HOW TO STAY SAFE IN THE BACKCOUNTRY, with Kimmy Fasani
If the last month or so is anything to go by here on the West Coast, this winter has some serious snow in store for us! From the Sierras to the Pacific Northwest, we are starting to see what actually looks like a real winter for a change, with the rest of the country and Europe hopefully not far behind. But before we rush out with our split boards, backcountry skis, and Snurfers, we should take a minute to think about the other side of all that deep powder: safety.
While we love that our extended Mizu family is out there making the most of what nature has to offer us, we also want you to be well informed and safe, so we checked in with our kick-ass new advocate, pro-snowboarder Kimmy Fasani, to find out what recommendations she has before heading out into the backcountry.
Check. Apply. Ride. Repeat.
I always have my Burton AK backpack with a beacon, probe, and shovel. I also make sure I’m stocked up with Clif Bars, a Mizu thermos with warm water, an extra layer, a first aid kit, spare parts kit for my bindings, extra gloves, and goggles.
AVALANCHE SAFETY COURSE
I have taken an AIARE Avi 1 Course and a couple of refresher courses. I highly recommend that anyone who is interested in getting into the backcountry getting educated first. Do a course with a friend so that you are both a good team in the backcountry. This way you can both be a solid voice of reason while navigating through the mountains. If you have already taken an avi course make sure to practice your skills as often as possible and always check your buddy to make sure their beacon is on, and have them do the same for you. Being in the mountains is really special and fun but safety should always be your #1 focus!
CHOOSE YOUR CREW WISELY
Being with a crew who is knowledgeable and educated on mountain and snow safety is really important to me when spending time in the backcountry. If I go out with a new crew I always try to run through some basic understanding of how everyone’s beacons work. I also like to work with a crew that I know I can 'speak up' to if I have concerns about safety or conditions. Other things I look for in a crew to explore with are positive attitudes and good work ethic. I love going into the mountains with a crew who is excited to be there and down to work hard to access new/fun terrain, while still being safe and aware of our surroundings.
PREPARATION IS KEY
I always check the weather the night before and the morning of the adventure. I find the local avalanche report and read through it to make sure I am aware what aspects are safe to be on. I also try to talk to friends who have been in the backcountry recently to see what kind of conditions they have seen. All of these help me be prepared for what I might experience while I'm in the mountains.
Being fit and strong makes splitboarding or hiking in the backcountry a lot easier. Deep snow can be hard to navigate through but I find that the more in shape I am the easier hiking becomes. During the off season I spend time hiking, rock climbing, trail running, and a little time in the gym to make sure I am ready for winter.
TAKE TIME TO TAKE IT IN
Spending time in the mountains is good for the soul. It's peaceful and relaxing. Even when I am working hard to climb a mountain or earn my turns I find that my mind is happy and calm. For me, mountains and trees are the most grounded and powerful things in nature so being surrounded by them makes me feel at ease and happy.