Spring is a great time to head to the backcountry. And with ski resorts closed as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, more and more skiers and riders are grabbing the skins and headed up for a much-needed break from the stress of daily life. Now, it's more important than every to THINK Before you Go.
Outdoor recreation in the wide open backcountry can, indeed, be a much-needed break and good for your physical and mental health. But the playing field has changed. It's more than just Know Before You Go - get the gear, get the training, get the forecast, get the picture, get out of harm’s way. With the ever-changing impacts of coronavirus, it's imperative that you also sit back and Think Before You Go. What's changed on the playing field as a result of COVID-19? How will your actions impact others?
The Bryce and Ronnie Athlete Snow Safety Foundation was formed to help keep skiers and riders safe - not just from avalanches, but from other hidden dangers in the backcountry. This is one of them. As you organize your avi backpack to help protect yourself before heading up to the backcountry, take a minute to think about the potential impacts to others you may be creating. Prepare for your adventure, have fun, but think about those around you.
Respect the Rules
We're all becoming accustomed to social distancing and some of the basic precautions to prevent spread of COVID-19 to others. Think about how that impacts your outing. Who are you going with? How will you travel to the trailhead? Know your local rules. Nearly all mountain areas in America are now under some form of community or statewide public health orders. Many avalanche information centers are carrying updates for their regions. Or check the website for your county, state or U.S. Forest Service to be sure. Some backcountry areas are closed. Others are open with precautions. Respect those rules as if the lives of your friends depend on it. If there's a local health order in place asking visitors to stay away, abide by it. Treat yourself as if you are a carrier, and don't bring the virus to others. Don't travel to new places. Stay close to home in areas that are familiar to you.
It's easy to think that the backcountry is the perfect place to practice social distancing. But it starts at home. Don't pack all your buddies into the car. Drive separately. Don't hitchhike. Don't high five your buddy at the trailhead. Keep your separation as you prepare your gear. Don't pet your buddy's dog - and maybe leave the dogs at home. Forego that post-outing celebration back at the car that brings you in close contact with others.
Chill: Ski or Ride in Moderation
We're all accustomed to enjoying the backcountry with our mind knowing that we have assets supporting us like search and rescue and medical facilities. Heaven forbid anything would ever happen. But we have that confidence, and even expectation, that help will be there. But with hospitals filling with coronavirus victims and first responders running at maximum capacity, we can no longer have that confidence that help is on the way. It's not a time to take risks. Just chill. Ride lower angle slopes. Take more than the normal precautions. Think about every action you take. Be conservative in your line. It's just not a time to take risks. Let's not burden our first responders or medical facilities with an unnecessary ski injury.
These are challenging times and a period our generation has never faced. As backcountry enthusiasts, let's do our part to make sure we keep others safe. Enjoy the backcountry this weekend. But Think Before You Go.