Finding the perfect pow stash in the summer
As the rideable terrain slowly disappears I get excited for the summer scouting season. One of the best parts of splitboarding is the freedom that you can go anywhere. The terrain options are unlimited! In the winter, it can be a challenge to seek out new backcountry terrain due to potential avalanche danger, accessibility issues, short days and it's typically slower then summer scouting. I am always looking for that next secret stash and the summer is the best time to find it! Here is my pow hunter plan of action.
Set parameters for terrain
First, I set some parameters for the terrain I am searching for. Are you seeking steep couloirs, deep mellow pow fields, long traverses, winter camping zones, treed zones, above tree line, etc. How long are you willing to traverse to get to your zone? How long are you willing to drive to get to your zone?
Once I have my terrain goals established I start scouring Google Earth for zones that will match my criteria. I search backcountry forums and chat with others to discover zones that I may not have heard of. Most people don't like to openly chat about their secret stashes, and for good reason! Once I find an area that appears to be good I pull up a great website called www.caltopo.com. Caltopo will let me see the slope angles of the area, an overlay of the satellite image, an overlay of a topography map and let me measure distances.
Keep in mind some paved roads may not be open in the winter.
Make sure the area is not private land.
Snowmobiles can be an awesome method of getting you to zones that will be untouched. In the summer I usually mountain bike to these zones vs hiking.
Old ski areas. In Colorado we have many abandon ski areas. These can be a great source of open pow runs.
Once I have located a good zone I snap screen shots of the area from google earth and caltopo. I highlight the zones and print it off and write notes on the backside. I laminate it or put it in a plastic sleeve. I keep a file folder of scouting zones for those days I have some extra time to get out and scout.
Be prepared. Anytime I go scouting I have a map, compass and a plan. Make sure to tell someone where you are going and when you plan on returning. I also bring a GPS to track my route and document my route for winter use. A lot of the time I am bush wacking and making my own trail so it can be super easy to get lost. Whenever I head off trail I make sure to bring 2 forms of fire(matches and lighter), first aid kit, knife, paracord, duct tape, space blanket, whistle, plenty of water, sun screen and some snacks. I am always prepared to spend the night in case I get lost.
Take a camera and an outdoor journal pad so you can make notes about the terrain and accessibility.
When you find your zone pay attention to what's on the ground! When you are riding fluffy pow it all looks smooth but what's underneath can grab you and ruin your day. If you are going to scout out a new cliff drop make sure to check out whats below it. Make notes on danger zones in the approach and how you are going to avoid them. Many times people get caught in avalanches by under cutting steep terrain while in moderate steepness. Document rivers and streams because mid-winter they can get buried and create snow bridges that will collapse as soon as you cross them. Overall be very observant! The mountains will have a totally different feel to them in the summer vs. the winter.
In Colorado we have a ton of public cabins scattered throughout the mountains. Summer is a great time to scout them out. Stock them up, cut some wood and store it for the winter. If they need repairs do it! most public cabins need some love.
Summer scouting is a ton of fun and the dream of finding that next untouched pow stash is all the drive I need. Its also a great way to stay in shape for the split season! Nothing can replace high altitude training. Happy pow hunting and be safe.
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