In a sense, there aren't any accessories in the backcountry; a broken pole in a steep couloir holds the potential to set off a series of life-threatening events. (True, everyone should carry a repair kit, but you get the point.) There's some gear-including avalanche beacon, shovel, probe and climbing skins-you just shouldn't leave home without. With the vast array of products from the folks at Backcountry Access (bcaccess.com), Black Diamond (bdel.com), G3 Genuine Guide Gear (genuineguidegear.com), Life-Link (life-link.com), and Voile (voile-usa.com) you don't have any excuses.
Latest & Greatest: There never will be any substitute for good judgment, but as Black Diamond product director Dave Mellon points out, "If you head out with a beacon, probe, an Avalung and the right party, you have a good chance if you should get caught in a slide." Just ask one young skier who spent 40 minutes eight feet under last season, sucking air through his Avalung II ($119), and lived to tell about it. Don't wear an Avalung yet? Remember when we all rode bikes without helmets?
Tried & True: Practice makes perfect with any beacon. That said, digital technology has greased the skids to proficiency. Ortovox, manufacturers of the ever popular analog F1 ($229), married the best of variable analog audio signal with a digital directional arrow in the M2 ($299). Backcountry Access, which deserves credit for breaking trail in the field of digital technology serves up the Tracker ($299) while the Barryvox VS 2000 Pro ($299) boasts improved range to 120 meters for faster initial searches.
From the Quiver: It's easy to curse an inefficient pack. Backcountry Access has quietly done something about it by integrating a probe inside a shovel shaft-thus the term "system" in "The Tour System"-a lightweight and economical shovel ($79) that provides a better place to stick your probe. Finally, there's G3's Rutschblock Cord, the only tool on the market designed to facilitate this effective snow study test.
[250AD CENTER]As always, we urge readers to respect the ropes and remember that what you carry between your ears is just as important as what you wear on your feet or back. Here are a few resources to help you go ski the backcountry...and come home again.
American Alpine Club: www.americanalpineclub.orgCyberspace Snow & Avalanche Center: www.csac.orgNorth American Telemark Organization: www.telemarknato.comWestwide Avalanche Association: www.avalanche.org
Dave Healy is a freelance writer and avid backcountry skier/snowboarder who lives in Vermont.