Ski­ing or snow­board­ing out of bounds has many appeal­ing ben­e­fits to it. The qui­et feel­ing of being away from every­thing, fresh snow, and adven­ture of it all makes for a fun time out there. But on the oth­er hand, there are many risks that peo­ple don’t con­sid­er that, if addressed, sig­nif­i­cant­ly increase the chances of sur­vival when some­thing goes wrong. Because there is a lot that can go wrong when you are out in the wilder­ness on your own.

But things can go wrong any­where, and it’s how you respond to the sit­u­a­tions that can mean the dif­fer­ence between a good day and a real­ly ter­ri­ble one. Here are a few ques­tions that will help your plan­ning process before it’s too late to come up with a plan B.


Have We Been This Way Before?
A lot of prob­lems arise when peo­ple go into unchart­ed ter­rain. The appeal of fresh lines can turn off ratio­nal think­ing, such as “How long will it take to get out?” or “Is there a safe exit from here?”

While it may seem pret­ty straight­for­ward, it’s always a good idea to know the way out. Even if you haven’t been that way before it will get you into the mind­set of play­ing it conservative

Does Some­one Know Our Plan?
It’s always nice to know that some­one cares. If the unthink­able does hap­pen and you get strand­ed, hav­ing some­one call for help might be your sav­ing grace. So if you do plan on head­ing some­where out of range sim­ply make sure you tell some­one your plan. Just a rough out­line can help nar­row down a search for search and res­cue par­ties. Give peo­ple an ETA so that they can send for help if it gets too late.

How Long Can We Last Out Here?
Do you have spare food and water? Are your clothes warm enough to with­stand the night? Will the per­son you are with dri­ve you to delir­i­um if you are stuck togeth­er for an extend­ed peri­od of time? All these ques­tions relate to the big idea of decid­ing how long you could last if some­thing hap­pened. An injury can slow your day down sig­nif­i­cant­ly, and a 20-minute ride out can become hours.

Day­light is also a big con­sid­er­a­tion along these lines as well. Sure a quick lap out of bounds takes a half hour…on a good day. How long would it be in a worst case sce­nario? Of course, you nev­er want things to go wrong, but plan­ning back­wards from the longest case sce­nario will do a lot if the inevitable delay even­tu­al­ly does cause you some headache.

Are We Fit Enough To Do This?
Even if you have a plan set in place it is impor­tant to set real­is­tic expec­ta­tions based on the group’s fit­ness lev­el. You don’t want to bonk out of ener­gy out in the ele­ments. Even if you’ve done some­thing before, when was the last time you did it and were cir­cum­stances dif­fer­ent? I’ve seen many cas­es of peo­ple get­ting stuck out of bounds because they were over­con­fi­dent in the ear­ly sea­son. Even a cou­ple days a week at the gym a month before things get going can ensure a speed­i­er exit when pow time out of bounds

I’m a home­town boy. I did­n’t learn to cut turns from a lat­te-clutch­ing ski instruc­tor, and I’ve nev­er stayed in a pres­i­den­tial suite. I like good snow and I hate long lift lines. Due to the sky­rock­et­ing price of admis­sion to many resorts across the nation, I’ve ditched the chair­lifts for a more ana­log approach: boot-pack­ing back­coun­try bliss.

Accord­ing to the Den­ver Post, vis­its to Col­orado’s ski areas fell 9.8 per­cent last sea­son, mak­ing it the third-worst sea­son in the past twen­ty years. The lat­est report from SnowS­ports Indus­tries Amer­i­ca (SIA) weaves a sim­i­lar tale of inim­itable demise. Despite much bet­ter snow­fall totals than the pre­vi­ous sea­son with some resorts clos­ing lat­er than nor­mal, only an esti­mat­ed 15.6 mil­lion folks bit the bul­let last year. Along these lines, the Den­ver Bus­ni­ness Jour­nal report­ed 57.1 mil­lion vis­i­tors through­out the sea­son. Now, the way SIA crunch­es their num­bers reflects one per­son ski­ing mul­ti­ple times through­out the sea­son, while the DBJ report is mere­ly mass num­bers. It’s a tricky lit­tle num­ber infla­tion trick that the indus­try prefers.

Regard­less, “The num­ber of new skiers is drop­ping off about 3 per­cent a year; peo­ple aren’t going back and try­ing it as much…Snowboarders that went about 7.5 days a year 15 years ago are going less than 6 days a year,” Ed Sealover with the DBJ told the Den­ver Post.

My lit­tle home­town resort, Hogadon Ski Area in Casper, WY is fac­ing the same fate—a mix­ture of errat­ic snow­pack, ris­ing oper­a­tional costs, and all of that on top of mil­lions of dol­lars of ren­o­va­tions. While most resorts are pri­vate­ly owned and rely on retail and upscale lodg­ing to shoul­der some of the finan­cial bur­den, many small­er moun­tains are being crushed.

When White Pine Ski Resort in Pinedale, WY was on the brink of clo­sure, local busi­ness own­ers stepped in to save it. A sim­i­lar sto­ry in Ter­race, British Colum­bia forced the local pow­der­hounds to step in and con­vert the moun­tain into a non-prof­it co-op. When the moun­tain faced clo­sure, the town banned togeth­er to form what would be the My Moun­tain Co-Op, who offi­cial­ly runs the moun­tain as of last year.

Shames Moun­tain is a mod­est affair eschew­ing the restau­rants, bars, and din­ing for the sim­plic­i­ty of pur­su­ing the piste. It has two chair­lifts, a tow bar, and a base lodge where you can buy food and drink and hire equip­ment, but with 480 inch­es of snow a year, few are complaining.

The Moun­tain Rid­ers Alliance is try­ing a sim­i­lar mod­el on our slopes. MRA has been work­ing with Maine’s Mt. Abram since 2010 and, in 2013, began man­ag­ing the ski area oper­a­tions. Mt. Abram has been in oper­a­tion since 1960, offer­ing 51 trails and 1,150 ver­ti­cal feet over 560 acres. In 2012, it was the sec­ond ski area to install E/V Charg­ers and received a USDA REAP Grant to install a large solar array, cre­at­ing its own ener­gy on site. With­out the man­age­ment of  coop­er­a­tive own­er­ship these ren­o­va­tions would not be pos­si­ble because the resort would not exist.

While the decline of large resorts makes the future of ski­ing in Amer­i­ca some­what fog­gy, it’s uplift­ing to see com­mu­ni­ties step in and com­bine their resources in an effort to keep their shred.