Breckenridge avalanche protection 101

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With the Breckenridge Ski Resort 2014-15 ski season right around the bend, it’s too fun not to get caught up in planning that next big backcountry powder day. Dreaming of those first lines, fresh tracks, hut trips with your hardest of hardcore friends and hitting that secluded stash that no one else knows about…

That’s what it’s all about. In the back of your mind, though, you know there’s a sliver of risk (and that’s oftentimes what makes it so exciting). Take heed, be mindful and get after it.

Here’s what to keep top of mind as you venture outside resort boundary lines.

Be prepared for the unexpected

VailResorts_BRK6909_Jack_Affleck_smallMountain safety is key and knowing and staying within your ability level is important. Be ready for extreme terrain that could contain cliffs, steep slopes as well as rocks and other hazards. Skiing or boarding extreme terrain is for experts only. Be sure to use designated gates to access the backcountry and go with experienced friends. Everyone should be wearing a helmet and carrying a beacon, a shovel and a probe pole.

Read the snowpack

VailResorts_BRK6961_Jack_Affleck_smallCan you gauge the pitch of a slope? And identify unstable snowpack? Recognizing avalanche terrain is the most important part of your powder day. Check out the Forest Service National Avalanche Awareness avalanche basics and rescue tips. They highly recommend attending an avalanche class and learning how to carry out a rescue before heading to the backcountry.

Have a fast and effective rescue plan

Because these alluring and pristine areas lie outside ski area boundaries, they aren’t patrolled or maintained, meaning the risk for an avalanche increases considerably. Another thing to keep in mind — it can take some time for rescue crews to reach you. Staying calm and thinking fast is vital for self-rescue or saving a fellow skier. Study these guidelines for performing an avalanche rescue.

Poke around the American Avalanche Association and deepsnowsafety.org for more info.

Happy powder hunting! Stay safe out there.

– Lisa Pogue