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Hey Guys, Maybe we Should Stop Using the Word “Slackcountry” in Social Media

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Yes yes. Officer Buzz Killington here to rob you of one of the most well-used words in your shred lexicon.

Sorry about that.

But let me preface this whole thing with two qualifications:

  1. It doesn’t really matter what you say to all of your fellow muchachos and muchachas on the chair, in the daylodge, at the bar etc.
  2. As a writer, I wish it was a more appropriate term to use in articles (my hands cramp up every time I type out “the backcountry just outside the resort”).

But there’s no denying that the word “slackcountry” implies a more laissez-faire approach to backcountry shredding.

Let’s take a look at the errrrr… backcountry immediately outside the resort on Blackcomb Mountain.

There are quite a few lines within a 25 minute skin/bootpack of the boundary that a pow-hound can slot themselves into. But we’re mostly just dealing with four different options:

Two of them are 2000 foot(+) couloirs that slant down towards their respective valleys at roughly 40degrees:

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~20 minutes to get to the top of this classic. Photo: Jamie Bond

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~30 minutes to get to the top of this one.

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Another one is a wide-open bowl that rings in between 30 and 37degrees.

And the other one is a ridge stacked with rocky ramps that offer some of the steepest skiing around.

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So close, yet still far away.

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Avalanche terrain?

Yes.

But can you turn your brain off because you’re within 25 minutes of the resort?

No.

If you took one look at any these kind of lines in a place that wasn’t blessed with a coastal snowpack, you would have to wait for the tiny little handful of days when skiing these things would be anything but a deathwish.

But people, myself included, are often lured into a false sense of security when gnarly lines lie within a stone’s throw of the resort:

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Avalanches are one thing outside the boundary. Fall exposure is another. Photo: Chuck Filion

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And while there hasn’t (knock on wood) been a fatality in these features in recent history, there have certainly been a handful of close calls.

The co-founder of this very website went for the ride of his life last year on a line that you don’t even need skins to get to, shredding his pants apart and basically losing his beacon out of his pocket (it’s worth keeping those bad boys properly sheathed).

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Ain’t no slackin’ here.

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And in the last three years, at least three riders have been spat out onto the Blackcomb Glacier after rocketing a couple thousand feet through the rocky hallways of a “slackcountry” couloir.

That’s just the lines themselves. People often forget about the danger that lies in approaching said lines:

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For the sake of argument, I’m gonna take the list of documented/accepted human factors and apply them to… damnit, here we go again… ‘the backcountry just outside the resort’:

FAMILIARITY – “We ski this line 30 times a year brah…..it’s totes safe.”

ACCEPTANCE – “This line is gonna get me so many likes on Instagram. AND people are gonna see it from the chair!”

CONSISTENCY – “Weather be damned, we told Gary that we were gonna shred__________ today, so let’s do it.”

EXPERT HALO – “Seems like a bad idea, but Gary has his AST 1.”

TRACKS/SCARCITY – “Spanky’s has moguls in it, Gary. Let’s go to the slackcountry.”

SOCIAL FACILITATION – “I’m gonna look like a pussy if I don’t duck the rope with these guys.”

(Feel free to apply your own decision-making dialogue).

And yes, I know that there are a few factors (like skier compaction and the occasional bomb tossed by patrol) that make the lines that feed back inbounds a little safer than a line deep in the backcountry that sees only a few sets of tracks every season.

But the hazard in the immediate backcountry is still very real.

Anyways, like I said: it’s not so bad to use that dirty little word amongst your peers in conversation. It is a good way to describe the zone just outside the resort.

But if you’re posting on Instagram, writing an article or uploading your epic season edit, maybe just say “backcountry”.

Especially if, unlike me, you wield any sort of influence within the larger ski/snowboard population.

Just a suggestion eh!

Eyeing up some Kicking Horse 'backcountry near the resort'. Photo provided by Brian Coles.

Eyeing up some Kicking Horse ‘backcountry near the resort’. Photo provided by Brian Coles.

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