Safety comes first, second and third in the skintrack. That's why the 2020 Skills Guide highlights the work of guides and search and rescue personnel who've dedicated their lives to education and first response when things go awry. Leading the lineup is internationally certified guide Margaret Wheeler, who talks trading in engineering for the skintrack. Then four SAR members cover the dos and don'ts of backcountry safety, followed by a deep dive into how evolving avalanche courses are bringing better and more effective education to the masses. Also included: nine safety selections for protection from the elements and unique must-have tools, from in-field fixes to injury prevention.
2020 SKILLS GUIDE
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Becoming a competent backcountry traveler requires a multitude of skills, from knowing how to put in a skintrack to choosing the correct partner for the mission at hand. Throughout the development of mountain know-how, however, one constant remains: the emphasis on safety and understanding and mitigating risk. In our third-annual Skills Guide, we focus on the specific gear and techniques for safer days in the mountains and the professionals, from guides to search and rescue teams, who are signaling the way forward.
SPLITTING THE TRACK
In 2018, the American Avalanche Association (AAA) dramatically altered the face of U.S. avalanche education, launching a new set of course guidelines that have culminated in two separate tracks for recreationists and professionals. After taking a recreationist-focused course in Nelson, British Columbia with avalanche guru Colin Zacharias and internationally certified guide Rob Coppolillo, Scott Yorko reflects on how the new pathway helps skiers and riders make better decisions in the mountains to come home safely.
BACKTRACK: STILL IN THE TILL
PERSPECTIVE: NIGHT VISION
EDITOR'S NOTE: NO HOW
An unofficial group of "guides" brings humor to the skintrack, a lesson that what goes up must come down and some hard truths in decision-making.
PIXY STIX AND KICKERS
For the kids who live in the Silver Fork neighborhood within Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah's Wasatch Mountains, skimo culture isn't just for those who've reached adulthood. To learn what this team has in store for its fourth season, Erme Catino tries to keep pace with this sport's growing young ranks.
WISDOM: MARGARET WHEELER
The second North American female to become an internationally certified guide reflects on the importance of expanding horizons, peer groups and perspectives.
A slide on the Sierra's Jobs Peak teaches lessons in group dynamics and trip planning.
The new La Sportiva Skorpius CR dials in micro-adjustability, the best gear to keep your noggin safe and four bibs that make suspenders cool again.
REFLECTIONS ON AN AVALANCHE BREAKDOWN, GEAR BUILT TO LAST AND MORE.
DEPTH: AVALANCHE ERASURE
CELEBRATING 25 YEARS: 2009-2014
BIFF AMERICA: OLD GEAR, OLD LOVE
For two and a half decades, Backcountry's kept a close pulse on skis, boots, bindings, splitboards and more.