"Expect the best, plan for the worst and prepare to be surprised." One of the best things about spending time in the backcountry is getting away from the chaos and the noise of life and immersing yourself in an environment that tests your abilities. This can be an exciting and simultaneously daunting undertaking. Building a solid foundation of skills will make this experience much more enjoyable.
Whether, or not you plan on spending time outside during the winter, it's a great time to brush up on skills... If you can build a fire in the rain and snow... you can build a fire anywhere.
Here are some skills to practice this winter that will make your backcountry exploring even more rewarding.
Avalanche Safety + Survival
If you plan on earning your turns, an avalanche education is an absolute must. AIARE, the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education, offers several different courses from the beginner backcountry touring enthusiast, all the way through guiding courses.
It’s best to start with an AIARE Level 1. This course teaches you what to look for in avalanche terrain, how to read and understand avalanche bulletins, what to do in the event of an avalanche, the science of avalanches, and how to manage group decision making.
Wilderness First Aid
When you’re miles from help, first aid know-how can go a long way in the event of an emergency. Local hiking or mountain clubs, gear shops, and big outdoor retailers host Wilderness First Aid or WFA courses every year.
Wilderness First Responders or WFR are certified in rescue and recovery in the wilderness. WFR courses are five to eight-day intensive, hands-on-classes that focus on assessing and treating different injuries and illnesses in the backcountry.
Building a fire in the snow
Fire skills are some of the most important wilderness skills to practice in a variety of conditions and winter is the best time to put your fire skills to the test. Even in the wettest snow, it's possible to build a fire that will keep you warm throughout the night. Check out our guide to building a fire in the snow and practice the next time your out in the snow.
Believe it or not, wearing the right clothes can take some practice and the winter is the best time to put your gear to the test. Our layering guide is a great start to understanding the basics of clothing systems, but our bodies react to hot and cold differently, so it is important to spend sometime outside with different layering configurations to find what works best for you in your environment.
Be sure to practice these skills frequently in a controlled environment, so you are prepared the next time you hit the trail.