Posted on December 12, 2023

The allure of the backcountry is undeniable. The untouched landscapes, the serene isolation, and the raw beauty draw many adventurers seeking a deeper connection with nature. However, entering the backcountry demands respect, preparation, and responsibility. To ensure a safe and rewarding experience, here’s a guide on getting into the backcountry safely.

Gear and Equipment – *This is not a comprehensive list, more the bare minimum*

Invest in quality gear suitable for the specific environment you’ll be exploring. Essential items include but are not limited to:

  • Navigation Tools: Maps, compass, GPS device.
  • Shelter: Tent, tarp, or bivy sack.
  • Clothing: Weather-appropriate layers + extra layers, gloves, and hat.
  • Safety Equipment: Beacon, probe, shovel, first aid kit, whistle, stove, fire-starting tools.
  • Nutrition: High-energy food and ample water or a water filtration system.
  • Communication: Satellite phone or a reliable communication method in remote areas.
Research and Planning

Before going on a backcountry adventure, thorough research is crucial. Understand the terrain, weather conditions, avalanche conditions, and potential hazards. Study maps, trail guides, and recent trip reports to gain insights into the area’s challenges and highlights. Plan your route, set realistic goals, and always have backup options in unexpected situations.

Ideally, you have been following how conditions have formed throughout the winter to comprehend the snowpack’s problem layers and where they sit. Unfortunately, there is no weather archive, so if you choose to explore without a guide, read Avachlance Canada’s report every morning months before your trip. If you have little or no experience, your avalanche courses are outdated, have never been to Whistler, or have any doubt about your ability, hire a guide.

Where you get your information from is also crucial. This article should not be considered a resource – always seek information from professionals. Avalanche Canada is your top resource; Instagram or “talking to locals” should not be where you get your information from.

Physical Preparedness

Backcountry exploration demands physical fitness. Start training in advance, focusing on strength, endurance, and flexibility. Gradually increase the difficulty of your workouts to prepare your body for the challenges sometimes faced in travelling through the mountains. Plan within your fitness ability.

Group Dynamics

If venturing into the backcountry as part of a group, establish clear communication and a shared understanding of goals, safety protocols, and responsibilities. Practice teamwork, support each other, and make decisions collaboratively. Everyone should have a voice, contribute to the decision-making process, and feel heard. Checking in with your partners throughout the day and keeping open to saying, “Hey, I’m not feeling this!” is vital. The backcountry is not the place for ego-driven decisions or solo heroics. It’s always okay to say “no” and turn around.

Adaptability and Respect

Nature is unpredictable, and situations can change rapidly in the backcountry. Be adaptable and ready to modify your plans if necessary. Respect local wildlife and other adventurers. Remember, the goal is to explore and do so responsibly/ safely, leaving only footprints behind. Your actions could impact someone else’s life, not just yours.

While Crystal Lodge offers insights and our enthusiastic team is always eager to listen to our guests’ adventures, The Crystal cannot assume liability for individuals venturing off the resort. We aim to empower and encourage responsible exploration by urging individuals to practice safety above all else. This article serves as a stepping-stone for you to seek further resources and training for navigating in the backcountry. The Crystal Lodge encourages all guests to seek guided tours; exploring the backcountry with little or no experience is not recommended and is extremely dangerous. For information on guided tours and avalanche courses, click here.