BACKCOUNTRY BBQ avalanche transceiver search scenario: beacons were hidden around trees on a high bluff out of sight. The control box and the search start were at the bottom of bluff.
Tyler DeWitt’s BACKCOUNTRY BBQ is a non-sanctioned snowboarding freeride competition that takes place annually in Colorado’s Summit County. You could call it a bit “renegade,” since it’s not permitted by the U.S. Forest Service (participation is capped below the limit required for a permit) and Tyler and his bros do all of the avalanche mitigation themselves. The event gained some notoriety a few years back when it was held near Montezuma, CO and a rider was caught on film deploying a Float airbag, garnering over 1.2 million views on YouTube.
BCA is a big sponsor of freeride competitions, specifically those sanctioned by the International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association (IFSA). But we’ve been reluctant to support the BACKCOUNTRY BBQ–until this year when Tyler proposed incorporating transceiver searching into the comp. We jumped on board and agreed to supply a BCA Beacon Training Park. Below is Tyler’s summary of the event, how he dealt with the hazard, and who took home the award for 2018 “Backcountry Bad Ass.”
by Tyler DeWitt
The BACKCOUNTRY BBQ encourages and awards safe protocol in avalanche terrain by combining a beacon search competition with a big mountain, rider judged snowboarding competition.
BACKCOUNTRY BBQ gives backcountry athletes a chance to progress the level of big mountain riding in a safer way. It originated discussion about how social media plays a role in avalanche fatalities. Part of the discussion focused on how athletes post photos and videos of them riding in avalanche terrain with no mention of their uncertainty or precautions they take. This can be dangerous as people may think if Joe Shmoe did it, it must be safe.
Location Loveland Pass, south end of Kitchen Wall.
On November 16, 2018, I took my rock board out and started poking around on Loveland Pass, Colorado. I found depth hoar at all elevations on the wall and knew it needed to disappear. Me and my buddies started ski cutting all the slide paths, riding hard with a lot of side slipping, trying to break down the layers and release small slides. Before our first big Christmas storm, we were able to put 21 ski cuts through the wall, producing no more than six inches of soft slabs. During this storm, a six-foot cornice developed and overloaded the wall below. The left side of the wall must have released naturally, and the right side was remotely triggered by a skier, both sliding to the ground. The following three weeks we received a few storms with low snowfall.
Three days before the BACKCOUNTRY BBQ, it snowed a foot. The temperature stayed cold, the sun came out, and the new snow settled for three days. I was still worried the new storm slabs would break, so Josh Biebel and I went up for avalanche mitigation and cut off 200 feet of the cornice in large chunks, with no propagation. We were confident that if a slide were to occur, it would be very limited.
BACKCOUNTRY BBQ video edit and photos by Carlo Marasigan @carlobarlo.
On January 24, 2018, BACKCOUNTRY BBQ competitors arrived ready to compete on Loveland Pass.
At the beginning of the day, everyone was timed finding one of eight buried avalanche beacons using their own equipment, ensuring everyone had functioning avalanche rescue gear. Participants then headed up to the riding portion of the competition. We had a medic, an EMT and a patroller stationed on top with a deadman anchor set in place and large bags of medical supplies. The rescue/first aid team included Brenden Mitchell, Evan Hannibal, Keith Hadyk and Angus Morrison. They acted as starters, making sure we had EYES ON while everyone was riding.
The judges recorded everyone’s time to probe strike a hidden avalanche transceiver. The seven fastest times went to a final round and had to probe strike and dig up the beacon with shovels.
BACKCOUNTRY BBQ BEACON SEARCH TOP 5:
- Stevo Magana @shredtolive31
- Josh Accetturo @space_kace_ace
- Doug Fletcher @steepsnow
- Shawna Mayo @mayohmy
- Keith Hadyk @keith_hadyk .
We had all the riders vote for their top three runs. We then took the top ten votes and looked at their beacon search time. The competitors with the fastest avalanche transceiver search time and the most rider votes took the top three BACKCOUNTRY BAD ASS AWARDS.
BACKCOUNTRY BAD ASS PODIUM:
- Jake LaRue @jakelarue
- Everette Simmons @everettesimmons
- Zach Griffin @zgriff
Tyler Dewitt and crew send a big ‘Thank You’ to sponsors Backcountry Access, Never Summer, Tailgate Alaska, Pret, Tobe Outerwear and Backcountry United for supporting avalanche safety education and this event. Because of you this was the best BACKCOUNTRY BBQ yet!
Another BACKCOUNTRY BBQ is planned for Mt. Evans, Colorado in early June.
Contact Tyler to learn more about this event, and next winter’s 2019 BACKCOUNTRY BBQ event.