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Editor’s Note: Learn to make smart, safe decisions on your quest for untracked powder in the Essential Guide to Backcountry Basics and Avalanche Awareness with splitboard aficionado Nick Russell and avalanche instructor Sam Thackeray supported by White Claw. The Inertia readers save 10% with code INERTIA10.


Backcountry riding has been on the uptick for quite a while, and the events of this past year have only accelerated the trend. A record number of skiers and snowboarders are enjoying the fruits of wild snow. Given the fact that the quest for untracked powder is an inherently risky one, equipping all-comers with basic information to stay safe is critical.

That’s why we find the timing of our latest Inspire Course – our series of classes from experts in surf and outdoors – utterly necessary. At no time in human history has the need for basic backcountry knowledge and solid avalanche information been so imperative. If you ride the backcountry, you need to have the proper skills.

In that vein, we present our Essential Guide to Backcountry Basics and Avalanche Awareness supported by White Claw. In the bundled course, renowned snowboard mountaineer Nick Russell, who we’ve been lucky enough to work with before, releases his Essential Guide to Backcountry Basics while splitboard guide Sam Thackeray, who works for Payette Powder Guides out of McCall, Idaho, gives us his Essential Guide to Avalanche Awareness. Together they create a yin and yang of backcountry knowledge. Consider Nick’s course an intro to backcountry – tricks and tips  to make anyone’s backcountry experience safer and more enjoyable. Sam’s Essential Guide to Avalanche Awareness covers the technical aspects of avalanche safety, giving you real-world information you can use in the mountains as if you were taking a course from an instructor – which he is.

Nick, who has made big-mountain descents on nearly every continent, covers a wide array of material. “Snowboarding in the backcountry can be a euphoric experience,” Russell says. “You’re out of the resort boundaries and making decisions where you want to climb up the mountain and where you want to snowboard down. Ascending the mountain under your own personal power can bring this overwhelming sense of gratification and fulfillment. Over the years I’ve picked up a lot of little tricks that have helped me in the mountains and I want to share those in this course. Everything from what gear I bring to how I plan my day to what to do in an event of an emergency. Hopefully you can take these pieces of knowledge with you into the mountains.”

Nick’s course includes these important, and timely, elements:

–Avalanche Safety
–Route Finding
–Skin Track Etiquette
–Essential Gear
–Layering
–Assembling Your Crew
–Preparation
–Dropping In
–Emergency Activation
–Safety Essentials
–How to Build a Rescue Sled

Sam, who along with being an avalanche course instructor is also a firefighter and river guide, gives us essential information to protect ourselves in the backcountry while de-fragging the content and making it completely approachable.

“For a long time the focus of avalanche education was very heavy on the science,” Thackeray says in his Essential Guide to Avalanche Awareness. “The idea was that if we could just teach people how to dig pits and identify grain types and sizes and do snowpack tests they’d be able to go out there on their own and gather information that would help keep them safe. As we progressed down the road of education, we found that wasn’t the case. If you look at avalanche accidents many, many people have education and knowledge of what’s happening with the snowpack. But they still make decisions that end with them being caught in or triggering an avalanche. So we went back to the drawing board of how people make decisions with the information.” Thackeray’s course examines the types of avalanches that kill people, the terrain that causes those avalanches, and why and how we should make decisions given that information. His course chapters include:

–Heuristics and Human Factors That Cause Avalanches
–Teamwork
–Avalanches Defined
–Terrain Defined (Simple, Challenging, and Complex)
–Making a Plan
–Emergency Rescue and Avalanche Recovery

We’re extremely proud of this course because it won’t just educate people. It can literally save lives. “This is a long, slow learning curve and a lifetime of knowledge that you’ll eventually gain,” Russell says in his Guide to Backcountry Basics. “Mountain safety is one course you never graduate from, and there are no experts out in the backcountry. So by no means think that you know everything because there are always new methods being evolved and new tools and gear coming out that can make rescue more efficient. Just remember to start slow. Don’t expect to ride Alaskan spines your first year out in the backcountry. We’re gonna start small and work our way up.”

Editor’s Note: Learn to make smart, safe decisions on your quest for untracked powder in the Essential Guide to Backcountry Basics and Avalanche Awareness with splitboard aficionado Nick Russell and avalanche instructor Sam Thackeray supported by White Claw. The Inertia readers save 10% with code INERTIA10.

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