If you are curious about the safety of going into the Colorado Backcountry this winter, it is best to know the best tips.
- AWARE: Make sure you have the right gear including the mandatory backcountry ski gear which includes a beacon, shovel, and probe. A warm layer to add on once you reach the top and a down jacket is a good start.
- BUDDY: Before you even walk out the door onto the mountains, make sure that you have a buddy to help you in case of an emergency. You and your body should be practiced and prepared to handle anything that comes your way.
- UNDERSTAND: One of the key safety measures you can take is to get education on the snow pack which includes the wind, temperature changes and stability of the snow pack. This information can be found at AVALANCHE.ORG. Having a strong understanding of unstable snow pack including cracking snow or collapsing areas will probably save your life.
- USE THE GEAR: Great you just bought all the important backcountry ski gear, but now you have to use it and keep practicing with the gear so that you have a plan in place in case something goes wrong.
- NO EGOS: In backcountry skiing and ski touring, safety should always be the number one priority. If you are traveling on a steep pitch, leapfrog down so that one person can watch the other. Once the person is out of a potential slide area, then you can proceed.
Based on the human factor, the next best plan for knowing the backcountry and becoming very aware of avalanche danger is the Acronym FACETS. Going out into the Colorado backcountry alone is never a good idea even if you have been trained in Colorado Avalanche Safety courses. Going with a professional local guide is the best plan venturing into unfamiliar terrain. If you have yet to see the video, the human factor from Black Diamond helps to you understand all the FACETS that go into making sure you will be safe from avalanches in Colorado.
Familiarity: Go with experienced skiers who are familiar with the terrain, have knowledge of weather patterns and who know exactly what to do in order to make sure everyone in the group is safe.
Acceptance (Social): It is important to go at your own skill level. Unless you have made numerous backcountry adventures, make sure you are not making a riskier decision than the rest of the party. When in doubt, trust your instinct and evaluate the situation.
Consistency/Commitment: We all want to accomplish our goals, but it is never a good idea to be so committed to an objective that poor and unsafe decisions are made because the end goal was more important than the safety of the group or inclement weather.
Expert Halo: The leaders should be the one who has better skills and makes the best decision in avalanche prone areas, however make sure to trust your instincts and with novice groups, make sure you make the best consensus for the entire group.
Tracks/Scarcity: More risks were taken when a group was in a race to get the first tracks on a given peak.
Social Proof: “Groups with the highest level of training at times would take greater risks when they met other parties in the backcountry known as social facilitation.