Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Ski Etiquette Cards for New Backcountry Users?
Ann Chadbourne shows off some of the backcountry ski equipment at Backwoods Mountain Sports. Backwoods got its orders in early this year since supplies could be tight due to factory shutdowns during the early part of the pandemic.
Thursday, November 19, 2020



One of the silver linings with the COVID pandemic is that a lot of people have discovered and rediscovered the outdoors, says Paddy McIlvoy, co-owner of Backwoods Mountain Sports.

Sales of mountain bikes and other outdoor equipment skyrocketed this past summer and sales of alpine backcountry touring equipment, which already climbed 15 percent during the 2019-20 season, is climbing this year as well.

Blaine County added 31 new coronavirus cases Wednesday for a total of 1,148.

But this summer’s huge influx of hikers and campers to the Sun Valley area showed that city slickers needed to be educated about how to pee in the woods and how to enjoy public lands without doing harm.

The same goes for those who come to ski, board and snowshoe our wild snow this winter, McIlvoy said. It’s incumbent on locals to teach them about trail etiquette, including how not to block the trail when they stop, how to traverse slopes in one track, the necessity of picking up after their pets and limiting group size.

McIlvoy said he and his fellow retailers must be the front-line educators for new users.

“We need to help them understand how to preserve and enjoy the places we love,” he told those attending this past week’s Economic Summit organized by Sun Valley Economic Development and Visit Sun Valley.

Idaho recorded 1,310 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday for a total of 86,435. Fourteen more Idahoans died as Idaho surged past 800 deaths to 812 on the same day that the nation surpassed a quarter million deaths.

It will also be incumbent on local shop owners and others to spread people out at various trailheads and teach them about the danger of avalanches and the necessity of being equipped for self-rescue, he added.

Zach Crist, owner of Sun Valley Guides, suggested that newcomers to snowmobiling and backcountry and Nordic skiing dial into Leave No Trace (, which touts seven principles for Leave No Trace recreation, including minimizing campfire impacts and respecting wildlife.

And McIlvoy said that visitors need to be educated about the snowmobiler/skier pact created nearly 20 years ago to hammer out designated snowmobile and skier areas in the backcountry.

Joe St. Onge, a guide with Sun Valley Guides, said that locals are blessed to have five mountain ranges out their back door. And he encourages sharing it with others because, he said, the outdoor experiences people indulge in are part of making a better world.

“Ultimately, when I look at it, it’s about sharing our joy of the backcountry and getting to watch the light in people’s eyes when they experience their first backcountry turn,” he said. “It’s an amazing experience and for many people it’s a pivotal experience.”

St. Onge said it might be useful to hand out ski etiquette cards. And the local community should get ahead of problems before they happen.

He noted that people recreating near Jackson, Wyo., often sit idling for a half-hour on the side of the road waiting for a parking place.

“We should encourage the Forest Service and Idaho Transportation Department to think creatively about where they can offer more parking spaces,” he said. “Parking has the potential to be a huge problem here, and I think it will be exacerbated this year with everyone taking their own vehicle.”

Onge noted that lighter, redesigned gear makes it easier for people to recreate in the backcountry and to go further than ever before.

It’s incumbent on the community to make sure visitors know that they should be prepared to self-rescue, particularly this winter when the COVID pandemic is straining hospitals and emergency responders.

“Remember that all activities, including snowshoeing, have risks,” he said. “Remember there’s limited capacity in the hospitals. We shouldn’t be going into the backcountry unless we’re comfortable with managing our own accidents in the backcountry.

“Our Search and Rescue capability is limited on a good day. We don’t have the helicopter and other resources places like the Tetons do. We’re very remote here and, before you go out, you should be prepared. We have to be a little more conservative based on the risk we’re putting others at.”


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