By Tony Jenkins
During my years of snowmobiling in the mountains there have been a few occasions when I’ve been caught in the backcountry by an aggressive storm and have had to wait it out before returning to the trailhead.
When this happens the first thing we do is to keep our group close together to avoid anyone getting out of sight and separated. Then we either find a protected canyon to ride out or we look for a sheltered area to wait out the storm.
I remember one time I was with a group of Icelanders and we got caught when a heavy fog settled on top of us. You couldn’t even see your ski tips in front of you.
After trying to pick our way out of the cloud, and after making a few mistakes, I realized the risk of moving on was too great. Now was the time to focus on staying alive and safe. So we stopped, made a camp, and waited for the weather to clear up. Once the fog lifted, we were able to go safely on our way.
Here are eight tips I recommend you follow when you head to the backcountry:
1) Carry a GPS device. I use a Garmin inReach.
2) Always have proper goggles with yellow lenses. I keep two spare sets of goggles on me when I ride.
3) Keep track of your riding partners. Always keep turning back to make sure they are not lost or turned around. Prevent your group from being split up.
4) Have a radio to help with communication.
5) Avoid windy areas and stay in safe terrain.
6) Avoid terrain traps where unseen avalanches can trap you in a ravine.
7) If you get caught in a storm, find a place to make shelter and wait it out.
8) Be prepared for worst-case scenarios. Have the equipment with you that you'd need to stay the night and make a shelter.