We all do it. Even though the old farts tell us not to. Even though we know it’s dangerous and that we’re not ready (emotionally or financially) to face the possible consequences. We’re human. We do it because it’s fun and it feels good. It’s probably safe to assume that we’re not going to stop, too. Luckily, precautions and equipment have been developed using advanced technology to keep us safe so that we don’t catch something terminal or have a costly accident.
I’m talking about the backcountry. The out-of-bounds. Sometimes everything inbounds has been tracked out, and you just need to get away from the crowds. Whatever the reason, we’ve all done it. And, worse, we’ve all done it without the proper equipment. But we’re in college now, and we no longer have any excuse. The following items (among others) are necessities for skiing and snowboarding in the backcountry. Buy them if you want to live (or just to be safe).
The BCA Tracker2 is one of the best-selling avalanche transceivers in the United States. It weighs just nine ounces, and three AAA batteries will keep it running for 50 hours in search mode or 250 hours in transit mode. The interface is easy to learn, and it comes with a five-year warranty.
$40 to $65
Don’t buy a flimsy little avalanche shovel. Avalanche debris is neither flimsy nor little. It’s like wet concrete — just plain heavy. Voile is a Utah company known for making burly shovels, which is perfect because a burly shovel is exactly what you’re going to want.
$59.95 to $79.95
Just like with shovels, you’re going to want to buy the sturdiest probe you can find. The Quickdraw Tour Probe from Black Diamond is probably your best bet. Not only will it help you find your friend before he dies, but you’ll be supporting the local economy, too. You’re such a winner.
All this stuff can be expensive, especially on a college budget. Luckily, gloves don’t have to be. Kinco International makes ski gloves out of “durable pigskin leather,” which lasts way longer than that synthetic crap everyone else makes gloves out of. There’s a good chance the Kinco 901 will be the last pair of ski gloves you’ll ever need to buy.
You’re obviously going to need a lot more gear to be able to survive in the backcountry. Coats are important, for example. To keep it on the cheap side, look for ski swap events and shop at thrift stores and consignment shops. A good place to start is 2nd Tracks Sports at 2927 East 3300 South. The staff is super friendly and can help keep you safe and stylish in the backcountry.