Exploring the winter wilderness is one of the joys of recreating in a mountainous state. However, navigating the alpine landscape takes special preparation. Before heading off-piste, review these winter safety guidelines for the best backcountry experience.
With gorgeous blue skies and sparkling fields of snow beckoning, winter in the Glenwood Springs backcountry is stunning. Surrounded by mountains, the landscape offers a pristine setting for those wanting to venture into the snow-covered backcountry. However, along with the beauty of nature come challenges and risks that demand respect and preparation.
Whether you’re skinning up Willy’s Peak, embarking on an overnight hut trip, or breaking trail snowshoeing, safety is paramount for a positive experience. Before heading out, review these tips courtesy of Care for Colorado for a successful outing in the backcountry.
Know Before You Go
Before setting foot in the winter wilderness, equip yourself for the adventure ahead. Make sure you have all the gear and extras needed—just in case.
• Gear Check. Ensure you have appropriate winter gear, including waterproof clothing, insulated boots, and multiple layers to protect against the cold. Carry a backpack stocked with essentials like a map, a compass or GPS device, a headlamp, a first aid kit, sun protection, a knife or multi-tool, a lighter and fire-starting fuel, as well as high-energy food, and extra water and clothing.
• Avalanche Awareness. Snow conditions are variable and can change quickly. Avalanches are a real threat. Stay updated with local forecasts and consider taking an avalanche safety course to understand the risks and preventive measures.
• Keep No Secrets. Before heading out, tell a trusted individual where you’ll be going and when you expect to return. Should anything go awry, they can provide valuable information to search and rescue teams. If parking at a trailhead to trek beyond, display information on your dashboard to let others know your route and contact information.
Be Nice to Nature & Others
Glenwood’s high alpine vistas are not just a treat for the eyes but also a testament to Colorado’s commitment to preserving its natural beauty. Certainly, enjoy the outdoors but also do your part to keep the backcountry a beautiful and welcoming environment for all.
• Pack it In, Pack it Out. Care for Colorado and leave it as you found it, or better! This includes packing out refuse of all kinds including biodegradable items like food scraps, and pet or human waste. If you spot debris that isn’t yours, be a mensch and pack it out.
• Be Aware. Remember you may not be the only one out enjoying a snow day. Understand that backcountry users may be above or below you on mountainous terrain, and human-triggered avalanches can impact everyone in the area.
• Be Considerate. You may be skiing, skinning, snowshoeing, or fat biking at ski resorts or near housing developments so avoid excessive noise, control your pets, and give others space to pass or navigate around you.
Rely on Guides & Keep Learning
Build your backcountry confidence by consulting with local experts and taking relevant continuing education courses.
• Connect with Locals. If you’re not familiar with the area you’ll be trekking, seek the advice of regional experts. Stop in at the White River National Forest Service office in Glenwood Springs for maps and current information and check with gear retailers that rent equipment such as Summit Canyon Mountaineering or Hanging Lake Adventure Co-op.
• Acquire Backcountry Skills. Equip yourself with life-saving knowledge by attending workshops and courses focused on winter survival, navigation, and first aid.
With backcountry precautions safely addressed, here are a few final tips to appreciate the beauty of the winter wilderness and have a great time.
• Take It Slow. Winter backcountry adventures are not a race. Take it easy, respect your limits and, most of all, savor every moment of the journey.
• Share the Experience. Involve friends and family in your adventures to make memories that will last a lifetime.
A blend of challenges and rewards, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as the snowy alpine adventure in the Colorado mountains. If the backcountry is calling you, learn more and plan your winter vacation to Glenwood Springs today!