Taking Precautions When Backcountry Skiing

by Donna 28. December 2011 10:05

Staying Safe when Backcountry Skiing
Many skiers who enjoy the great outdoors have taken up backcountry skiing in remote locations, or outside of the borders of regular ski runs. These areas, although seemingly serene, can also put the skier’s life in jeopardy as the threat for an avalanche is increased on terrains beyond the normal boundaries of controlled ski areas. Therefore, if you still persist in wanting to backcountry ski, receiving avalanche safety training is just as important as obtaining specialized gear.

Most Backcountry Skiers and Hikers Trigger Avalanches Themselves
Indeed, knowing how to stay safe from an avalanche is important to backcountry enthusiasts, whether they ski, hike or drive a snowmobile as the majority of people who die in an avalanche trigger the calamity themselves. Plus, if you are buried beneath an avalanche, your chance of surviving the catastrophe diminishes to under 30% if you haven’t been rescued after a half hour.

Some Avalanche Statistics
According to the Colorado Avalanche Center, the majority of avalanche casualties are comprised of young men (between 20 and 29 years old) with 75% of the victims seasoned backcountry skiers, snowmobilers, and hikers. That being the case, you can’t afford to let your guard down if you like to take to the backcountry or pursue off-piste skiing activities.

Signs worth Noting
Signs that you are treading over an area that is prone to avalanche activity comes in the form of such warnings as:

  • A cracked snow pack;
  • An echoing, drumming sound as your walk over hard or compact snow;
  • The occurrence of rain or snow within the last 24 hours;
  • Snow that Is windblown or is characterized by consistent weak layers; and
  • Warming temperatures.

Avalanches Usually Originate on Steep Slopes
Also, when assessing whether or not you are in an avalanche area, look at the degree of the slopes. Avalanches usually form on slopes that are greater than 30 degrees, typically frequenting inclines that angle, specifically, from 30 to 50 degrees. That’s why backcountry or off-piste skiers are often trapped by an avalanche as most ski runs fall within the above range. You can also increase the likelihood that you’ll be caught by an avalanche unawares if you don’t avoid flat terrains or gullies surrounded by steep slopes.

Staying Away from Traps
Besides a flat piece of terrain or gully, other avalanche traps are marked by spots that are defined by a rocky terrain, cliffs, and trees. In addition, avalanches are often triggered in areas where there is a good deal of windblown snow, shallowness in a snowpack, and which are close to rock outcroppings. If you are skiing in a backcountry locale then, stay in areas with low angled ridges and a dense cover of trees. Also, make sure that each member of your group skis down the slope one at a time, or from one point to the next individually.

Special Backcountry Equipment
As you do not have access to chairlifts, again, you’ll need specialized gear. Therefore, your binding system should permit you to navigate inclines, liberating your heels so you can move like a cross-country skier when you climb uphill. Special skins should be included on your skis as well to reduce the chance of sliding on your ascent. Fixed heels are suggested for the binding when skiing downhill.

Ski Shoes for Backcountry Use should be Lighter than Alpine Ski Shoes
Generally, a ski used for off-piste or backcountry skiing is a bit broader and more lightweight than alpine-type skis. Ski shoes for backcountry use should also be lighter than the shoes provided for alpine skiing activities too – thereby making it easier for the backcountry skier to climb and walk over the more precipitous terrain.

Essential Backcountry Accessories
Other accessory items that are essential backcountry aids include:

  • Inclinometer (for measuring the steepness of slopes);
  • Compass;
  • GPS;
  • Crampons (for trekking over ice);
  • Avalanche beacon;
  • Avalanche probe;
  • Telescoping poles;
  • Ice axe;
  • Snow shovel (collapsible);and an
  • Avalung backpack or sling (used for breathing under the snow in case of an avalanche).

One Final Comment
Black Diamond is a brand that is well-recognized for providing avalungs to skiers, mountain climbers, and hikers.


A Guide to Buying Hiking Boots

by Kade 22. November 2011 18:50

Feet are complex and therefore expert guidance is advisable when buying walking boots. There is a lot to consider when buying hiking boots because everybody’s feet are different and one person’s feet might not fit an average shaped pair of shoes.  It is good to consult with specialists in footwear when buying boots as they can direct you to personalized boots with custom molded footbeds, heel lifts and volume reducers.

This is good to know when it comes to buying hiking boots, as they are probably the most important part of your hiking gear.  If you can’t walk comfortably, you’re not going very far! Good footwear can also prevent injury and improve your performance, keeping your mind on the scenery rather than sore feet!

