Does the Backcountry Need Rules?


There’s a reason that the book commonly referred to as “the mountaineer’s bible” is called Freedom of the Hills. One of the main draws of the backcountry is the freedom one experiences there. Free from social constraints, free from the stresses of urban life, and free from many of the written and unwritten law that are necessary to keep society functioning smoothly.  Freedom to enjoy and explore the natural world.

Members of the 1939 George Bury ski expedition to Garibaldi Park, beneath the imposing Black Tusk.

But freedom is always a relative concept. Most laws apply to backcountry areas just as they do in the heart of the city. And for all the much-vaunted solitude of backcountry recreation, most of our excursions are to relatively popular areas that still entail a degree of interaction with other people. With surging popularity, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that, like it or not, backcountry skiing is becoming an increasingly social activity.

Do we need one of these for the backcountry?
Do we need one of these for the backcountry?

Maybe, it follows, more social norms are in order back there. We all know the Alpine Skiers Responsibility Code, that yellow card that lists the rules to abide by when at a ski resort. Well, increasing crowds and associated safety concerns mean a formal backcountry code of conduct may well be in order.

That’s exactly what we intend to produce at our first Speaker Series event of the 2013-14 season.  Featuring a very esteemed panel and a healthy dose of audience participation. we’ll be drafting a preliminary Backcountry Alpine Responsibility Code, or BARC.

BARC Poster2

Ryan Bougie: Blackcomb Avalanche Forecaster, avid adventurer, Coast Range traverser.

Keith Reid: Former president of the ACMG and lead backcountry guide for Extremely Canadian.

Dave Sarkany: ACMG ski guide, mountain instructor, Whistler Search-and-Rescue.

Mitch Sulkers: Avalanche instructor, hiking guide, outdoor educator.

Dave Treadway: Professional Freeskier, Snowmobiler, Pemberton SAR.Gazing up at the north face of Mount Garibaldi.

Cliff Fenner (right) and friend gazing up at the north face of Mount Garibaldi, mid-1950s.

With this well-rounded and supremely knowledgeable panel, we hope to craft a pretty solid document. But we need your help. There will be a large audience participation component. So come armed with your suggestions for the BARC. What do you think? What are your backcountry safety concerns and pet peeves? What rules should we all abide by to keep each other safe, happy, and having fun?

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