Backcountry responsibility code — a new necessity 

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I'm a little less forgiving of those on the slopes who are obviously skilled but equally obviously... what's the word I'm looking for? Stupid? Perhaps a bit harsh. Ignorant? Doesn't entirely capture it. Un-mindful, not to say mindless? Getting closer. Selfish? Yeah, I'll go with that. Or all the above.

Regardless of skill, it takes a stupid, ignorant, un-mindful and selfish kind of person to do a warp speed slalom through an over-crowded run full of unskilled people moving unpredictably. Making it down to the bottom of the next chair without incident relies more on luck than talent. Congratulations if you made it. Hope you didn't end anyone's season if you didn't.

It's enough to drive a guy to duck the ropes and seek solitude, if not solace, in the backcountry, slackcountry, nearcountry, take you pick or call it what you will. Enough guys and girls are being driven out there that it's getting harder and harder to call it the path less taken. More and more it is the path taken and more and more it's taken by people who bring their bad in-bounds habits with them. Problem is, the consequences of those bad habits, usually just painful on the slopes, can be deadly in the area beyond control.

That's why a talented panel of backcountry skiers, rescuers, teachers, guides and patrollers and roomful people who share their enthusiasm got together last Saturday evening at the museum to discuss, debate and argue the outline of a backcountry responsibility code.

Backcountry responsibility code? On some level, the whole idea is anathema. The other side of the ropes, the vast snowy ranges of western Canada are all about the freedom of the hills. We don't need no stinkin' rules.

Which is exactly why we do need some stinkin' rules.

We need rules inside the resort for the same reason we need rules in society in general. Rules nudge people closer to the social contract. They make living together possible. They underpin civilization.

Inside the resort we need rules to make us responsible for our own actions and, for the most part, to keep us from slamming into each other. But inside the resort, Whistler Blackcomb has taken responsibility for providing a safe — and I use the word fully appreciating its many nuanced meanings — environment.

Outside the resort, the concept of responsibility takes on a whole new world of meaning. In the backcountry, we're responsible for everything. Every action we take, every decision we make, every situation we encounter. First and foremost, we're responsible for getting ourselves and our friends home safely or, if that's not possible, surviving until someone else can.

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