Backcountry Starts Here

With big growth in backcountry snowsports over the last decade – both in equipment and visits – more individuals and groups are venturing out into what was once off-limits terrain.

As countless skiers, snowboarders, ice climbers, mountaineers, and snowmobilers continue to head into an always-hazardous backcountry, is it any wonder that avalanche fatalities are up?


A massive, natural avalanche off Mt. Timpanogos, Wasatch Range, Utah.
An avalanche at 10,500 feet, in Utah’s Wasatch Mountain range. Photo by Bruce Tremper/U.S. Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center. Courtesy


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A board-based response to the fatalities has just landed. North American snow industries, forecast and training centres, non-profits and supporting companies have launched a collaborative effort committed to reducing avalanche fatalities. It’s called Project Zero.

Last week at the SnowSports Industries America (SIA) Snow Show in Denver, Project Zero launched its first campaign, Backcountry Starts Here. The launch included A-list celeb participation by the likes of Chris Davenport, Lynsey Dyer and Jeremy Jones.

Backcountry Starts Here intends to reduce fatalities by changing perceptions of avy risk and backcountry behaviour in young skiers and riders. Rooted in market research conducted by Project Zero during the winter of 2013/14, the campaign identified a need for peer-to-peer education. Not surprisingly, the research also showed that social media will drive these desired cultural changes.


Bruce Tremper, director of the U.S. Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center, triggers a controlled avalanche. Photo by Bruce Tremper/ U.S. Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center. Courtesy


Co-founder of the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) Tom Murphy had this to say: “Currently the thinking is, ‘I have my beacon, shovel, probe. Let’s go.’ We need people to be thinking, ‘I have my gear, what’s the avalanche problem today and how do we avoid it?’ That will require a systemic change. And all of the stakeholders—the users, enforcers, rescuers, designers—will need to work together to promote it.”


 Heading into the backcountry? Check out BackcountryStartsHere first.