Backcountry Basics – Tommy’s First Time

Tommy Emanuelson is a little man. I’ve had the pleasure of riding with him a few times, and I have always been impressed with not only his riding skills, but also his personality and maturity for such a little guy. This past winter I took him out for his first day in the Tahoe backcountry. Here’s a little interview from the little man.-Dave Downing

D.D.: So, Tommy, tell us about yourself.
I’m fifteen years old, and I’ve been riding for about nine years. I like to do a little bit of everything, mostly riding park and pipe.

I took you into the Tahoe backcountry for your first time ever. Was it different than you expected?
I went into the day pretty open for whatever, because I really didn’t know what to expect. As far as the riding was concerned, it was way better than I thought it would be. The day was perfect-blue sky and fresh powder.

Was it harder than anticipated?
It was super hard. The runs were so long and good, but hiking up took way longer than I ever imagined. There was a lot of quiet time to pick out your run-which was good for me. After the day was over, I was beat.

Were you scared?
No, the ride up was pretty scary, though-going so fast on a sled, so much leaning and sliding. It was a lot of fun.

What would you have changed about your equipment?
I’ll never bring a Burton Punch 140 into the backcountry again-I couldn’t keep my nose up. If you want to freeze your hands, only bring one pair of gloves. And finally, I tried it out and setting up a centered stance isn’t too great for powder.

Do you want to ride backcountry again, or are you more interested in the park?
Backcountry for life! It’s hard to ride all the time because there isn’t always fresh snow. But when you get the chance, it’s the best feeling ever-it truly is snowboarding.

Do you like hiking for your runs?
Riding a lift is much easier, but when you hike the mountain, you make it your own. It’s rewarding knowing you hit something first tracks because no one else would hike all the way to the top. But then again, a helicopter sounds even better.

What’s most memorable about the day?
When we took turns making those last runs just before the sun wet down on the hill-it was so quiet that when you stopped, you couldn’t hear a thing …

Do you think you’ll go into the backcountry all by yourself now?
I would never go alone. That’s just crazy. You could be dying and nobody would know where to find you. I plan to go out some more with people who know what’s up.

Were you scared about avalanches?
I was kind of scared, but learning the basics of backcountry safety gave me a lot of confidence. It’s always weird to think about an avalanche killing you-but it happens.

What would you tell TWS readers to prepare for their first day in the backcountry?
Always bring water, extra food, a backpack, and a transceiver-and another pair of gloves!