5 Things NOT to Do in the Backcountry


This is a guest post by professional snowmobiler Julie-Ann Chapman.

After getting all my gear ready for She Shreds Mountain Adventures operations for this season, I’d like to share a couple of tips to help you keep safe while exploring the backcountry. In the past couple years, I’ve come across too many groups who were completely unequipped for the poopy situations they were in. So here are 5 things NOT to do in the backcountry…

Julie-Ann Chapman sleds through the backcountry on her snowmobile

Pow! Julie-Ann sleds through the backcountry


1. Never Ride Alone

•  Tell someone where you and your crew are going.

•  Tell someone your approximate plan.

•  Bring communication devices (not just cell phones, but VHF radios, sat phone or Iridium satellite communication devices) so if your plan changes while out in the mountains, people are aware and don’t call for help when you don’t actually need it.


2. Never Head Into The Backcountry Unprepared

•  Always have a dependable rig that will get you home safe (a Toyota truck and a dependable sled!) – I personally ride a Ski-Doo and drive a Toyota Tundra.

• Take a backcountry snowmobile clinic to expand on your backcountry safety knowledge and sledding technical riding skills.

• Make sure you know a bit of snowmobile mechanics in case you have a mechanical malfunction in the backcountry.

• Plan your trip accordingly around the weather, snow and avalanche forecast. 

Julie-Ann Chapman's Toyota Tundra

Julie-Ann’s Toyota Tundra


• Make sure you have all your certifications (avalanche/wilderness first aid, crevasse rescue, etc.) and bring avalanche, first aid and rescue gear.

• Carry enough supplies to last you at least 1 night in the backcountry. This includes things like food, water, warm spare clothes, and a way to make a fire. It also doesn’t hurt to know how to build a shelter.

• Know where a helicopter can land. If you’d like to know more details about helicopter landings, you can find plenty of articles online.

• Remember that if you’re going out in the backcountry, you and your friends are responsible for getting each other home safe at the end of the day. Search and Rescue is to be used in an emergency, but remember SAR work on a volunteer basis. Your crew won’t look so awesome if you have to call and admit that you just weren’t prepared.

Julie-Ann enjoying the sunset over the snow-capped mountains with friends

Julie-Ann enjoying the sunset over the snow-capped mountains with friends


3. Do Not Drop Into A Line Without Having Studied It

• You always want to have confidence whether you’re about to descend a steep face, jump off a cliff or boost off a jump. You should know the snow and avalanche conditions and wait for the right conditions to do what you want to do.

• Observe your route and have an escape plan (or safe landing if pumping). Have people in safe zones to rescue you if anything is to happen. 

• Stay within your riding abilities. You have no one to show off to. It’s you and yourself against a powerful mountain that doesn’t care what you have to prove to it.

• Oh and one more thing – just because there’s a track, doesn’t mean you should follow it! This could get you into serious trouble especially if you “follow this track” at 2-3pm late in the afternoon.

Julie-Ann sleds through the backcountry with friends

Julie-Ann sleds through the backcountry with friends


4. Don’t Disrespect Backcountry Enthusiasts and Animal Habitat

• Respect the zones that are designated for each sport. If you’re unsure of these zones, inform yourself! Think respectively when you’re in zones that allow multi-sports. If you’re a snowmobiler and enter a zone where people are skiing and snowboarding, let them have that slope – it takes 5 minutes to sled to the next mountain face.

• Respect the land and land closures. Pack out what you pack in for trash! If there’s a land closure it usually means there’s an animal habitat.

• Pay it forward. Always ask to help someone out if they’re broken down or really badly stuck. They’ll be honest with you if they need your help, you never know when you’ll need the favor returned!

• I personally choose to respect these points only because of pure karma. It’ll bite me in the butt in the end if I don’t, I just know it. The mountains are pretty powerful, respect them.


5. Don’t Forget To Have the Best Time Ever

• Make the best of it, have a tight crew of fun pals, be safe, push yourself within your abilities and have another best day ever! 

Julie-Ann Chapman and her friends stoked about their backcountry snowmobile adventure

Julie-Ann Chapman and her friends stoked about their backcountry snowmobile adventure




Julie-Ann Chapman Photo Julie-Ann Chapman is a professional snowmobiler from Pemberton, BC. She empowers females by coaching and is an advocate for backcountry safety. You can connect with Julie-Ann on Facebook and Instagram and www.sheshreds.ca.