Know­ing is half the Bat­tle

Skiing - - Cheat Sheet -

Group Dy­nam­ics

The group can be the hard­est thing to deal with in the back­coun­try. Hav­ing a mixed-gen­der team can add some trick­i­ness. For a while it was thought that hav­ing a woman in the group helped make things safer—her pres­ence would fa­cil­i­tate more cal­cu­lated decision mak­ing. That’s true to a de­gree, de­pend­ing on the group’s break­down. If it’s one man and one woman, then yes, but if it’s two dudes and a lady, stud­ies show that the guys will sub­con­sciously bat­tle to im­press her, which can re­sult in more dan­ger­ous be­hav­ior.

Pace Your­self

Start out at a com­fort­able, sus­tain­able pace. Guys—even outof-shape guys who smoke and drink like Don Draper—tend to skin and hike faster (once again, to im­press women), and it’s tempt­ing to try to keep pace right off the bat. Fight that feel­ing. Work at a speed where you can have a con­ver­sa­tion, and try to keep it there.

Gear Mat­ters

“Gear-wise, I hate to say it, a lot of times men can mus­cle through sit­u­a­tions,” says pa­troller and avalanche in­struc­tor Alexan­dra Taran. “We do things dif­fer­ently, so it’s im­por­tant to have gear that func­tions, so we’re not car­ry­ing ex­tra weight and ex­pend­ing ex­tra en­ergy.” Shav­ing ounces off your gear can make a big dif­fer­ence over a long day, es­pe­cially if you’re a smaller per­son.

You’re Hot

A 2009 study in the med­i­cal jour­nal The Lancet found that women have, on av­er­age, slightly higher core tem­per­a­tures and lower ex­trem­ity tem­per­a­tures. We sweat sooner, but our hands and toes (and boobs) get colder faster, es­pe­cially while ex­ert­ing our­selves in cold weather. Dial in a flex­i­ble lay­er­ing sys­tem and use it. “As soon as I stop I’m putting on lay­ers,” Taran says. There’s no shame in hand warm­ers.

When Na­ture Calls

Do not take your skis off. Skis pro­vide both flota­tion (you don’t want to be post-hol­ing down to your business when you’re do­ing your business) and lever­age. Sit back on the rear cuff of your boots; feel the wind. Re­lax. A big snow­ball makes ex­cel­lent toi­let pa­per.


Cranky? Cold? Sick of walk­ing up­hill? Eat some­thing, wait five min­utes, and see how you feel. A Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia study found that women snack more fre­quently than men. So when you’re skin­ning in the cold and torch­ing calo­ries, don’t ne­glect snacks. Keep ’em close to the top of your pack and dip in of­ten.

Trust Your­self

You know those gut feel­ings you get when things don’t seem quite right? Peter Schory, a 40-year ski pa­troller at Snowbird, calls them “cos­mic vi­bra­tions,” and he says they’re pow­er­ful. Be­ing in the back­coun­try can cre­ate an ex­pert halo. You start to trust the judg­ment of the per­son with the most ex­pe­ri­ence, even if you’re not sure he or she is right. If some­thing feels wrong, trust your gut, speak up, and trou­bleshoot what could be caus­ing that feel­ing. Ev­ery­one, re­gard­less of ex­pe­ri­ence, is part of the decision-mak­ing team out there.

Clock­wise from right » Molly Baker keeps an eye on Leah

Evans in Bri­tish Columbia; Rachael Burks, Trinda Rieck, He­len Sneath, and Meg­gan Klassen in Mon­tana’s Swan Range; Burks grubs down.

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