“Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.”

-Potter Stewart-

The fact of the reality is that our backcountry trailheads are getting busier…and no amount of complaining is going to change it. Backcountry Skiing is a “thing”. 

As user numbers increase so do user conflicts. The most common user conflicts occur between new and more experienced users and motorized vs. non-motorized users in the same areas. 

Appropriate use and acceptance of cultural norms by all parties is the pathway to a better shared experience as backcountry areas become more crowded. 

This is not a list of technical skill set these necessary for backcountry travel. Rather expectations behaviors and norms that make up the basis for cultural and social engagement during said activity. 

Here are a few widely accepted cultural norms for new users to aspire to and more experienced users to be reminded of…we all had to start somewhere…dial these in to look more like a respectable user of the backcountry and a contributing member to the local culture of safety and mutual respect. 

  1. Beacon, shovel, probe and pack with food, water and layers are never optional in the backcountry…ever. These items are for the support of you, your group and other users.
  2. Your level of stoke does not represent your level of experience. Often an inverse correlation ? Meaning…Excitement does not equate education and experience…get both!
  3. Develop your skiing / riding ability in-bounds to be capable of skiing steep terrain in a variety of conditions before entering the backcountry. 
  4. Get incredibly familiar with all of your equipment and practice with it regularly. 
  5. Get fit. 
  6. Keep group size to 5 or less. Preferably 3 or 4. 
  7. Turn your portable speaker/music off in high traffic areas. Your phone should be off anyhow. Both interfere with your beacon. 
  8. Don’t boot pack in the skin track. 
  9. Don’t ski in the boot pack. 
  10. Don’t pee or poop ? within 50 feet of either. Preferably way out of sight for #2 and 200 feet from a trail or water source. You wouldn’t take a poop or pee in the middle of a sidewalk. 
  11. Cover your pee / poop hole and pack out appropriate waste. The out of doors is not a public restroom. 
  12. Clean up after your pet in high traffic areas regardless of proximity to trailhead. 
  13. Keep pets leashed at and near the trailhead regardless of how well trained your pet. Seeing a pet stuck by a vehicle is devastating for everyone. 
  14. Remember it’s your pet…a dog that heels to it’s owner is a respectful and a safer animal. Everyone doesn’t like pets.
  15. If you are bummed about the crowds…wake earlier, get fitter, go farther, explore hard to get to places. It’s a lot bigger world than that popular trailhead. Be happy it is still snowing in a climate changing world ?. 
  16. Be respectful and friendly to other users. Say “Hi” and smile. ? 
  17. If you don’t know…ask…there are plenty of folks at the trailhead that will be happy to tell you how it is. ?
  18. Remember, this is a community you want to be part of and represent, speak and act like it. 
  19. Seek out education, personal experience and mentorship as much as possible. It will help you dial these in faster. 
  20. Expect the above from yourself, your partners and your community…spread it!

Our sandbox happens to be one with a limited resource. Share if you want a better backcountry and demand more out of ourselves and other users. It’s a free world to do what we want…although we have to share it to make it better.