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How to start Backcountry Riding.

9753 Views 80 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  GeeJayBee
Hello peeps.

Will try to make this short. My GF and Friends made me a surprise birthday party (I don't like birthdays) and gave me some backcountry related presents. The biggest one is from GF, it's an avalanche airbag backpack.

We are going to mount baker this January and I already googled if I could sign up for backcountry classes but unfortunately, dates are a little off. So no classes for now.

In the middle of the process, I was a bit confused about how many classes there are, and how diverse backcountry in general (Heli skiing, cat tracks, hiking (that requires split boards)). The thing is I am more focused on my career for now and work, so I am on the budget. My GF knows how much I love snowboarding and wants me to start riding backcountry and introduce her and her friends eventually.

Could you please navigate me and let me know what classes and courses I need to take to be aka "safe and prepared" for backcountry? From what I understand AIARE 1 and AIARE 2 are must have but what about others? I can't afford splitboards for at least 2 years, so, for now, all I can is snowshoeing and leaving resort boundaries.

Also, it seems mount baker has a really good infrastructure when it comes to learning backcountry, here on east coasts we don't have it this developed. Is there another mountain someone can recommend we can plan a trip and corporate backcountry learning with? I heard Tahoe has a good infrastructure as well.

Thank you!
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There are also avy classes on Mt. Washington out of North Conway, NH. Probably not any closer than the Jay area, though.

There’s a lot of great info on Canada’s avalanche website as well. Start in the “learn” section. https://www.avalanche.ca

Here’s another sobering video. https://www.avalanche.ca/cherry-bowl/#/intro
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I had to search to find one more video. This was the best thing shown during my avy class. It really highlights a number of the challenges and pitfalls in backcountry decision making.

https://youtu.be/nIPk_Ap7svM

Of course, none of this heavy shit means don’t hit the backcountry. It just means learn as much as you can and go slow.



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When I think about the backcountry it's somewhere you don't go without supplies and survival equipment. Anywhere you ride without that is just off piste. The thing is that I think people, myself probably included, are a lot more careless when it's "just" off piste.



Personally I try to always ride with a partner or within reach of a piste or such, and I avoid going where I can't clearly see the terrain ahead.



I do have equipment to go into proper backcountry (though not a splitboard) but it's just such an undertaking I don't do it because of the time it takes. I've been thinking about it, but I will probably just ride from the resorts.


What do you mean supplies and survival equipment? It sounds to me like you are thinking of winter camping/mountaineering or some type of expedition into the wilderness as backcountry and everything else is just “off piste.” I think that’s a mistake.

The stuff that is accessible as a day trip but where no one is going to take a stove and sleeping bag and stuff (matches, first aid kit, space blanket sure) is still backcountry. If you get off at the top of a pass and ride to the bottom with a car shuttle, THAT IS BACKCOUNTRY!



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When I think about the backcountry it's somewhere you don't go without supplies and survival equipment. Anywhere you ride without that is just off piste. The thing is that I think people, myself probably included, are a lot more careless when it's "just" off piste.



Personally I try to always ride with a partner or within reach of a piste or such, and I avoid going where I can't clearly see the terrain ahead.



I do have equipment to go into proper backcountry (though not a splitboard) but it's just such an undertaking I don't do it because of the time it takes. I've been thinking about it, but I will probably just ride from the resorts.

I realize in many ways we are just arguing about semantics. The reality is we take risks. The key is to understand the risks so you can accurately evaluate whether you are comfortable with that level of risk.

Most of us are not going to carry much “survival” gear on a short backcountry trip. That doesn’t mean we are unprepared. I think that is what struck me about your post - it read to me that you were equating backcountry with a place you need survival gear and “careless” with lack of survival gear and I don’t agree with either of those statements.



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I don't think I implied that you were careless. I said that people often don't see the dangers with off piste riding because they don't see skipping out of bounds as backcountry or something particularly dangerous.



Besides, the meaning of backcountry is an English term and I don't think we have a good translation in Swedish. Hence the "When I think".


All fair, which is why I wrote “it read to me.” Here in the US we don’t use the term off-piste much at all. Nowadays people here will say “slack country” when they mean resort accessed backcountry.

