You probably think that backcountry skiing is all about jumping off cliffs and riding rough terrain. While this is a large component of the activity, there are other ways to die in the backcountry as well. Many people make the mistake of thinking that the rules are the same on the mountain as they are back in the city. They are wrong! In fact, the rules are just as much different for backcountry skiing in the woods as they are for city skating.
One of the biggest mistakes that new skiers make is that they focus too much on getting a good position and not on where they’re going. If you have a good spot, it doesn’t matter how many moves you make; you’ll be fine. But if you don’t have a good spot, things can very quickly become complicated.
This brings me to another point that I want to make very clear: Don’t go off-route! This seems to be a misunderstanding that I see from time to time. People seem to think that if they can figure out where they’re going, they can avoid danger by riding in a spot other than their planned route. This simply won’t happen.
What’s an example of this? Let’s say that you’re planning on going down south west towards Canada. That means that you want to be at your most comfortable temperature possible. However, you’re in a forested area where there are no trees. There’s no protection from the sun, and there are poisonous berries that are poisonous if you eat them. So you take a nice cool dip in the river to cool off and fall asleep.
If you do fall into the tree-less portion of the forest (let’s say, south west), you are in grave danger of drowning unless someone has taken immediate action to rescue you. Now if you’re at your most comfortable temperature in the world, how do you think that you’re going to find help before you get tired and wet? You won’t! So don’t go into the forest by yourself; don’t try to climb a tree if you know that it’s leaning too much to pull you out. These are all ways to die in the backcountry.
If you don’t have cell phones, radios, or any means of communication, you’re also in grave danger of not getting help. How many times have you heard noises that you assumed were noises from another hikers trail? Have you ever tried to use one of the radios that are available in most camping stores? Yeah, right. They only work when you have a working battery.
Another very important thing that you should not forget, especially if you’re a seasoned hiker, is the need for a first aid kit. Even if you have only a few minor wounds, if you don’t have a good first aid kit, you’ll be up and down the mountain before you know it. It might not seem like a big deal, but when you’re in the woods, that little scrape or cut can turn into a life-changing situation quickly. So make sure that you have a kit on you at all times.
In the end, make sure that you follow all of these tips. You may think that you’ve prepared well for the trip, but no one else will have done as much as you have to prepare for. If you don’t want to die in the backcountry, then you need to follow some basic guidelines. If you’re an experienced hiker, then by all means, have more than one way to safely get out of the forest. But if you’re new, then you can still learn some basic ways to die in the backcountry, while still being safe and able to enjoy your outdoor adventure.