Skiing, snowshoeing, and camping offer memorable experiences at Great Basin, provided safety precautions are followed. For all winter trips, both day and overnight, registering at the visitor center and checking out at the completion of your trip is highly recommended. In such a remote area, this information is extremely useful in emergency situations.
Special Winter Concerns
Hypothermia, a condition in which a person's core body temperature is lowered, is always a potential danger. Wear proper clothing and be prepared for sudden changes in weather.
Avalanches are common at high elevations in the Snake Range during the winter and spring. Many ski trails cross avalanche paths and run outs. Skiers should be alert for avalanche hazards, carry proper equipment, and check at a visitor center for current avalanche conditions before departing.
In the Backcountry
Backcountry travelers should always:
1. Prepare for the worst
- Research your route before going in the field
- Check the current and forecasted weather before you leave
- Know the capabilities of your group
- Prepare for emergencies
2. Utilize terrain to your advantage
- Favor the windward sides of ridges
- Avoid the lee slopes until you have had a chance to check them out
- Stay well out in the valley bottoms away from avalanche-producing slopes
- Measure slope angles
3. Minimize exposure time and use safe travel procedures
- Safe travel procedures include exposing as few people as possible to potential hazards
- Do not travel above your partner
- Do not travel out of sight or each other
- Do not stop in the middle of or at the bottom of steep slopes
- Always think about potential escape routes
- Keep the nearest exit route in mind at all times - you may only have seconds to react
- Favor gentle angles and the margins of slopes
- Avoid long traverses with steep slopes above you
- Use ridge routes but remember: ridges can produce avalanches if the terrain is steep enough. Beware of cornices.
- Minimize your exposure by crossing on gentler slope angles or well into the run-out zone
- If the slope is uniformly steep, cross as high as possible, above the likely failure zone.
- If using cliff-bands for protection, cross high, close to the base of the cliffs - watch out for sluff
- If the slope is too wide to keep partners in sight, travel from safe spot to safe spot
- If possible, traverse slopes at a slight downslope angle to minimize exposure time; sometimes using the same traverse track will minimize disturbance to the snow, but it will depend on the snowpack
- If you are nervous about crossing or there are no safe spots, find alternate routes
- Start by descending slopes with gentler angles and as the day progresses, work your way onto steeper terrain
- On steep slopes, approach them from above whenever possible
- It is often a good idea to favor the sides of slopes rather than the middle so that you have a better chance of escaping off to the side of a slab
- Choose slopes where you can see the entire run and which have gradual open run out zones rather than cliffs, gullies, or dense trees below
- Make sure that only one member of the group descends at a time, while the rest of the group watches
- Establish safe stopping points
- Have signals so that you are sure the exposed person is clear before the next person starts to descend
STAY ALERT FOR CLUES AND INTEGRATE TERRAIN, SNOWPACK, AND WEATHER DATA EVERY STEP OF THE WAY.