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http://mountainblog.ski-doo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/PIC-3.jpg"><img class="alignleft size-large wp-image-3826 colorbox-3817" alt="PIC 3" src="http://mountainblog.ski-doo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/PIC-3-1024x766.jpg" width="1024" height="766" /></a>By Jeremy Mercier, Ski-Doo Backcountry Expert

So your group has taken some sort of Avalanche training&#8230;maybe attended one of the seminars at a Ski-Doo dealer that BRP puts on. Awesome. Now it's time to get in the habit of practicing what you learned every time you head out into the backcountry.

Here are habits I've ingrained to ride as safely as I can:

Check the weather forecast. Rapid rises in temperature, heavy snowfalls and wind can have drastic impacts on the snowpack. You're considering: which slope got loaded by wind last night? What was the temp? How much snow fell?

Check the Backcountry avalanche forecast. Go to the top web site in your country - http://www.avalanche.org">www.avalanche.org</a> in the US and href="http://www.avalanche.can-am">www.avalanche.ca</a> in Canada. This information is especially important if you haven't seen the conditions in person lately. Don't be afraid to ask locals as well.

http://mountainblog.ski-doo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Pic-1.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-3824 colorbox-3817" alt="You want to avoid this" src="http://mountainblog.ski-doo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Pic-1-300x199.jpg" width="300" height="199" /></a>

You want to avoid this

Do a transceiver check. Before we leave the parking lot, everyone makes sure their transceiver is working and has enough battery life. This is a MUST DO. (You also need to practice transceiver searches with your group a few times a year. Have a party.)

Do a radio check. I started using FRS radios with my riding buddies and I won't ride without them again. You can quickly get a hold of people if something happens. Plus, you don't waste riding time tracking down your buddy who took off over that ridge.

Come up with a plan and stick to it. Discuss what type of terrain you're heading into and what is safe to ride for that particular zone. Evaluate the snowpack when you get out there and decide if you're going to continue. (And don't succumb to peer pressure. There's no need to risk an avalanche just to get that great shot or footage for your social media page).

Start on low angle terrain. Then migrate towards steeper terrain if the snowpack allows.

Take 20 minutes to evaluate the snowpack once you're out there a bit.

http://mountainblog.ski-doo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/PIC-2.jpg"><img class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-3825 colorbox-3817" alt="PIC 2" src="http://mountainblog.ski-doo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/PIC-2-168x300.jpg" width="168" height="300" /></a>

Would you ride anything steeper than above 30 degrees with these conditions? See? It's worth the time to see if the snowpack has gone through a freeze thaw cycle (when the wet snowpack during the day then freezes at night to become one cohesive frozen mass - this is good).

Never lose contact with the group. Either keep your eye on your group or maintain radio contact.

While you're riding, pay attention to:

  • Steepness of slope. So many times, we do a poor job of estimating the slope of the terrain. I carry a slope meter and it gives me a great peace-of-mind because I KNOW what the slope is (here in Colorado, 30-45 degrees is the most likely to slide).This has opened up terrain I perceived as too steep and prevented me from entering risky areas.
  • Anchors and Obstacles. Just because a slope is treed doesn't mean it's safe. Tight trees with branches that extends into the snow anchor the snowpck, not tree trunks.
  • Aspect is key. The sun greatly effects the avalabche risk - north-facing slopes hold the best snow and often the most dangerous.
  • Altitude. For so many reasons - high peaks get hammered by wind, snow and temps.
  • Consequences. If the slope slides, what will happen to your group? Are you parked in an island of safety? Do you have a plan if it does slide? Who's the leader? Have a plan!

And finally, keep up the education. I took my Level 1 twice - not because I failed, but because it was a decade between courses and avalanche science is evolving really fast. When I took Level 2 last year, I was blown away on how much not only the science has advanced, but techniques for snowmobilers. It's one of the main reasons we are seeing fewer fatalities in the snowmobile industry.

I know this sounds like a lot of stuff. But if you commit to doing these, they'll just become a habit and you won't even think about them after a while. Finally&#8230;keep up the education. Organizations like the Canadian Avalanche Centre, American Avalanche Association and Avalanche 1 keep adding to our knowledge of avalanches. And the increased educational opportunities - like BRP's free Avalanche Awareness Seminars - have been reducing snowmobile fatalities significantly.

http://mountainblog.ski-doo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/IMG_4021.jpg"><img class="alignleft size-large wp-image-3823 colorbox-3817" alt="IMG_4021" src="http://mountainblog.ski-doo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/IMG_4021-1024x768.jpg" width="1024" height="768" /></a>

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