I love winter. I love snow. And I love winter sports! I grew up in New Hampshire where we had a saying that the weather there consisted of 11 months of winter and one month of damn poor sledding. Point-when you live in an area that has real winters, those winters can be long unless you embrace them and have fun in them. And I did. Winters are milder in western Washington than they are in northern New England-except for the mountains where no nowhere else in the country does so much snow fall. So much that from a recreational point-of-view, it’s too much of a good thing. Back east I only had to worry about avalanches when skiing Tuckerman Ravine. Here in the Cascades, avalanches are always a concern. And frankly I just don’t want to die. The thought of suffocating to death under Cascade concrete does not appeal to me in the least.
Still, I love cross-country skiing and snowshoeing and there is nothing as invigorating than heading into the backcountry when it is shrouded in snow. I generally play it safe-and probably according to some of my friends, too safe when it comes to winter backcountry travel. Lately I have been on assignment for VisitRainier researching snowshoe and cross-country ski routes in and around Mount Rainier. Rainier is simply amazing in the winter. And surprisingly, I have found a handful of fairly safe routes in the region where you don’t have be too concerned about being swept off of the mountain from a white steamroller.
When I am out in the backcountry savoring the scenery and nowhere near an avalanche area, my mind is at ease-and that is one of the main reasons I head into the backcountry–to be at ease. I have enough stress in my life-the last thing I want is to have my winter recreation stress me out too. I know that by being overly cautious I am limiting my winter backcountry experiences. I get that and I accept that. I’d rather play it safe and keep doing this into my twilight years than tempt nature and meet my maker ahead of schedule. How about you? How much risk do you accept when it comes to winter backcountry recreation. Do you stay away from avalanche prone areas-travel across them after properly assessing them-or are you all about YOLO? I’ll see you in the backcountry–but not beyond that big avalanche zone!