We all know the best cure for the January blues is to jump on a plane and get a nipple-deep cold dry Japanese powder fix but if you’re stuck at home for the next month or so then you might as well get on that new year’s resolution bandwagon and start making some positive changes.

Instead of vowing to live the life of a monk, surviving only on a mocktail of herbal tea, self-flagellation and over-promises, we suggest you make backcountry safety your priority in 2019. After all, a flask of chamomile tea might help keep you warm on the hill but practising and refining your backcountry safety and avalanche rescue skills will enable you to actually save a life.

Fall Line’s Backcountry guru Martin Chester has come up with some inspiration to help you make 2019 the year you implement some resolutions with substance and longevity. Over to you MC:

Ok crew, let’s make 2019 the year you finally get round to putting all those good habits into place. If you’re struggling for ideas, then here’s a list of suggestions that might help. Pick as many as you like and get cracking…

In 2019 I am going to make sure that me and my mates practice a proper transceiver search

Not some duff “any monkey can walk straight at it” search for a barely buried glove or the such like. This year we are going to bury a transceiver out of sight, out of range, at least one metre under the surface and be sure we can find it. Just be sure to switch it on before you bury your bag . . .

This is the season we are going to stop cruising around the mountains with our phones in our chest pockets

Read this excellent research article by Al Powell at Alpine Guides on avalanche transceiver interference  then remember we never know or plan when we are going to get avalanched! Be ready, all the time, all season . . .

This winter I’m going to buy all my ski partners a metal shovel

If you love someone, then please, please, buy them a metal shovel. I still cannot believe how many people pull a flimsy plastic job out of their bags when it comes to practice time. When it comes to the crunch, they simply don’t (ahem) cut it – here’s why! In fact, if you love someone, buy yourself a metal shovel too so you can dig them out! 

This year I’m going to put my transceiver on first thing, every day, before I leave the building

This way you will know if there are problems before it’s too late to change batteries or hire a spare. If you always have the kit on, you will always be ready to duck under the ropes anytime it looks peachy.

This season I am going to get good at recognising a 30 degree slope

If a dodgy snowpack is the question, then terrain choice is almost always the answer.
Whether you use a phone app, a fancy inclinometer, or your ski poles, make sure you can spot when you are on (or under) a slope that could slide. It takes practice – so grab yourself a copy of our 2018 Backcountry Issue, have a read through my slope angle How-To feature and get cracking.

This winter I’m going to let go of “on piste or off-piste” thinking

Start the new year with a fresh perspective and begin by asking yourself –  “Am I in avalanche terrain or not?” We have had an unhelpful binary view of the world for too long. There is no such thing as a “little bit off-piste” so the real question is whether the terrain is capable of getting you avalanched. Ask yourself this question then act accordingly, safe in the knowledge that it is your choice – and you are on top of the decisions you need.

Have you got any backcountry-specific new year’s resolutions for winter 2019? Let us know in the comments box below.

Wishing you all a safe, snowy winter and all the very best for 2019.



How to: read and use the avalanche forecast for safer offpiste skiing