The concept might be too formal for some of you free thinkers out there. When I mess up in the backcountry I’ve found it useful to make an effort to talk it out with mentors and friends. If you don’t do this already, consider trying it.
This “debrief” seems to help drive the learning experience deeper into the neurons. More, friends come up with insights you might not have thought of yourself. The talk doesn’t have to be some stodgy affair with pencils and notebooks. A lively (and humble) conversation over beers can do just as well. Communication is the key. One person I know even wrote up some ski mountaineering “close call” reports and emailed out to selected folks for comment and discussion.
A big thing with all this is I’ve noticed a disturbing trend over past years, wherein a person gets involved in a serious backcountry skiing safety incident, and spends much energy just trying to keep it hushed up. Perhaps he feels his reputation might suffer. Perhaps he simply doesn’t want to scare his loved ones.
Trumpeting your screwups might be something to keep subdued at times, but you can still discuss with close friends and mentors. On the opposite end, ever noticed when someone brags on her mess, like showing off her scars? A bit of that can be a chuckle, but gets ugly real fast. When I hear too much of that all I can think is “what an idiot.”
After all that, continuous self-assessment is also essential for your life and limb. To that end, I did a bit of work on our Avalanche Safety Quiz. Added an airbag question, which I scored fairly high for the “yes I use it” answer. Enjoy, and yes, I’ve already thought of all the “safety meeting” jokes so commenters, rise above.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.