idiocracy of some snowboarders.

Rule of thumb number one for any adrendaline junkie diving into backcountry adventures: never ride alone. Seems like an obvious statement, but truth be told, it's often over looked. The aforementioned shredder, Jasper McGrath, often ventured out on his own but mainly frequented the front side of the mountain and hiked to get his turns in. On the day of his passing, he ventured into out-of-bounds backcountry terrain and became engulfed in an avalanche.

Brian Wright has a similar yet different story. He's one of the few mountain lifers who knew the terrain like the back of his hand. It was known throughout the community in which he resided that he often ventured out for thrills on his own when company was no where to be found. The last day of his backcountry freedom had left some questioning his decision. Being an individual who often carried safety gear, it seemed odd that nothing was found in the avalanche path that would make one assume he brought such gear with him. That being said, one is left to wonder if he assumed all risk of venturing out without it.

Bringing me to rule of thumb number two: buy good gear, not cheap gear and bring it with you at all times when heading into the back country. Just because it seems safe, it doesn't mean it is.

Mountains these days are jumping on the band wagon and offering heli-guided backcountry trips. Seems like a good idea. Take an avi safety course, jump in a bird with a bunch of strangers, and have at it. The problem with that plan is that even though a group of individuals may seem competent, the complete opposite may be true. A current example of that is the avalanche in Russia that killed 10 people and left others injured. Although it's an extreme example of avalanche danger, the truth lies in the facts. The avalanche was set off by a few snowboarders then took out a helicopter that landed to pick up other snowboarders. The individuals on that specific trip were from Belgium and Germany. Maybe it's an assumption, but it's hard to believe that 18 people from 3 countries knew eachother well enough to entrust their lives with eachother.

Rule of thumb number three then follows: if you're going into the back country, make sure you trust the people you're with to make smart and correct decisions.

The last example of backcountry snowboarding gone wrong actually has a happy ending. A group of skiers and snowboarders were out-of-bounds at a France ski resort when a small avalanche was set off. The individual caught in it's path was sent off a cliff but was found and retrieved in time and is now recovering in a hospital. The key point in this story is straight rider ignorance.

Rule of thumb number four: pay attention to the weather and the snowpack. A few runs in some fresh powder isn't always worth it.

The individuals in France were hiking for some turns but ignored a simple life lesson. Patience is a virtue. If they would have let the snow settle, then maybe the incident could have been avoided.

Spring has arrived and the snow is still falling leading into avalance season. Common sense may be the one thing to keep you alive. Use your head!

1 Comment

  1. .:Jessica:. Said,

    Good info! I've never gotten the chance to ride true backcountry, but all those things you listed will definitely come into play if that opportunity ever comes! Safety is SO important in riding backcountry, and any riding in general, and it's often overlooked which leads to accidents. If only everyone were more careful! Great post!

    Posted on September 21, 2010 at 12:57 PM


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