One sunny afternoon after a storm cycle, I stood by one of my resort’s backcountry access gates while two of my co-patrollers hastily searched an out-of-bounds rock band for a person allegedly cliffed-out. While I waited with high-angle gear at the ready, dozens of skiers—many of whom carried no pack, no shovel, no probe, nor any semblance of personal rescue gear—brushed by me and right through the gate in search of powder. Never mind that it was a weekday, the crowds were thin and the snow was plenty deep inbounds. I doubt many, if any, had read the day’s avalanche report, let alone paid any attention to the written warnings that from this point forward, they were essentially on their own. Since everybody was going out, it must be safe, they assumed. I actually overheard one local woman ask another if she was carrying her cell phone in case something went wrong. “Good,” she said. “We’re covered.”
My partners soon radioed me to leave the gear and come to their location; the 20-something-year-old man had hiked out of harm’s way. He too had no avalanche gear, had no clue where he was going, and he was about to pay cold and hard for the proverbial farm when my partners finally reached him. “It’s all good,” he said. Uh huh.
When we leave resort boundaries, we enter the backcountry. How we get there or what we call it makes no difference to Mother Nature. Just because we access public lands from a ski area doesn’t mean the resort’s medical and rescuing resources extend beyond the gates. Know where you’re going and what you’re doing, and please, please…don’t be that guy.