I want to get all the backcountry freshies out the gate, but I’m short on cash. Do you think I really need to buy a beacon and all that other avalanche stuff?
—Young, Restless and Broke
If you want to become old and content and not a menace to other backcountry travelers, the answer is “yes.” Of equal importance, you need to know how to use the equipment. I’d strongly suggest a level one avalanche course as your first step toward self-preservation. Armed with basic knowledge, proper gear and a savvy partner, you could begin a lengthy period of alpine apprenticeship.
In the avalanche-prone San Juans, however, this period never ends— avalanches don’t discern between beginners and experts. If you don’t have the time or cash for education and gear, you can hike on the ski mountain to places where the patrol does avalanche control work. Sometimes you can find the fresh on Bald Mountain or the flanks of Palmyra Peak. But unless you’re feeling lucky (or suicidal), do not—please—venture out the gate without knowledge, tools and an experienced partner.
Click on “Video of the Year?” at www.telluridenews.com/multimedia to see what happened when two keen, but inexperienced, skiers slipped under the boundary rope into avalanche-prone terrain on Gold Hill last year. I hope I don’t read about you in the newspapers or see you on YouTube.