1. First thing’s first, bring your brain. Making good decisions is more important than any piece of gear.
2. Avalanche beacon goes on at the car, off at the bar. Make sure you pack your shovel and probe. Airbags are useful, too, but they are not an excuse to take risks you wouldn’t otherwise take.
3. Know the forecast. Every avalanche center in the country has a website and each offers automatic daily email updates. These centers have also started to spread their message via social media. The Utah Avalanche Center and Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center are particularly effective in highlighting daily messages with photos and video on social media.
4. At the trailhead, don’t park like a jackass. Keep it tight so others can play, too. Pro tip: Stash beers in the snow for when you return with your ski partners.
5. Leash your dog in parking lots, and pick up their waste. New this winter on Teton Pass, Wyoming, dogs must be leashed in the parking lot or you will get a $130 fine. Not picking up their waste will result in a $180 fine. Some people think you should just leave your dog at home.
6. If you’re slow on the bootpack, pull over so others can pass. If you’re fast on the bootpack, don’t be a dick about it.
7. Don’t posthole in my skin track. Don’t skin track in my posthole.
8. Communicate with other skiers. Be friendly. Don’t be selfish or overly competitive. Nicely ask where others are going, and be flexible in your plans to spread out your turns if you have similar objectives.
9. Speak up if you’re uncomfortable, and respect those who have doubts.
10. Do not drop in on people below you.
11. Don’t ski above highway commuters during periods of elevated avalanche danger. People are just trying to get to work, man.
12. Debrief at the end of the day. What did you do right? What did you get away with?
13. If you don’t know, don’t go.
To learn more and become a savvy backcountry skier, enroll in an avalanche class with the American Avalanche Institute, or the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education.