On his blog for Friends of Pathways, Jay Pistono acknowledged how the recent avalanche on Mt. Taylor has sparked a mountain of dialogue on snow and slope safety etiquette. Pistono said this discussion has revealed that several areas in and around Jackson and Teton Pass can now be considered what the Forest Service refers to as “frontcountry” and that these areas requires us to rearrange our traditional backcountry mentality and actions.
Frontcountry, Pistono explained, is a true wild backcountry area that’s constantly frequented because of its accessibility and proximity to populated areas.
Pistono says that while active testing, such as ski cutting and cornice chopping, are extremely useful he warns that before performing such tests in the frontcountry, you should consider other resources first, such as staying abreast on the Bridger Teton avalanche report; digging your own pit to become familiar with snowpack layers; paying attention to results from any recent gas-ex events and staying aware of temperature swings. Pistono said other useful hints include how quickly tracks are filling in; how much snow is on and around trees and effects of wind events on terrain.
Pistono also recommends that if you are going to ski cut a slope, be certain no one is below you, ensure there’s a visible run out path, don’t test on slopes where there is a road below, look for small testing areas instead of big ones, and finally, if you’re adamant about needing to test a slope, consider skiing something different altogether. – Robyn Vincent