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Gapers in the backcountry

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
I thought I would start a thread to see how everyone feels about inexperienced people in the backcountry. I've seen more people in the backcountry with no avy gear, no first aid, no buddy and no knowledge of the terrain. I feel this is a very dangerous situation. Me and my skiing partner almost got avalanched 2 seasons ago by some guys dropping in before we were clear. When we confronted them about it, we saw that they had no gear and didn't even know where they were. This is disturbing to me. Are people just that oblivious to the danger to themselves and everyone within a quarter mile of them?

Ski Ya Soon
Offpiste
post #2 of 25
Ever heard of the Darwin Award? These people should win it for volunteering to remove their DNA from the gene pool.
post #3 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by offpiste

...When we confronted them about it, we saw that they had no gear and didn't even know where they were. This is disturbing to me. Are people just that oblivious to the danger to themselves and everyone within a quarter mile of them?
Offpiste:

The short answer is yes - many people *are* that oblivious.

This is a natural outcome of JH's open backcountry gate policy and the fact that it's relatively easy to go out and come back. I'm sure you've learned that as you get into Pinedale and No-Name and Jensen canyons (and Granite, to a lesser extent) you'll run into far less of the people who don't have the gear or the knowledge.

You probably already know that this was one of the huge arguments when the Ski Corp, the Patrol, and Teton Co. Search & Rescue were all debating the idea of opening the gates.

There's really almost nothing you can do about clueless idiots, other than to try to protect yourself and your party from them. Everyone in the industry tries to encourage people to get the gear and the knowledge. You can't make the horse drink, however. You can try to get confrontational with morons in the backcountry but my own experience is that it's not at all effective.

JH really is a bit unusual in this regard. There is so much great terrain that's easily accessible right outside the gates, it's an enormous temptation. There's also so much of that terrain that is avalanche-prone that the situations you describe are all too common.

Short of going back to some sort of backcountry checkout system (which, believe me, you don't want to see the SKi Corp return to), all you can do is try to educate and stay out of harm's way. It's a great topic, though, and perhaps a few backcountry neophytes who are reading this will take the message to heart.

We live in the same place, Offpiste. We need to do a rendezvous.

Bob
post #4 of 25
I see it all the time. At the top of 9990 at the Canyons there is a hike to gate that goes out of bounds into some really sketchy territory -- which also happens to be very alluring territory that surrounds you from the lift. You cannot believe the folks you see hiking up to it. You'll have like 3-4 snowboarders drop off of squaretop -- after cutting through the ropes, natch -- at once.
post #5 of 25
Idiots.

Idiots in all they do.

Probably vote for Kerry too!

No flames - joke, Joke!!
post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by carvemeister
Idiots.

Idiots in all they do.

Probably vote for Kerry too!

No flames - joke, Joke!!
There's no politics in skiing! Leave politics out of this. We all get an overdose on the tv.
Thanks
post #7 of 25
Sounds like education is the key here since ignorance is the problem. It probably goes against the wild west image of a place like JH, but how about some signage stating what is required to go backcountry? Put them at the gates.

Has anyone been injured or killed due to these knuckleheads?
post #8 of 25
Oh...there's signage...how much more clear can you be than with a 3 foot high skull and crossbones :-D not to mention a 6 foot tall red sign listing all of the specifics? Problem is that people still figure that it applies to everyone but them.

And yes, that has definetly happened...
post #9 of 25

look out

Speaking of inexperienced, I am getting ready to make my real backcountry debut this season. However, I do plan on being prepared to do so as safely as possible.

Feel free to bestow upon me words of backcountry wisdom. I will try not to kill you all.
post #10 of 25
What Sign?
post #11 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by clif
Speaking of inexperienced, I am getting ready to make my real backcountry debut this season. However, I do plan on being prepared to do so as safely as possible.

Feel free to bestow upon me words of backcountry wisdom. I will try not to kill you all.
Hi, Clif.

It seems as if you edited out some details about having already committed to classes, equipment, and skiing with more experienced people. If that's your plan, you're already part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Just a couple of suggestions:

IMO, the most important thing to understand is that you can't always be right, and if you're wrong just a little, the consequences can be horrible. That's why *how* you ski is every bit as important as *where* you ski.

