Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ski Vacation Tips: How to do safe backcountry skiing

When the usual trails during your ski vacation gets a little boring, you can try something different, like backcountry skiing. It's skiing outside the boundaries of ski resorts, where there are no chair lifts, patrols, lodges and other amenities.

Not to ruin your expectations, but you should know that backcountry skiing, while exciting, is a dangerous activity, especially if you don't take precautions. So, if you plan to try this one out, here are some safety tips:

Know your ability
Before you go, ask yourself these questions: Am I you really prepared to try backcountry skiing? Do I have the proper knowledge and techniques in skiing in unmarked trails? Am I ready for the possible dangers I might encounter?

If you really think you can, proceed with caution. If not, don't worry because there are many ways you can enjoy skiing, which are definitely safe and fun for you.

Take an avalanche safety training course
Undergoing proper training on avoiding and surviving an avalanche is a must, especially for this type of activity. This is because you'll be skiing outside the jurisdiction of your ski resort, where risks of landslides, crevasses and avalanches are high, and help is nowhere near.

Get the right gear
Bring enough gear and supplies which can help you counteract the effects of severe weather changes. Bring extra clothes, food, a first aid kit, a map, a compass, a knife, some matches and a fire starter, a whistle and a mirror, but make sure they are compact enough to carry around.

Additionally, use skis appropriate for backcountry skiing because skis for regular ski trips are not suitable here.  But if you have the skis from your last alpine touring, mountain skiing and ski mountaineering, you can still use them. Skis like those can handle difficult terrain conditions.

Don't forget the safety gear
Safety gear such as a transceiver or beacon, a probe and shovel can significantly improve chances of survival when you or a member of your group is caught in an avalanche.

Condition yourself
Backcountry skiing is exhausting as there are no lifts to get on top of the mountains, and you have to trek your way to the zenith. Thus, being in a good physical and mental state can make your skiing safer and enjoyable.

Do not travel alone
Solo backcountry skiing is not advisable due to critical weather and avalanche-prone conditions. If it's your first time, find someone who actually knows the safest route well.

Prepare for the worst
Be alert all the time and prepare for possible accidents and emergencies. Learn about conditions like hypothermia and high altitude sickness, and ways to overcome them. Also master navigational skills such as map and compass reading.

Backcountry skiing is definitely a worthwhile experience. However, it involves a lot of risks, such as the chances of being caught in an avalanche, exhaustion during a climb, and the dangers posed by severe weather conditions. So do make sure that you have sufficient preparation and training, and don't throw caution to the wind when embarking on activities like this on your ski vacation.

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