If you are new to the winter backcountry use, get familiar with these 5 simple principles. Get the gear, Get the training, Get the forecast, Get the picture, Get out of harm’s way. This is just a starting point. Avalanches are serious and require taking time to educate yourself. So once you are familiar with the dangers and precautions, it is time to take the next step and continue learning.
Here is where you can find more education:
Not all vehicles are created equally. Learn about requirements for driving on mountain roads during bad weather and how to be informed that canyons are closed. Not only will this keep you and others safe, but also keep the powder day stoke high when you are informed and planning accordingly. No one wants to spend time driving to the ski resort or trailhead just to find out the canyon is closed or there is no place to park. Luckily, there are resources to find the status before you leave your home.
One benefit of exploring the backcountry in the winter is you can always find untracked snow. So be patient, respectful and supportive of each other. Outdoor recreation is a life long learning process. Some people are brand new to recreation and others are seasoned experts. But we are all part of a community that cares about maintaining access to the outdoors. Take the time to mentor those new users, and new users take the time to learn from those with experience. Watch out for those that may not be part of your party. Here are some resources to help you learn tips, tricks and best practices in any type of winter backcountry travel.
Snow is only beautiful when it’s white. Yellow, brown, covered in trash or ash is no way to leave our public lands. Carry a wag bag, haul out your waste where appropriate, pee off the trail, pack out all garbage, disperse or bury your fire debris. Remember waste and trash does not melt away with the snowpack in the spring. Trailhead bathrooms are usually closed in the winter, so GO before you even leave your house or hotel. And if you live in the Salt Lake Valley remember: it takes less than 24 hours for water in headwaters to make it to your faucet.
Plan for the worst case scenario and carry everything you need in case of an emergency. Including equipment breaking, bad weather, injury and unplanned overnight stays. Know where you are, and how to get out. Days are shorter in the winter and unplanned nights out are much more dangerous. Remember that when you are recreating in the winter, you are not following one specific trail and you cannot always backtrack your steps. DO NOT BLINDLY FOLLOW TRACKS IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE TERRAIN YOU ARE ENTERING.
Know where you are permitted to ski, snowmobile, and camp. This includes uphill travel at ski resorts, closures during avalanche control work and wilderness boundaries that prohibit motorized travel. These closures are in place to keep people safe. By disrespecting these closures, we jeopardize our future access to recreation opportunities. Similarly, be familiar with land ownership where you are — avoid private lands if you do not have permission to recreate on them. Respected access is open access.
There are lots of options for different winter recreation activities all over the state. Some are even right at your local park. Here are some resources to help you plan a great day out with the entire family all over the state. (And consider the free activities in your neighborhood, such as bird-watching, walking along a river trail, or simply playing in the snow in your yard, courtyard, or nearby park!)
Cross Country Skiing/Groomed trails
Southern Utah Resources
COVID-19 Guidelines for Winter
We encourage you to share these resources to help people with #responsiblerecreation during the winter months.