Get Stoked with Backcountry Basics

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Winter IS here!!!! As the snow is starting to drop in Colorado, excitement is growing as fast as the flakes are falling. We can hardly contain ourselves here at Snow Minions!! It is a great time to dream about fluffy stuff and get a little review going on that oh so close you can taste it backcountry play that is quickly approaching.

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Taking time to review some avy basics should get you started on your path of being a life-long learner at the start of every season.

  • Education should be 1st on your list if you are serious about backcountry. Snow Minions is here to help you find your way along this path, do not hesitate to reach out!
  • 90% of all avalanches are triggered by the victim or someone in their group.
  • Being educated and careful does not remove 100% of the danger of backcountry snow play.

There are 6 types of avalanches:

  • Slab
  • Point-Release
  • Wet Snow
  • Cornice Collapse
  • Ice Fall
  • Roof

There are 4 components of every avalanche:

  • Cohesive slab of snow: this is the chunk that breaks off when the slide is triggered.
  • Slope: the magic number here is 38 degrees. Most slides need 30-45 degrees. **This angle varies depending on WHERE in the world you are riding**
  • Trigger: 90% of the time this is HUMAN.
  • Weak inner layer: due to weather patterns and snow type, a weak inner layer that causes the cohesive slab to break.

Did you know: Colorado has the highest number of avalanche deaths EVERY year.

We have something called “continental snowpack” in Colorado. This means we have many different layers within the snow pack. If you have ever been here you know that the weather can change on a dime and we have over 300 days of sunshine.

4 Myths Debunked:

  • Myth: Avy’s are unpredictable and happen without warning. Reality: They really are not all that unpredictable with the proper education. An avalanche certification (AIARE or equivalent) is a must!
  • Myth: It was just “the wrong place at the wrong time.” Reality: If you are educated you know where the wrong places are.
  • Myth: You will be safe in the trees. Reality: Look at it like this: If they are wide enough to ride it’s wide enough to slide. An avy will take out trees. You are smaller than a tree.
  • Myth: Loud noises trigger an avalanche. Reality: 90% of all avalanches are triggered by the victim or someone in their group.

Don’t forget: CPR and 1st aid certifications are highly recommended!

There is so much more to learn, but these will get you started. Winter play is all about fun, and with that fun comes this lesson: Do what you love while being responsible for the consequences. You need to understand what you are getting into and what you could be leaving behind. Gut instinct is not to be ignored.

Snow is simply frozen water. Water in whatever form creates a wave that can destroy anything in its path.

Check out a free snow education class in your area to begin the critical educational steps to becoming a backcountry explorer. Come say hi at Snow Minions and we’ll help you find it, or Google “avalanche education” near you. Happy turning friends, cheers to winter!!


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