Without a doubt, solid partners are the A-#1 best piece of avalanche gear out there. This doesn’t mean partners who can dig you out quickly, but more partners who are less likely to get you or themselves buried in the first place. Good partners come in all sorts of sizes, shapes, sexes, speeds and ability levels, and sometimes being an uber-rad skier is actually a detriment in a partner. I’ve been on two trips with partners who were very accomplished skiers, yet were livid that I wanted to ski low-angle terrain after waiting out multi-day storms with high winds. One of the better descriptions of an ideal partner came from a eulogy for a French skier whose friend described him as someone who “knew when to hit the gas, but also knew when to hit the brakes.” Last year in the Wasatch was a classic example of riding the brakes almost all season long – I went through two sets of brake pads and almost ruined my rotors because it was such a weird snowpack. The challenges came in finding fun, safe routes and exploring new terrain instead of skiing steep lines. There’s a time and place for almost everything.
Contrary to logic, it is way easier to find partners willing to ski steep, exposed, scary terrain than the boring mellow stuff. I was reminded of this while reading Powder Magazine’s feature story on “The Return of the Extreme Skier” which said the newest thing is to ski extreme slopes in deep powder. A 6″ sluff on a 50 degree slope packs a big punch and can easily knock you off your edges. A 24″ fracture charging down a tight chute with a rappel at the bottom? Forget it. The underlying rationale is that steep lines in deep powder is the ultimate rush, which is true, but personally I’m very, very selective about when I do it.
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Category: 07 Avalanche Avoidance