By Lawrence Lujan
Now is a great time to get out and enjoy the winter snow, but with the new season comes challenges and safety considerations to take into account. We want everyone to be able to enjoy this incredible time of year safely.
Travel conditions can vary greatly from the time you leave your home until you reach your destination, especially in mountain passes and at higher elevations. It’s important to check road conditions before heading out and make sure you have the right gear in your car in case you run into delays. Winter weather can change quickly. Tire chains may be required. Remember to slow down when driving in winter conditions and use extra care while driving and parking.
Choose your destination wisely. Have a backup plan in place in case you arrive to find a crowded trailhead or unsafe conditions. Be certain that you have the proper safety gear for your winter adventure, including extra layers, a shovel, a probe and an avalanche beacon, depending on the nature of your trip. Consider your vehicle as part of your winter emergency gear. Be sure that your tires are ready for the snow and carry extra clothing, food, water and a sleeping bag in case you get stuck.
Avalanches can strike even the most prepared winter recreationists. Check conditions with your local avalanche center or the National Avalanche Center online before venturing out. Remember that avalanche equipment is only as helpful as your corresponding training and decision-making in avalanche terrain. Know how to use your gear and respect your physical limitations. Let people know where you are going. Get avalanche educated or hire a guide before you visit the backcountry.
Finally, be sure to practice winter wellness. Be respectful of others. Cover your nose and mouth when you can’t maintain 6 feet from others or when you are indoors. When possible, eat and rest outside. If you feel sick, stay home.
Enjoy your national forests and please exercise good judgment as you visit them this winter. More information can be found at www.recreateresponsibly.org/.