When you go out with friends, ask about the reasons for their decisions such as where to skin and where/how to ski. Things like choosing the route for the skin track, spacing while skiing or skinning, how and where spotters are placed, picking a safety island before you ski. All those "little" things that can become incredibly important if your primary decision - Is this slope safe to ski? - turns out to be a bad one. That's why it's criticalto talk to your mentors and understand why they chose, for example, to duck in the trees here or go out on the exposed bench there.

Lastly, be wary of that Colorado snowpack. It's notorious for deep instabilities that are quite hard to identify using "normal" snow safety evaluation techniques.

Bob
post #12 of 25
Clif, in addition to taking backcountry safety courses and following Bob Peters' advice, ALWAYS go into the backcountry with a knowledgeable person while you are still learning. Even after you consider yourself well-versed and experienced in the backcountry, surround yourself with others who are the same. When leaving a resort to go into the backcountry, stop by and talk to the ski patrollers, see if they have any words of wisdom on conditions. They will have a historical knowledge simply because they are there every day. Always check avalanche reports. Read as much as you can possibly find about backcountry safety and find people to discuss such things with so you will have a vast knowledge base. Learn to listen to your gut.

Thatsagirl
post #13 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by offpiste
Me and my skiing partner almost got avalanched 2 seasons ago by some guys dropping in before we were clear.
Offpiste
If they were the inexperienced ones, why were you two the ones that were both in an avalanche zone or run out zone at the same time

Now I'm not trying to accuse anyone, because we have all made mistakes while skiing in the backcountry. Mistakes are a fact of life. But if we really want people to improve their backcountry etiquette, I think we need to be a little more embracive of people.

Every time this conversation gets started there always seems to be people who say something such as "That moron high marked above me, and almost caused a slide!” I'm curious what you meant when you said, "you confronted them", because confronted to me is a very combative term that I take to mean the conversation was not very pleasant.

I can understand how after almost having a slide come down on you and seeing the people that caused/almost caused it to have no preventive or rescue gear would make you upset - and it has made me upset too, but getting mad at people is not going to improve their behavior, encourage them to go off and take a class, or find and ski with an experienced backcountry skier. This will instead make them think all backcountry skiers are jerks, and either turn them away from the sport, or eventually get themselves, you or someone you know killed.

Just my humble $0.02
post #14 of 25
I remember a guy yelling at me a few years back because he felt I was jeopardizing myself and my dog on a line he didn't approve of without a ski buddy. He was about 20 years old and trying to impress the two girls he was with so I just said, "oh thanks, man... I didn't know". I waited till they went around the ridge and then I dropped-in to a line I've skied since the 60's.

Back then we didn't have beacons or avalanche courses. Common sense was a normal thing long before technology showed up. When I solo... and yeah, many bc skiers/riders solo plenty... I used to carry two beacons because chances were good that I'd stumble across someone just like me with none and we could share. Everyone learned from each other and just being out there. It was great fun.

I like the idea of people learning backcountry principles and etiquette, but I just don't get this new wave of backcountry advocates who receive some knowledge and then start berating others for dabbling in the bc to see if they like it.

You know, we were all gapers once... and the people who changed that were the ones who became our friends and showed us the way - not the ones who complained that we hadn't earned the right to be there.

Save that for surfers around LA.
post #15 of 25
I've come across my share of inexperienced in the BC/OB. Crap, I'm one of them with quite a few hours beyond the gates, but still feel as if I have volumes to learn.

I may have told this story here before but: One day, my friend and I were headed out the Superior Gate at Alta headed to Wolverine Cirque. Snowpack was very stable that day, and the sky were clear. Anyway, our gear check always starts at the car. Beacon checks incuded, so when we get to the gate, all of that is done. As we slipped out the gate, we passed a group doing "beacon checks." As I went past him, he made a very rude comment about being an idiot for going OB without a beacon (shovel was sticking out of my pack). I commented that it was working fine in the parking lot, and opened my jacket to double check that it was on (our 2nd beacon check was planned for another 75 feet along and into the woods (a safe zone). Seems his was still on transmit!!! He was kind of a dick about the whole thing, then noticed his beacon was still on transmit. I slowly skied away asking where his group was headed (to avoid it).

