Cover Photo courtesy of Cy Whitling.
DISCLAIMER: Before entering the backcountry you should educate yourself through an AAIRE or similar Avalanche training and awareness course.
The Backcountry- home to incredible terrain, endless options for building booters, untouched snow, and the freedom to ski it however you'd like. I've been guilty of using easy checklists in the past. With a functioning beacon, shovel, probe, knowledge, and a partner everything seems good to go, but in a real emergency situation, the bare minimum often isn't enough.
A couple months ago, a friend of mine was out of bounds with another individual who was caught in an avalanche that left him with serious injuries. The skier was rescued via helicopter and transported to the hospital, but the entire group was left waiting in the snow for hours. My conversation with him following the incident left me with some valuable knowledge- things to keep in your backcountry pack at all times that you might not always think of. From taking advice from seasoned veterans, and individuals in the AT/BC forum here on Newschoolers, I've compiled a list of essentials beyond your basic gear and knowledge-
It seems obvious but it is also way too easy to be running late for an early morning skin or duck a boundary rope last minute to go ski a line and have absolutely no food packed. Whether it's waiting for a rescue, being stuck in the elements overnight, or just needing a snack- packing extra calories will never hurt you (and if they get too heavy you can just eat them).
Layers get wet, temperatures drop, and an unexpected night (or extended period time) in the backcountry could get extremely cold. It's easy to remember extra socks and layers, but I'd recommend anything from hand warmers to firestarter materials, and an emergency bivy/space blanket.
*Pro tip: Toilet Paper can double as both TP and Fire Starter
First Aid/Trauma Kit
This one speaks for itself, but there are also a few items that can serve other purposes and also come in handy in an emergency. Ski straps(http://www.voile.com/voile-straps.html)- I swear by these guys, they're good for everything including keeping your skis together while boot packing, emergency repairs, and first aid splinting. Another member added he always kept painkillers in his first aid kit, "Could be the difference between 'making it or breaking it' if you break a bone or something in the BC and need to limp back to your car."
Other Miscellaneous Gear
I'll emphasize the versatility of the Voile Ski Straps once more because they really can help in so many different situations. A headlamp for day trips gone long, pocket knife/leatherman for anything and everything, and a couple liters of water will all go a long way.
The bottom line is your knowledge is one of your most important tools, but packing smart and being ready for the worst will put you ahead in an emergency. A 20-minute lap can quickly turn into a 8 hour day, and it's essential to load your pack while expecting the worst.