On the Cover: Some seasons offer endless deep, soft turns and stable conditions. Others push backcountry travelers into safer terrain as sparse snowfall creates a weak snowpack and dangerous avalanche conditions. Last winter in Austria, photographer Christoph Johann says, fit the latter description. But once spring rolled around Markus Breitfuß made up for lost time on the glaciers near Kitzsteinhorn with what Johann calls a "flawless" turn. [Photo] Christoph Johann
THE AVALANCHE ISSUE
When the avalanche danger climbs to extreme, increasing numbers of bindingless boarders can be found surfing low-angle pitches and bobbing through glades. These riders' powsurfers are throwbacks to Winterstick founder Dimitrije Milovich's early powder shapes of the '70s and Sherman Poppen's Snurfer of the '60s. In a weight-watching world of carbon composites, the ride is refreshingly old school and endlessly fun.
BOOTS ON THE GROUND
In a field dominated by government-funded federal and state agencies, Colorado's Crested Butte Avalanche Center stands out as a community-driven anomaly that's become a trusted resource for the area's passionate user base. As the Center in the heart of the Elk Mountains celebrates its 20th anniversary of operations, Jason Sumner investigates how this regional approach uniquely delivers daily avalanche forecasts.
SAFETY IN THE HERD
After Adam Campbell triggered an avalanche in 2020 that buried and killed his wife, the Canmore, Alberta- based skier and ultrarunner became tormented by demons. Thanks to a new approach to group therapy, he found his way out of a deep, dark depression. Now that group, Mountain Muskox, is looking to spread its message to help accident survivors through their process of healing and recovery.
Photographer Jason Hummel captures the rarely- seen teleskier in his natural environment.
Brigid Mander contemplates how we can better mentor beginners, and Ashley Brown shares the ups and downs of mountain-guide matrimony.
THE DEADLIEST WINTER
The U.S. recorded 37 avalanche fatalities in winter 2020/21, with 27 occuring in the month of February. As more users put pressure on skintracks, avalanche educators and rescue systems, how will lessons from last winter change the trajectory of backcountry skiing and riding?
As the mountains grow more crowded, the need to communicate with other parties is becoming increasingly important. While some will stick to the tried-and-true method of yelling louder, others are investing in zone- specific radio channels for easy conversations.
WISDOM: LIZ RIGGS MEDER
How Liz Riggs Meder's meandering path has helped shape her vision for the avalanche industry's future.
Ken Wylie brings light and dark together in a unique backcountry education experience.
GEARBOX: AVALANCHE SAFETY TOOLS
Being prepared for anything starts with having the proper gear and knowing how to use it.
PROFILE: NIKKI CHAMPION
North America's youngest female forecaster keeps her decisions conservative and her skintrack conversations spicy.
For over two and a half decades, Backcountry's kept a close pulse on skis, boots, bindings, splitboards and more.