Backcountry Safety in Whistler

With the increasing popularity of users trekking into the backcountry of Whistler, we wanted to give you a few, basic tips to stay safe. Understandably, the past year has spurred people to explore outside more, as it’s a generally covid-friendly activity. However, it’s also important to make sure you are protected from the elements and terrain when doing so. Whether you’re snowshoeing, ski touring, or engaging in any of the other beautiful outdoor options Whistler has to offer, make sure you’re prepared!

1. Hire a Guide 

One of the best ways to stay safe in our beautiful backcountry is to hire a professional guide. Whether you want to ski tour, snowshoe, or snowmobile, this is the optimal way to experience the best of Whistler’s breathtaking backcountry. Here are a few recommendations for experienced guides:

2. Navigation 

First and foremost, know exactly where you are going! It’s best to pre-plan your route, no matter how long or short the excursion may be. Because the cold weather can quickly drain a phone battery, it’s always best to carry a physical map and compass with you (and know how to use them!). Another key aspect of route planning is sharing this information with someone outside of your adventure buddies. Send your route to a trusted friend or family member, along with your estimated time of when you should be finished. 

3. Safety Equipment

The goal is, of course, to get out of the woods when you plan to, but always be prepared to spend a night in the woods if necessary. We won’t go into the details of sport-specific equipment here, but there are a few items you should have in your pack for any winter activities. 

    • Bivy – This is your emergency shelter and warmth if you have to spend the night in the cold, or if you need to keep warm in case of an emergency. 
    • First Aid Kit – It’s important to always carry at least a basic first aid kit in your pack. We love this kit, sold locally at Escape Route. 
    • Extra Layers – The elements can change quickly, and it’s never a bad idea to have an extra warm layer just in case. 
    • Plenty of Food and Water – Staying fueled and hydrated are essential to keeping a clear mind for decision-making in the backcountry. Pack extra in case of an emergency!

4. Training

For those who are planning on venturing into avalanche terrain, we can’t stress enough the importance of taking an Avalanche Skills Training Course. The level 1 course will teach you how to use your avalanche safety equipment, read avalanche terrain, route plan, identify hazards, and more. These can easily be accomplished during a trip to Whistler, as it’s one day of online learning and two days in the field with hands-on experience. 

5. Emergency Communication

When venturing into areas that either have zero cell reception or limited service, it’s important to carry a satellite device such as a Garmin InReach. If you’re a consistent backcountry user, it’s wise to go ahead and make the investment in one for yourself, but if you’re a casual user, there are options to rent these devices from local outfitters in Whistler. These devices will be your lifeline in the worst-case scenario. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use it, but if you do, you’ll be so grateful you included it in your pack.  

We hope this guide is a useful resource for planning your backcountry adventures! If you need the perfect Whistler accommodation to relax after a long day of play, you can browse our extensive property listings here. We look forward to hosting you in our beautiful mountain town!