With a hope of not sounding preachy i wanted to share some personal thoughts on backcountry etiquette; specifically in relation to the terrain in the western Big Holes. Those of you who spend any time around Kelly Canyon can agree it’s not an area of plentiful snow depth and it may take several storms to refresh areas that have been skied. Furthermore, the often dense brush does not allow for wide open terrain that can handle a lot of traffic or big groups before it’s tracked up. So, with these hurdles in mind, here are a few etiquette ideas i try to follow in no particular order of importance…
- Spoon your tracks – by this i mean ski/ride parallel to and just a short distance away from the previous track. This accommodates for more traffic to ski an uncut line of fresh snow… which is part of the reason why we are out there!
- Ski the fall-line – don’t zig zag all over the slope and chew up all the fresh snow. Travel down slope as if you are a ball rolling down the hill… but don’t actually be a ball rolling down the hill… just ski the fall-line!
- Say NO to heat – riding the slope when it’s 45 degrees outside and baking in the sun will leave deep gorges of frozen chunder when the temps cool off. It takes a lot of 3″ snow storms to cover up that mess! Besides, was that 500 vertical feet of knee-deep mashed potatoes really worth the long-term recovery of the slope?
- Snow Pits – test pits, hand pits, arm pits… i dig ’em… and i also fill them back in. Just as important knowing the small open slopes are likely the lines you want to ski, i try very hard to dig my pits in a location that will be representative to the area i want to ski, but not where someone would want to ski.
- Cats and Dogs – if I’m going to cross or end up on any terrain within the ski area boundary (which is always – think parking lot), i will leave my cats at home. And if i had a dog… i would leave it home as well. NO pets in the ski area boundary.
- The right way – Kelly Canyon allows up hill traffic in Moose Canyon and on the Forest Service road leading up to the Y-Junction. If you travel up Moose Canyon, please understand it is private property and it is a privilege, not a right. Do not skin up the front side of the resort during operating hours. Low visibility will keep the peace. At present, the ski area tolerates free use of their private land… be curtious and don’t screw it up for the rest of us.
- Look at the facts – 30 to 45 degree terrain. Shallow, weak snowpack. Terrain traps. possibility for significant weather. Are avalanches possible… yes, within isolated terrain features. What’s the probability? That’s a good question! Do the right thing and recognize you are recreating in terrain that does not see any sort of avalanche mitigation. It is wild untamed snow where stability should be determined… NOT ASSUMED. Carry and know how to use a beacon, probe, and shovel. Know what terrain features are hazardous.I bet you’d feel really silly being that one person who was injured or killed in an avalanche at Kelly Canyon… anything is possible.
These are just a few important etiquette ideas that mean something to me. Perhaps they will mean something to you as well!
~ Dean Lords