Here are some tips to consider when buying walking boots:

  • Make sure your footwear will provide secure footing on rough ground. Consider the terrain where you’re going and the type of activity you’ll be doing.
  • Your boots need to be durable.  Pay attention to materials which will survive climbing and gripping rough terrain.
  • Comfort is important. After walking for long periods you don’t want your boots to rub or cause sweating.
  • Often when hiking you could be up and down hills and near water and so your footwear needs to be able to adapt.
  • On easier terrain fabric and suede are suited.
  • Plastic boots are good waterproof shoes and help keep your feet warm in cold climates.
  • Your footwear should be supportive.
  • Make sure the material and size fit well and allow for movement.
  • Pay attention to features of the materials such as breathability, waterproof, etc.

There are many different types of men and women’s hiking boots available.  By applying these points, you should be able to find the perfect pair for your next outdoor adventure.

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Gear | Hiking

Enjoying Swimming Holes

by Kade 25. August 2011 23:04

Ah, the old swimming hole. Just hearing those words evokes images of happier, simpler times - sipping on a glass of ice-cold lemonade, dangling your feet in the clear, cool water, just watching the world go by. There is nothing to compare with lazily leaning back against the trunk of an old oak tree with a contented sigh, enjoying the age-old dance of the dragonflies along the water's smooth glass-like surface, until a fish bobs up in search of a quick lunch, leaving rippled rings in its wake.

In today's pristine perfect chlorinated pool obsessed world, enjoying the pleasure of an old-fashioned swimming hole is in danger of becoming merely a quaint remnant of days long past. There is no better way to reconnect with the natural world than by spending some time immersed in the beauty and serenity of a natural fresh body of water. Water has a calming effect on the soul, and it is much more cost-effective than therapy.

There is something deeply freeing and primal about jumping headlong into a swimming hole. If you are lucky enough to have access to one complete with a dock, let your inner child shine through as you thump down those weathered gray boards, as many generations of swimmers have done before you. Then, without the hesitation that comes with attaining adulthood, give a loud whoop! and fly through the air as a jumble of flailing limbs, taking in a sharp breath as you are enveloped by the cool, inviting waters. The bigger the splash the better! Triumphantly rise to the surface, shaking your head like a long-haired dog and - what the heck - run back and do it again!

If by now you are panting and out of breath, float on your back and let the gently rolling waters lull you into a state of complete relaxation. Listen to the symphony of the birdsong, and watch as clouds pass across the face of the sun, alternating light and shadow over the entire landscape. Revel in the knowledge that humans have been engaging in this activity since the dawn of time, and know that you are part of an unbroken link spanning back thousands of years.  Head over to our list of swimming holes and find one near you to head out today.



The Tent Commandments

by Kade 6. July 2011 18:42
The Tent Commandments

I came across a really fun graphic called "The Tent Commandments" done by a fellow outdoor company in the UK at Outdoor World Direct. I think the title of the poster is a really good play on words.

The poster is basically a fun and humorous guide for the camping experience.  It's a perfect way to get your kids excited about camping.  I think my favorite commandment is number 7 "Thou Shalt Dress to Impress".  I think it could read just about any country, state, or backyard for that matter instead of the UK when it says "Let's face it you are camping in the UK".  It's important to dress correctly when camping no matter where you go.  It just makes the whole camping experience that much more enjoyable. 

Click the image and go check it out for yourself.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Beginning Mountain Biking

by Kade 7. June 2011 12:15

Mountain biking is one of the most accessible outdoor sports, with 40 million Americans regularly cycling off-road. Racing along challenging single-track is exhilarating. It's a great way to enjoy the outdoors and see it from a different perspective. Getting into mountain biking couldn't be easier. If you don't know of any suitable trails near you, call your local council or tourist information office and ask. Join a club - there are hundreds of them around the country who welcome riders of all levels. Universities often have a mountain biking club and you don't always have to be a student to join.

If you're new to mountain biking the variety of bikes on the market can be confusing. You'll hear people talking about cross-country, downhill, hard-tail, full suspension, and all-mountain. Your bike is the one thing it really pays to spend time getting right. Don't just buy any old bike from a department store. Do your research and visit several good bike shops for advice and fitting. Sizing is key and qualified staff can help you find the right frame and set up for you. The wrong size frame causes poor handling and a greater chance of crashing. Read online review sites or mountain bike magazines to find out more about any bikes you are considering. You can buy a frame and components separately, but for beginners it's best to buy a full bike. When you are more familiar with your style and preferred terrain you can change the parts to suit you. Second hand is a great option if you are on a limited budget, but make sure you check the frame thoroughly for cracks. Apart from your bike, the only other two essential items you need are a helmet and gloves. Crashing is all part of learning to mountain bike and nothing to be scared of if you have the right protection. If you are starting to downhill, you might want to invest in some body armor, at least for your forearms and shins. You don't need fancy clothing or shoes to mountain bike.

Mountain biking is a fantastic way to see the world, or just your own corner of it.


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