Backcountry Ski Touring — Making a Plan
MM ski guide Stephen Heath gives some basic, but important advice on planning your backcountry adventure
Getting to places like this doesn’t just happen. It takes some work, physical work of hauling yourself up the mountain. But even before that you have to put in the work of doing your homework.
It’s the quiet time at home, in a backcountry hut, or on the drive to your destination. It’s a necessary pre-tour routine, before you even put your gear on, when you set yourself up to make good decisions before you’re out in it.
My goal at this time is to pre-bias myself to make good choices for that day’s conditions. If I don’t do this beforehand and I’m faced with a beautiful line with blower pow then I’m probably going to build a narrative that allows me to ski that line because powder is so compelling and I WANT TO GO TO THERE.
This is why we pre-bias ourselves by ruling out terrain based on the day’s conditions before we’re staring at it longingly. It’s often a difficult decision, one that palces good judgement over desire. The terrain we choose then to interact with is one of the few things we have complete control over and it’s the primary way we can mitigate our exposure to avalanches.
Your local avalanche center has all the information you need to make these terrain choices for the day. Choosing where you’re going to go but also, and perhaps more importantly, where you’re not going to go.
Put in the time to dig into the avy forecast for your zone, not just reading the primary problems, but also the forecast discussion and any observations that were submitted.
Set yourself up for success, have a plan and be observant of what’s happening out there.