Backcountry Safety
It's not hard to understand the allure of the backcountry. Fresh tracks, pristine snow, the absence of long lift lines, and did we mention fresh tracks? While backcountry popularity has been growing, skiers and riders need to ensure that they are prepared when entering the back or even side country. Unlike in bounds areas, the backcountry is not typically patrolled. In fact, it may take hours before emergency crews get to you in the case of a mishap. Here are some ways to stay safe while still living on the edge:

Buddy System
It applied on field trips from grade school and it still applies now. The best way to be safe is to ski and ride with at least one other person so you can keep an eye on each other. When one descends, the other should be watching from above or below. Be sure to remain in visual contact of each other! A buddy will do you no good if he or she is waiting for you at the bottom while you are stuck somewhere.

Carry the proper gear
If you are skiing or riding in the backcountry, at a minimum, you should be carrying a beacon, probe, and a shovel, as should anyone you are with. A beacon will help you locate the vicinity of someone buried in snow, while a probe will help you pinpoint exactly where that person is, and a shovel, well, you know. Our affiliates, Backcountry.com and evo.com sell all three individually or as kits.

Understand the risks
It is highly recommended that you and your friend(s) complete, at least, an Avalanche-I course. These courses will help you understand the dangers of different types of snow and how to identify potential risky situations. Additionally, you will learn the proper technique for using your beacon, probe, and shovel. Additionally, consider reading Bruce Tremper's Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, it is considered the authoritative text on avalanche survival.

Check the weather
It is important to understand the conditions of where you will be. Snow that has accumulated, then melted from subsequent warm temps, and refrozen from freezing temps, is more likely to unexpectedly slide than a uniform layer of freshly fallen snow. For this reason, spring time can be especially risky because of the fluctuations in temperatures that the layers of snow have experienced throughout the season. Again, an Avalanche-I course will teach you this invaluable knowledge. You should also check Avalanche.org to see the risk of the area you are visiting.

Additional gear
While you would certainly hope to never have to use this gear, these items can help in the case you are caught in an avalanche or tree well (to be further explored in a separate article). An AvaLung, manufactured by Black Diamond, is a tube that you breathe through in the case of burial. The tube filters out the CO2 in your exhaled breath and routes it behind you, giving you more breathable, uncontaminated air around your face. This can increase your chance of being found before running out of air. However, it will only work if you are able to either put the tube in your mouth before the slide or (hopefully) have access to it once you have settled. There are numerous stories of avalanche and tree well survivals that are credited to the use of an AvaLung.

Furthermore, an ABS-equipped backpack, which as you might expect, is a backpack with an inflatable airbag that can be deployed with a ripcord when you are sliding and inflate to keep you on top of the snow. Read more about them on Backcountry Access' website.

Lastly, consider wearing a RECCO reflector, which is a radar device built into certain clothing, that sends out a signal that can be detected by an accompanying RECCO detector. These detectors are usually carried by mountain rescue teams.

While the above gear and methods may help you stay safe in the backcountry, there is absolutely no substitute for proper training and an understanding of the risks.

What are your methods for staying safe in the backcountry? Let us know in the comments!


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The Ultimate Guide to Snowboard Camber Profiles
Are you overwhelmed by all the different types of snowboard profiles out there? Well you're in luck! We put this guide together to help you understand the differences between each profile so you can choose the best snowboard for your style of riding.

Before we dive in, be aware that the flex of a board can completely change the way it feels. To put it another way, two boards with the exact same profile, one soft and one stiff, could be considered two different boards. It all comes down to how you ride and what you want. So do not let choosing the profile cause too much brain damage.

Traditional Camber (aka Regular Camber or just Camber)
This is how it all started. It wasn't long ago that this was the only profile available. A traditional camber board is shaped like an arc with its curved side facing upwards and the tips curving back upwards, lifting off the ground. Typically, the parts of the board under your bindings or just outside of them are touching the ground. Some people say traditional camber tends to feel a little more "catchy," others will say it provides more edge hold, both are true since there are two contact points with the snow, but this provides more stability for riders who like speed. You also get more "pop" on jumps and ollies since traditional camber can be "loaded" by crouching and pushing off the ground (or lip of a jump), creating a snap back effect that launches you in the air. See this post from Snowboard Addiction for how to properly load a camber board.

There are now variations on traditional camber with some companies reducing the rise on the middle of the board, blurring the line between traditional camber and flat-camber (explained later). Check out these traditional camber snowboards at Backcountry.com and evo.com. Below are some examples:
Rome Artifact (Freestyle)
DC Space Echo (All-Mountain)
Dinosaurs Will Die Geeves (All-Mountain Freestyle)
Burton Custom X (All-Mountain)

Reverse Camber (aka Rocker)
Every major snowboard manufacturer has a different name for reverse camber (Lib Tech/GNU's Banana, Forum’s Chilly Dog, or Ride's Low Rize). This profile is essentially the opposite of traditional camber and is also shaped like an arc but with its curved side touching the ground and the tips lifting up off the ground. Reverse camber tends to feel "looser" and easier to maneuver than traditional camber because there is less contact with the snow. Beginners may have an easier time learning on this profile. Riders that like to butter may prefer reverse camber since the shape is already curved making it easier to press. Or riders lucky enough to be riding in fresh powder may prefer this profile because of its tendency to stay afloat above soft powder, that is easy to sink in. That is not to say that a traditional camber board couldn't be ridden in powder. Standalone reverse camber boards are typically not too common, rather, reverse camber is usually combined with other freatures to create a hybrid profile (keep reading). 

Tired of Hiking?
Tired of hiking? So are we. And it's time to start checking off some bucket list items. So for this year's annual snowboard trip we are going to add a day of heliskiing/riding to the itinerary. Currently, we are looking at two locations which are based at Telluride and Silverton Mountain. If anyone has been to either of these, we would love to hear from you.

Resort Reviewed: Niseko Annupuri, Japan - Powder of Your Dreams
Sometimes it’s tough to write. You may have been asked to write a paper in school or university, but other times you’re tasked with writing about something that sparks the soul. This would be the likely transcript of a discussion with my therapist, asking me to describe “my happy place.” This discussion is about Annupuri Mountain in Niseko, Japan. I’ll focus on the mountain, from when you get there to where to shred.

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