My point is:

It is not enough to have the necessary equipment, but also the training and enough practice to be able to use it in an emergency. A seatbelt won't keep you out of a car accident, but will give you a better chance of living through one.

I won't be using my equipment as much as I used to, as I've relocated to Connecticut, but cannot wait to drop out of the gates in some new backcountry location!

Offpiste - Make sure you hook up with Bob as he said, you cannot find a better person to ski with, inbounds or out.
post #16 of 25
It is interesting..I've noticed more aggro folks among the BC set. There is almost a surf gang mentality creeping in at times despite the patchoili and dead-head act. At the very least some guys (and gals) take themselves way too seriously.

That said, I'd like to do more when I have the resources and knowledge to do it without putting myself or others in danger.
post #17 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jhstroup
If they were the inexperienced ones, why were you two the ones that were both in an avalanche zone or run out zone at the same time

Now I'm not trying to accuse anyone, because we have all made mistakes while skiing in the backcountry. Mistakes are a fact of life. But if we really want people to improve their backcountry etiquette, I think we need to be a little more embracive of people.

Every time this conversation gets started there always seems to be people who say something such as "That moron high marked above me, and almost caused a slide!” I'm curious what you meant when you said, "you confronted them", because confronted to me is a very combative term that I take to mean the conversation was not very pleasant.

I can understand how after almost having a slide come down on you and seeing the people that caused/almost caused it to have no preventive or rescue gear would make you upset - and it has made me upset too, but getting mad at people is not going to improve their behavior, encourage them to go off and take a class, or find and ski with an experienced backcountry skier. This will instead make them think all backcountry skiers are jerks, and either turn them away from the sport, or eventually get themselves, you or someone you know killed.

Just my humble $0.02
I was in a safe zone and my buddy was just getting to the ridge when the slide came through. One look and they would have seen him but, they didn't think to look.

I wasn't an ass about it. I'm old enough and wise enough to have control over a situation no matter what emotional state I'm in. I did make it very clear that I was upset and they should get a guide and some gear before going out the gates again. It was considerable avy danger that day and IMHO, you shouldn't be out on those days if you don't know what is up.

You're right, we were all gapers at one time but, I improved my skiing, took my avy courses, dug lots of pits, asked tons of questions, learned the terrain, watched the snowpack and I skied lower angles until I had the experience to go for higher angle terrain.

No offense taken. I feel much like you do.

Peace
post #18 of 25
We have a similar problem here in N.H. Mount Washington is a nice "local" "friendly" mountain, there's even a road up it. People will wander up the mountain without a care and without thought. The weather can roll in and change in a heartbeat. One moment its clear and sunny, the next it is a blizzard.

Since the mountain is only 2-3 hours from Boston, there are people who think it is just like taking a walk around the block.

At least once a year, and normally more, there is someone stuck out on Mount Washington, without proper gear or knowlege. They get lost or the weather changes. Then they wip out the cellphone and call for a rescue. Good intelligent people then risk their own lives getting these idiots out of danger. This has happened so many times that the state of N.H. is threatening to charge them for the costs of the search and rescue operations.

I for one have very little pity for this type of idiot.
post #19 of 25
I've been out in the back country a few dozen days but feel that I am still a novice. I have gone a few times on my own (with others of similar experience, usually my late teenage kids) when we know the route and have tracked the snow conditions over time. Otherwise we have developed a few VERY experienced friends that we go with (and feel very lucky about that - some of them post here). I have found it pretty amazing how experienced people are willing to go out with capable skiers who have a reasonable attitude and are willing to listen.
post #20 of 25
This not just a bc problem , it happens everywhere (go off piste at Fernie and check out whos above, beside and below you ).
Maybe we should ask ourselves why this is now a huge issue, heres my take on the subject.
#1 - hype films have brought the gapers out of the wood work, they get
a picture of what it's like to be that skier on the edge of sanity.
#2 - doing the extreme thing is big even if your unable to do it safely
and with no technical ability.
#3 - skis are now too easy to use in all conditions, let's face it the shaped
ski technology has opened up terrain that most wouldn't have tried
on 210cm GS planks let alone on 180's.
Will it ever be the same ? Can we change them? Will I ever be 195lbs again? Not likely.
post #21 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheapseats

