You’ve got one day this weekend to get out and ski tour. How are you approaching your plan to get into the backcountry? Are you showing up at the trailhead Saturday morning with your partners and going from there, or are you spending the time to thoroughly plan for your day ahead of time?
Planning and preparing for a day of ski touring mid-winter in the backcountry can be an overwhelming process filled with more questions than answers. That being said, with practice and a systematic approach you can reduce the amount of information overload, and maximize enjoyment and safety on a day of backcountry skiing.
Using systems to manage uncertainty
There has been a significant amount of research as to how humans most effectively plan for an activity that operates in environments full of uncertainty. The backcountry and avalanche hazard is the quintessential example of this type of environment. Stir in skiing, which creates a strong emotional response and desire to participate in the activity, and you’ve got a potent recipe for a challenging decision-making process.
Many current avalanche education programs teach a systematic approach to planning for a day in the backcountry. This includes understanding the individuals in your team, anticipating hazards (such as weather, terrain, and avalanches), creating a plan that helps to manage your team’s risk, and ultimately incorporating an emergency response plan. This may seem like a lot of steps, but with practice and time this can become a streamlined process.
So how could this look?