Ditched because of a pit | AspenTimes.com

Ditched because of a pit

Dear Editor:

Something happened out on Richmond Ridge this weekend that taught me an unexpected lesson about backcountry safety.

I was with a small group skiing McFarlane’s, a favorite stash for snowmobile-access skiing beyond the top of Aspen Mountain. While the snowmobiles ran the first lap, I dug a snow pit to look at snow conditions. The pit showed some risk for a large slide, so our group decided to be conservative in what we would ski.

After an exhilarating run we returned to the sleds to be towed up for another lap. That is when the weird thing happened. A fellow skier got right in my face saying I had ruined his day by taking time to dig the pit, and that I was therefore no longer welcome on the sleds that belonged to his friends, so I might as well start walking … that is, to hike some two miles back Richmond Ridge to the ski area.

The hike was no big deal, but the attitude was really alarming. When one skis in the backcountry it is an uncontrolled environment. To me that means realistically assessing hazards, carrying life-safety equipment such as shovels, probes and transceivers, and making sure everyone knows what to do in case things do not go as planned. In other words, playing as a team.

Apparently this is not the protocol my fellow skier follows, which led me to my important safety lessons:

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1) Choose your backcountry travel companions wisely.

2) Remember that you are always responsible for your own safety first and foremost.

3) Failing the first but succeeding the second may mean walking out alone.

Be safe and have fun, comrades.

Gary Gleason

Board member, Powder To The People

Aspen