I like the idea of people learning backcountry principles and etiquette, but I just don't get this new wave of backcountry advocates who receive some knowledge and then start berating others for dabbling in the bc to see if they like it.

You know, we were all gapers once... and the people who changed that were the ones who became our friends and showed us the way - not the ones who complained that we hadn't earned the right to be there.

Save that for surfers around LA.
Well said cheapseats. And even the most experienced can run into trouble as well. It is up to us to give our time to someone, because that is what somebody has done for all of us.

Now at Sunshine village at the backcountry gates your transciever is what opens them for you. Frankly I would like to see that at every resort that has major backcountry access gates.

Hey Cheapseats. How's the catskiing business going? We might swing by for a day before heading to Whistler for pre test scouting in Jan.
post #22 of 25
A true fact is that modern shorter skis easy to steer around and with better flotation attracted more people to the backcountry who really shouldn't be out there and act recklessly like they are doing.
And yes, these are the people who cause the resorts reevaluating their open-bounds policies over here since they have the guts to even sue areas when getting in harm's way by their own actions.
But honestly I do not see a way out of this dilemma without sacrificing the freedom of venturing off-piste whenever you like - as long as we do not want restrictions like in Italy or north America. The more you think about it the more you'll find that there is simply nothing which can replace long-year experience and/or qualified guided service in combination with careful behaviour. Warning signs don't do the job since they are widely disregarded and ignored.
post #23 of 25
There does seem to be a lot of unthinking people heading beyond the gates. The lure of untracked powder is a strong one. The ski films and magazines make it all look so easy. Beautiful untracked snow under a clear blue sky. A skier laying down big fat turns face and googles covered in white, cold smoke trailing behind him. what could be better? What we don't see is all the prep that goes into getting that shot of a skier dropping into that perfect powder stuffed chute. Since most of the best powder in resorts is now skied out within a few hours. It is only natural that people started looking beyond the gates. look at the number of Heli skiing and cat skiing operations that have crept up in the last 10 years. People are willing to pay and pay big to ski powder. Now there is a growing segment of skiers useing snowmobile to access the backcountry. right now i see this trend to ski the backcountry as in a learning curve. Unfortunately there are going to be many more deaths due to lack of proper education. The magizines and other film makers need to do a better job of educating people to the real hazards of skiing beyond the gates. Squaretop just outside the gates at the Canyons has killed at least 4 people maybe more.
post #24 of 25
I think the ski mags are getting better about educating people about the backcountry. You can certainly find plenty of articles. And when freeskiers are interviewed or make public appearances, most of them warn about the dangers and advise people to take seminars, clinics, etc. Even resorts are getting better at it, by providing free seminars (ex.: Fernie), adding backcountry/off-piste instruction, and so forth. The problem is that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. There are some people who just won't, or don't, take the time to educate themselves. I suspect you're right, Utah49, that there will be an increase in deaths, but hopefully it will level out as people become educated.

Thatsagirl
post #25 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by nolo
Ever heard of the Darwin Award? These people should win it for volunteering to remove their DNA from the gene pool.
It's funny until you have to lug out the corpse and see the face of their family.

---------

There are more and more "gapers" (as someone else mentioned, this concept isn't limited to skiing, but life in general with ignorant people who have no situational awareness) going into the BC. Whats the solution? Let's be frank: restrictions go against the spirit of the BC. I don't favor closures of any gates ever. I hate ropes period. I think the solution is harsher warning signs, more readily available free training (like the free avalanche seminars offered around here and $82 Avi I offered at the local community college) and cheaper safety gear: BCA is providing this with their new tracker pricing and BC package deals.
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