The New York Times recently published the feature piece, “Snowfall” that focused on a group of backcountry skiers and the avalanche they experienced in Washington state. While we do usually think of skiers when we think of avalanches, even hikers and snowshoers can become victims. It’s best to be prepared and aware at all times.
- Always, even if you think you know what the conditions are like, always check the avalanche forecasts for your area before heading into the mountains for snowshoeing. Avalanche.org will lead you to sites specific for your neck of the woods.
- Look for low-risk areas in which to snowshoe if you’re worried about avalanches. Here in Colorado many people snowshoe along side the groomed portions of cross-country ski trails. These trails are relatively flat but you should still keep an eye on your surroundings.
- Even if you live somewhere relatively flat, it’s best to be prepared and safe. Let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return.
- Take extra clothes, water and food with you. Emergency shelter can be good too. We keep a down sleeping bag in the car in case we’re ever stranded somewhere in the winter. If you’re hiking far from your car, taking something with you that will help keep you warm in case of an accident is a good idea.
- Have a portable shovel with you too. If you are far from the car and a sudden storm arises you may need to dig a snow cave; if an avalanche occurs you may need to help dig someone out.
- Finally, if that hike of yours involves crossing a frozen river or pond be very, very careful. Even if the water isn’t deep under the ice, if your foot gets wet you risk all kinds of problems from hypothermia to frostbite.
Winter is a great time to get out and exercise. We all need as much sunshine as we can get! Whatever you’re doing – backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, winter biking – be safe doing it.