The Dangers of Backcountry Snowboarding

Snowboarding is a sport that involves skill and mastering balance on the snowboard. Many like to explore the valleys and steep slopes of the backcountry. One way to do this is by snowboarding these hills. There are dangers involved when snowboarding the backcountry---many of these locations have drop offs, unmarked pistes and ungroomed slopes. The main danger is that many backcountry areas are not monitored or patrolled by park rangers and many snowboarders attempt the slopes at their own risk.
The Dangers of Backcountry Snowboarding

Safety and Gear

When snowboarding the backcountry, bring along equipment and supplies. The best way to do this is by utilizing a backpack to carry gear. A good choice for a backpack would be the Kelty Sector 46. This backpack is lightweight and offers a ventilated suspension system for staying cool and comfortable while climbing and maneuvering through tight spots. The Kelty will hold the safety gear and equipment so hands can be free to balance and guide. Packing water and food is essential in case you get stranded or injured. A compass, radio, transceiver, altimeter (pictured below) and first-aid kit should always be included during any backcountry adventure. Wearing a ski outfit, goggles and boots will assure a safe trip to the top and back.




"Avalanche" is one word a snowboarder or skier never wants to hear. On an unmonitored slope, an avalanche can actually be caused by a snowboarder. If the snow is heavy---especially at a cliff point or overhang---it can be difficult to detect loose chunks of snow and ice from a distance. Once the area is agitated or snow is moved, it may be too late. Having a T-handle shovel loaded along with the gear will allow for a dig out if a large amount of snow happens to fall, leaving the snowboarder buried. An avalanche probe and transceiver will also aid rescuers in being able to locate and retrieve an avalanche victim---this tool is a must have for anyone trekking and snowboarding the backcountry.



Snowboarding the backcountry means first reaching the top of the slope. It can take hours or even days to reach a summit or peak. Having the right equipment to make it to the top will assure safe and swift travel. A pair of snowshoes is ideal for cross-trekking across light fluffy snow. For icy terrain, snowboarding boots, harnesses, crampons (pictured below) and an ice ax should be part of the package. The crampons dig into the ice and snow and provide ease of use while trekking up icy hill and glaciers. An inclinometer is a powerful tool to have for determining how steep a hill is. When at the top of a peak, the inclinometer will help determine slope angle and assist in analyzing downhill speed.


Trees and Brush

Large tree trunks, and short dense brush are a snowboarder's nightmare. When backcountry snowboarding, they can appear from nowhere. When a fresh dusting of powder has covered the slopes, many times the path can be impossible to follow. With speeds reaching 27 mph plus, it can be hard to turn in a matter of seconds. Prevent injury by keeping a close eye on terrain while trekking upward the hill and making a mental note of other area land obstacles.

Unpacked Snow

One danger that many backcountry snowboarders face is falling through the snow while snowboarding downhill. Because the snow is not packed from other skiers or boarders, there is a high risk of falling through loosely packed areas and drop-offs. While most drop-offs or cliffs are fairly recognizable, some may be low lying and impossible to spot. Analyzing the surrounding landscape while going down will help to spot holes and hidden caves. Learning to recognize sharp dips in the surface level such as 35 or more degree steep angles will help reduce being buried or injured. Surface areas that appear darker than others may be signs the snow is not packed tightly. Sudden rises or humps in terrain are also recognizable as unpacked snow areas lying straight ahead.

Article Written By Julie Boehlke

Julie Boehlke is a seasoned copywriter and content creator based in the Great Lakes state. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Boehlke has more than 10 years of professional writing experience on topics such as health and wellness, green living, gardening, genealogy, finances, relationships, world travel, golf, outdoors and interior decorating. She has also worked in geriatrics and hospice care.

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