Firstly we are keen to provide our customers with products that are fit for purpose; products we know will perform in the extreme environments we call our playground. Whether skiing or snowboarding; we have a selection of Patagonia clothing that will enable you to remain comfortable on the mountain. By layering a mixture of the breathable, insulating and waterproofing garments you can regulate your body temperature to the surrounding weather conditions; ensuring you can perform to your best.
The ladies and men’s specific fit are both made to the highest standards, and should last you for years. However if it doesn’t Patagonia are keen to repair it for you; check out their ‘Ironclad Guarantee’.
Secondly, like us and our customers, Patagonia care about the environment. We all love the ‘great outdoors’, so it’s important we take care of it. Patagonia, and many of the other brands we stock, is looking at ways to produce products of an environmentally friendly nature. They have gone to great length to ensure the sourcing and production of the garments has the least impact on the environment. And because Patagonia products are built to last, the impact is reduced further!
In the last decade there has been a revolution in ski and snowboard design that has enabled more and more participants to access the backcountry. With wider templates and more forgiving tip and tail shapes riding powder has never been so accessible. The joys of getting off the piste and into the mountains is the very essence of skiing’s (snowboarding’s) roots and for many has become a healthy addiction. However as more of us dream of escaping the lift queues and laying down first tracks, what are the risks involved and how can we minimise them.
This article will provide an introduction to some of the tools available to us and how they can benefit backcountry riding. However reading will never be able to replicate the experience of being in the mountain and I would recommend anyone who wants to start spending time in the backcountry to attend one of the many avalanche courses available and venture out with experienced riders or invest in guiding and instruction for your first couple of years.
Attending an avalanche course will provide you with an understanding of the snowpack and what avalanche danger ratings represent, how to avoid and recognise avalanche terrain and how to minimise risk when travelling across it and finally how to manage a rescue situation. Here we will be covering the equipment needed to access the backcountry and how each tool works.
The four key tools needed for backcountry travel will be a transceiver, probe, shovel and backpack. These are essential items and you will need all four in a rescue situation. We will now go through each item and discuss the part they play.
A transceiver is attached to your torso with a harness and sends out radio signals. As soon as you enter the backcountry it will need to be turned on so it is transmitting a signal. Every individual in the group will need one. In the event of an avalanche you are able to turn transceivers into a search mode and it is the tool used to find casualties under the snow. Transceivers can be digital or analog and it is critical you understand how the model you use works. This is where courses and search training exercises are vital. Practice in safe environments is the best way to get familiar with rescues and build trust amongst you fellow tourers.
A probe is essentially a long lightweight metal pole with a quick draw cord running through its length. Similar to a tent pole it collapses down into connecting parts to make carrying it easier. The cord through the middle means you can snap the pole together into one length by pulling the looped handle at the top. The other end of the probe has a rounded point for penetrating the snow. The probe is used when the transceiver has located the rescue site and probing is needed to locate the casualty under the snow.
A good touring backpack will have multiple designs to facilitate comfortable and practical backcountry travel. Common features will include secure ski/snowboard carriage, quick access safety pockets so you can get to the above equipment without wasting time, back support and customisable fit.
ABS Bags and Avalungs
The above equipment is the bare necessities for anyone who wants to explore beyond the resort slopes, however there have also been two developments in avalanche safety in the last decade which are worth noting. These are ABS bags and Avalungs neither will ever eliminate the danger of avalanches but do provide some form of preventative measure towards the risks. ABS bags are essentially a large inflatable within your backpack that can be triggered in an avalanche to increase your surface area to reduce the chances of being buried. Whilst Avalungs are a breathing tool that takes CO2 away from you when you are buried. This buys you and your rescuers more time which is hugely beneficial when you look at the statistics involved with drowning in Avalanches. These tools have made backcountry travel safer than ever however as a cautionary note I will say this. No piece of equipment will ever be 100% foolproof and to truly minimise the risks, educating yourself in when and how to travel in the backcountry is the most important factor.
I hope this article helped people to get an idea of the basic equipment needed in the backcountry and look forward to everyone having a snowy winter wherever you are!