What I want my family and friends to know before they go into the backcountry!
We want you to live through every adventure you take on in the backcountry! Seriously! So many accidents and tragedies that happen to snowmobilers, cross country skiers, hikers, climbers, skiers/snowboarders, and adventurers are preventable. We want to show you a very solid resource for you and anyone you know that ventures into the backcountry so everyone comes home safely!
There are two main categories of hazards we can encounter in the backcountry. Objective and subjective hazards.
Objective hazards: These are hazards that exist naturally in the backcountry. These are things we can't control like lightning, rockfall, mudslides, flash floods, avalanches, storms, and dreaded Yeti attacks (Ok, maybe not that) etc. The only way to completely avoid these is to not go into the backcountry, but that isn't realistic. What is realistic is how we choose to go into these places and avoid or mitigate our exposure to these hazards while still having the experiences we all seek out there.
Subjective hazards: These are dangers we create, which include going into the backcountry blindly when a major storm is coming, going without a realistic plan, not having proper clothing, inability to navigate effectively in whiteout conditions, inability to navigate in good weather, being out of shape, bringing old gear that breaks, bringing the wrong gear, and choosing routes that expose us to objective hazards because we don't know how to plan around them. These are things within our control!
Get Educated Now! Several years ago I found Mountain Sense, which has very solid courses online. It's a go at your own pace format run by IFMGA Mountain Guide Mark Smiley who is based out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This is an incredible online resource that has made a big difference in the skills I have in my toolbox when I go into the mountains for personal goals or when guiding clients. Some, not all, of the information you will learn in the Mountain Sense courses are covered if you were to take the AMGA ( American Mountain Guides Association) guide courses, but those are very expensive, time consuming and cost anywhere between $3k -$5k+ per course and include a lot of training and education in areas that aren't necessary for people who aren't trying to guide clients in the backcountry. For a fraction of that cost Mark Smiley, the founder of Mountain Sense, trims the fat and gives teaches you the essentials you need to know.
"Each course equips you with battle-tested techniques, not empty bravado, to excel in your mountain pursuits. You'll emerge more capable in your discipline. Dare to surpass your current skills. There's no lack of time-wasting bull$h!t instructional content out there. This, my friend, is the exact opposite." - Mark Smiley
I really encourage you to get the courses he offers that pertain to your endeavors in the backcountry. Additionally, these will make a solid gift to friends and family in your life who do go into dangerous terrain in pursuit of their goals whether they be snowmobiling, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, backcountry skiing and snowboarding, climbing, mountaineering etc.
I don't get a dime from Mountain Sense, or Mark for putting this information out! I simply believe wholeheartedly in the training and have seen it benefit my endeavors time and time again. For example, just last week a friend of mine and I were skiing off a 12'k peak here in the San Juan Mountains, and we soon found ourselves in whiteout conditions. At times we couldn't see 20' in any direction and it was like skiing inside of a ping pong ball. EVERYTHING was white. The wind was howling and blowing snow in our faces. You start to get vertigo because your mind isn't being given the visual cues we have 99.9% of the time in life. We couldn't tell if we were about to ski over a cliff band or if we were in a completely safe area. I remembered to pack a 20' bright green 6mm cord, which I learned from one of Mark's courses. What you do is tie the cord to your ski pole with a carabiner on the end for weight and "cast" the line, like a fisherman, in the direction you're heading, repeatedly, as you slowly ski down. The bright green cord gives immediate contrast so you can tell the slope angle and what the micro-terrain features are like directly in front of us. We safely made it down the mountain without incident, thanks in part to the education I received from a Mountain Sense course. The courses are geared towards mountain pursuits, however the Smartphone Navigation and Avalanche Safety courses will be very beneficial for anyone that goes into the backcountry as avalanches kill non-mountaineers and skiers regularly. If you happen to be a backcountry skier, climber, or mountaineer, the course offerings will be huge for you. If you are just getting your feet wet in backcountry pursuits, these courses will accelerate your knowledge and ability to plan a safer adventure and to deal with the inevitable "epics" that occur to us all! Even if you don't plan on going into the mountains, Mark's Smartphone Navigation course is invaluable in any terrain, even just the woods!
the information in these courses can save your life, and that of the people we care about that venture outside. You should be able to lead them. No excuses.
I recommend starting with the Smartphone Navigation course, for 50% off to our community! The NAV course is usually $49, but with the discount you pay $24.50 which is ridiculously good, especially if you find yourself kinda lost out there. We all pretty much have smart phones so the ability to leverage this technology is a game changer! Can you confidently navigate your way to safety in a whiteout, or thick woods? Can you confidently lead friends or family out of dire situations in the backcountry ? If not, get the course and step your levels up, now!
Check out the courses below!
Mountain Sense Course Offerings:
- Smartphone Navigation You get 50% off right now with code "stay found"
- Avalanche Safety Course
- Backcountry Splitboard Mountaineering
- Crevasse Rescue