My point was simply that there are levels of preparedness for different types of backcountry, but if it ain’t resort, it’s backcountry and should be considered as such.


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Lucky kid. https://www.thedenverchannel.com/ne...that-buried-him-for-40-minutes-in-french-alps

Whoever writes about this for AP is an idiot, though. “Avalanche detector.” Man what I wouldn’t give for one of those.


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I just got the chance to watch this - great video.


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Since this thread has pretty well been answered & is now veering a bit off the rails,... :laugh:

I've been curious about these avalanche control efforts. Can you even ride in, on, over, thru, the debris field after they've set off a slide??

The few debris fields I've seen, It looks to me like an un-ridable field of blocks & bumps. Does it set up like hardpack? Do you wait for ma nature to cover the bumps n blocks with snow?

Does setting off a controlled slide ruin the slope for riding after? Inquiring NooBs wanna know!! ;) :shrug:
As Deagol said, it depends. Here is a vid of my wife "riding" down through some refrozen, wet avalanche debris. As you can tell, it was horrible. (This was in Austria with a guide.)

[ame]https://vimeo.com/308490695[/ame]

Generally speaking avy debris is going to be very dense (the reason you are essentially encased on concrete if you get buried) so it is no bueno.

As for riding the slide path, it all depends on how deep it went and what it slid on. If it went to the ground, well, it is the ground. If it is some hard crust layer, that layer is often still there and would suck to ride. Perhaps if it slid on loose facets it would be okay.
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Lol, yeah. We had to cross several frozen debris fields today to reach a short run of 400m pow in northern aspect, and then hop turn through a southern aspect minefield of grass n rocks to get out. A lot of work for a hand full sweet turns, but still worth it.
AND, less dangerous than riding groomers ATM, where holiday vacation crowds in constant mulled wine xmas-new year mood crash into eachother at too high speeds. (Rescue heli flew 5 times yesterday to evacuate injured groomer folks).
That was the funniest thing about riding in Austria. We watched a heli come to get a woman injured on a groomer 200 yards from the top of the main gondola in St. Anton. Rescue dude even flew up from the bottom suspended on a cable under the heli. Our guess was the lady took one look at how she was potentially getting down the hill and suddenly managed to walk her ass back up to the top of the gondi. That would never happen here - she’d get a ski patrol sled to the bottom or, in this case, maybe a snowmobile ride the 200 yards to the lift.

This photo is from the top of the lift.
Snow Geological phenomenon Winter Ice cap Freezing
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Wow, that is horrible. Looks like there were several other slides coming down into that same valley. Must be "slack country" as she is on a solid board? Also, is that a Dupraz?
Yes, it was a very warm February (2016, Neni) and a ton of stuff slid. This is "European" backcountry. We were going between interconnected ski areas. Some hiking, lots of traversing, but no need for a split board, especially because most of the snow was so solid. Fortunately our guide managed to find us pockets of soft snow and we were also hitting things just as it warmed up before it was too soft and dangerous. That particular day we rode at 3-4 resorts (depending on how your define them) and ended up taking a bus back about 45 minutes to the area we started. The next day we ended up in another valley and took the train back to where we started. It's a wild and fun way to explore.

Yep, it's a Dupraz.
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Heli isn't that expensive. Actually quite cheap IMO. We only pay 40$ a year for Rega (Swiss Heli Rescue organisation) membership. That's it. If injured, they'd fetch us, w/o additional cost.


Yeah, we saw how that worked. Have fun getting transported down the mountain 100 feet below on a cable dangling and swinging under the heli!!!

(Actually, I’d find that the best part of the experience.)


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Mmm... our Helis have inboard transportation. No cable. They transport goods to huts or cows with cable, tho.

https://www.zalp.ch/aktuell/suppen/suppe_2008_04_01/bilder/rega.jpg
:surprise::surprise::surprise:

Without a comma I thought you meant "transport goods to huts or transport goods to cows" with the cable. Holy shit that cow must be mad!
It seems the only place that fills up those cylinders is diving shops and it costs $60-70.
That seems way high. I’ve not had to refill because I haven’t flown, but at most I paid $20 Canadian when I got my fill last year.

You definitely cannot take a full cylinder on an airplane.
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