Backcountry Skiing and COVID19

Backcountry Skiing and COVID19

Well…what a different world we’re in from just a month ago. First off, wherever you are, I hope you’re doing your best to practice social distancing and staying healthy. Avoidance of interaction seems to be the best strategy to prevent the spread of COVID19 at this point. Our sincere condolences to anyone that has lost a job or even worse, a loved one. We’re all in this together.

On a more positive note, hanging out in the backcountry where there are very few people around seems like a pretty good option right now! It definitely is, but there are a few things you should consider to keep yourself and others safe. To be fair, the absolute safest option is to stay home. End of story. But if you absolutely need to get out there…in this article we’ll highlight a few things to think about before heading out backcountry skiing while the world is on lockdown.

If you’re in a country or city that has residents locked down please abide by those guidelines. I don’t want people getting arrested and saying that Mike at HikeForPow told them they could go skiing. This is a great time to catch up on ski movies instead. Check out this article for some ideas on what to watch.

backcountry skiing blue skies and mountains
No COVID19 out here! Probably…I’m not a doctor.

Transportation

If you’re planning to tour with someone that you don’t live with, there’s a bit of risk there. It can be minimized by maintaining space in the backcountry, but in the car? Not so much. Being cooped up in a vehicle with someone outside of your household for an hour or more is asking for trouble. Even if it’s your best friend since kindergarten, you still don’t know for sure that they haven’t unknowingly been infected. To minimize the risk of transmission, traveling in separate vehicles is your best option.

Judging by your traveling partner’s symptoms isn’t reliable as there are cases where symptoms haven’t shown up for as long as two weeks. As of this writing it still isn’t 100% certain whether asymptomatic carriers are contagious, so better to play it safe.

Risk Management

More than ever, this is the time you want to make very conservative terrain choices. Healthcare systems in every country are already stretched to the max. So making conservative terrain choices is a good idea for two reasons. 1. We don’t want to add more stress to an already maxed out system and 2. emergency response in the backcountry right now is hit or miss.

As backcountry skiers and snowboarders, it would be irresponsible of us to add to the healthcare load because we just couldn’t resist skiing that steep line we’ve been eyeing up all season and crashed. While there is a global pandemic underway, we should all dial it back a bit and keep ourselves out of danger. The other thing to consider is that it would be pretty awful to be in a hospital right now. If you break a leg, you’re going to end up in a hospital that is probably packed to the gills with coronavirus sufferers. Not ideal.

backcountry skiing tree corridor
Mellow slopes can be fun too!

The other impact of this current situation to consider is the response time of search and rescue. This will vary highly from region to region, but to be safe I would assume that response time isn’t as good as it could be right now. You may very well be on your own out there. Rescue workers are people with families too. Some of them have likely fallen ill so staffing may be an issue. Or they may have been called to more heavily affected areas to help out. Bottom line is that in the interest of personal safety, keep the risk factor waaaaay down. Check out our article on slope angle for some tips on which slopes to avoid.


Closing Thoughts

Spring touring is almost here but our delicious corn might be somewhat tainted by this pandemic. Health and safety should be top of everyone’s mind right now, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t safely and responsibly enjoy some backcountry skiing. Make super smart choices about terrain, avoid celebratory high fives, and you can still enjoy the backcountry during these interesting times.

Stay safe out there, and not just in the backcountry…

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