2008 Top 10 Backcountry Resolutions
2008 Top 10 Backcountry Resolutionsby Jason Grant Whitehouse
You have all year to lose weight, quit smoking, and put away money in the bank, but winter comes only once. Have a look through our Backcountry.com in the backcountry resolutions and feel free to adhere, mock, or just half-heartedly get into them, because after all, no one’s keeping tabs once the snow’s gone.
#10 - Hike/Tour More Often
I won’t deny it, I like skiing when the lifts are doing all the work on the way up. But every time I get to the top of the skin track I’m reminded how transcendentally amazing hiking for your turns can be—and speaking from the perspective of one raised in the midst of Big Love-like suburbia—it’s almost spiritual. It seems winter is either getting shorter, or time is just passing more quickly as I get older (maybe its climate change), but it’s rare that I look back on my ski season regretting that I had spent too much time clacking away on my Diamirs and less time inside the resort ropes.
#9 - Get a Little More Intimate with the Goat
We usually shy away from tooting our own alpenhorns, but we think our gear is pretty sweet—have a look. From beanies and beer drinking gloves to high-end softshell jackets—minus the sticker shock—we’re stoked to have our name on this stuff.
#8 - Wake Up Earlier
Eating a proper breakfast, hydrating, more untracked lines, not having to crap at the soggy, manky gas
station at the mouth of the canyon: all benefits of an early awakening. Watching the sun rise from the
top of a freshly-flocked ridge top is also a great incentive—there are few things more fulfilling, I think.
Whether you’re trying to make it up Little Cottonwood Canyon before avalanche work starts at the ass crack of
dawn or you’re just trying to make the drive from Portland to Mount Hood before the lifts fire up, beating the
sun to the mountain almost always pays off.
Early bird Evan Stevens earning turns in the Selkirks of British Columbia.
#7 - Take an Avalanche Course
Avalanche pack: check. Shovel: check. Probe: check. Beacon: double-check. Knowing what the hell is going on: uhm, check? “I’ve been in the backcountry enough to know what I’m doing … I have an Avalung, I’ll be OK … I can outrun it …” Bullshit. Safety in the backcountry is too important to half-ass it. Avalanche.org has a comprehensive list of courses throughout the Intermountain West. At the very least, pick up Bruce Tremper’s Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain. It could save your life.
#6 - Save Cash for Next Winter
Let’s call it the October scramble—you know, that first skiff of snow right around Halloween reminding you that your skis need mending, if not replacing, that damn top-of-the-car demon (brother and cohort of the left sock devil) made off with your gloves and goggles on the last day of the season last year, and your winter gear wish list some TLC. There’s a lot of stuff worth buying these days—check out the sweet outerwear Norrřna cranks out. Just imagine how comfy this thing would be:
#5 - Leave the Phone at Home/In the Car
There are things that I hate about cell phones and things I love about them, but the hate largely outweighs the love when it comes to cell phone use at ski resorts. Sure, phones can help in backcountry rescue and they’re great for safety if the place you’re hiking or skiing gets reception, but when it comes to the resort, phones are just an annoyance. For some reason I was instilled at an early age with that idea that one’s activities shouldn’t infringe on another’s liberties—I’m not really sure where that came from. All I know is that the idea of allowing a complete stranger to hear my phone conversation can be compared to a cold prostate examination. Let me set the stage a little more fully:
“HEY!” “WHAT?!” “I’M AT SNOWBIRD!” “WHAT?!” “NO, SNOW-BIRD—I’M SKIIING, I’M ON THE TRAM!” “YEAH, LAST NIGHT WAS AWESOME, I WAS SOOOO WASTED!” “WHAT?!” “I CAN BARELY HEAR YOU!” “OK, COOL, I’LL CALL YOU LATER, DUDE!” “WHAT?!” “I’LL CALL YOU LATER!”
Unless you’re expecting a panicked, labor-induced phone call from the misses, please leave your phone in the car—or better yet, back at home. We get enough of the extremely important “blue tool” business conversations in town, please leave your damn phone at home when you’re headed to the mountain.
#4 - Hot Tea
A thermos of hot tea practically saved my life this year. It could save yours as well. Aside from its refreshing qualities, hot tea, if kept hot, can serve so many more purposes. Seriously. Let me tell you why: A few weeks ago I skied into a yurt up in the Northern Utah backcountry in the Bear River Range, and for those of you unfamiliar with the particular area of Utah, its balls cold. Balls cold. So, upon reaching the yurt as the sun sang its swan song, we came to discover that the lock holding our waiting shelter’s door closed was frozen solid. Mind you—our group was tired, cold and the temperature was dropping steadily into the wrong end of the thermometer. Despite our attempts at slow warming via a Bic lighter and more than a few curses and numb fingers, we decided to pour what hot tea was left in our thermos on the lock before I tried kicking through the door with my AT boots. The lock thawed and we didn’t have to build a quinhzee—there was much rejoicing. I’ve resolved to take hot tea on my tours from now on: it quells the shivers, tastes great, and could save you from a yurt damage fee.
#3 - Seize Some Carp
We only live once. In fact, chances are I’ll be lucky if my knees make it to the year 2040 (which is probably about the time the technological and medical stuff of dreams afforded The Six Million Dollar Man will be available to the lowly pleb). What I’m saying here is that we should be making the most out of our winters, but how does one do that? Well, when it comes to some serious diem seizing, a little place called Silverton, CO rings my bell. Looking for a place to christen your new Dukes? Silverton Mountain is pretty much the ideal ski experience for those looking to lap some of the best backcountry terrain in the contiguous US, minus most of the leg work. Does riding a lift make you a lazy person? Wait, can you repeat the question? I’m having a hard time breathing with all this powder in my face.
#2 - Appreciate the Snow (…even more)
Last year, those of us blessed to live in the topographical and meteorological gem that is Utah’s Wasatch, as well as much of the American Northwest, suffered through a dishearteningly dry winter. However, this year we have experienced almost unabated dumps. Big, heavy dumps. Climate change is becoming less of a marketing/political tool and more of a reality for those of us gaining our info from the American marketing machine, and despite your convictions, arguments against the benefit of environmental impact reduction don’t hold much water. So recycle some bottles, carpool to work, get some of those efficient light bulbs, or build a Hobbit home—whatever your method, do whatever you can in helping to keep snow (and lots of it) on the mountains.
#1 - Hug a Snowboarder/Skier
It’s the twenty-first century (remember when saying ‘it’s the twentieth century’ or ‘welcome to the nineties’ sounded all futuristic?) and high time we did away with the angst amongst the snow sliding community. Ski with a snowboarder, snowboard with a skier, feel the love. Can’t we all just get along?