Is It Doable?
One of the hardest aspects of backcountry riding for me is looking up at a face and determining if the line I chose is doable. From the bottom, it all looks pretty good, but when you’re actually standing on top of the line, things change. The perspective from above is totally different. Usually you can’t see anything below-just white snow rolling over to the mountain floor below. It’s taken me a lot of practice to be able to look up and choose a safe and doable line to ride within my limits. Here are a couple of techniques.-Dave Downing
The warm-up run helps me to gain confidence when I’m riding big lines in the backcountry. I usually hike up and do a warm-up run that’s a little more mellow than my big line, but on the same peak or face. Once there’s a track down the face you gain perspective-you can look up and see how big things really are. Sometimes I’ll do this a couple times before charging my main line of choice.
Check It Twice
If I’m going to jump a big cliff, I always ride down to the edge of the cliff, stop, unbuckle, and check both the takeoff and landing. Hucking off a cliff to flat isn’t fun, no matter how much you’re getting paid! I’ll ride down and check the landing to find the sweet spot. I also pat down the takeoff, making sure it’s stable and that there’re no exposed rocks. I see people hitting big cliffs without fixing or even looking at the takeoff all the time-big mistake. Getting hung up on rocks in the takeoff and really getting hurt by an unintentional corked 900 to headplant isn’t fun. Throw a few snowballs off the takeoff while you’re up there, this helps you figure out your speed and where the best landing is. Those snowballs also lend some welcome definition when you’re spotting your landing from the air.
Don’t Rush It
The main thing to remember is that in the backcountry, you must always ride within your ability-and there’s no hurry. Assess what you’re going to ride carefully and thoroughly, making sure you feel confident before hiking to the top of your line. Remember, one of the best things about backcountry is that there aren’t tons of people around poaching your lines-don’t rush it!