Last January 2014, at the annual Outdoor Retailer Winter show Verde PR teamed up with Emerald Expo to convene a panel of industry leaders to talk about the Business of the Backcountry. The questions posed were important and I felt it was important that this seminar be shared beyond the floor of the trade show. The subject of today’s question has come up several times recently in conversations with guides and other Tahoe locals as everyone wonders why so few people seem to understand the danger posed in the backcountry. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to begin sharing the questions and answers posed last year with this one.
We just don’t have the resources to combat all the extreme videos that are out there…all these movies that are encouraging people to go out there and just rage.
— Bruce Tremper
What are the main messages the industry needs to convey to the growing segment of backcountry enthusiasts?
Bruce Tremper: The segment is growing pretty rapidly as the numbers say. All the backcountry gear sales are going up and up every year. It’s a steady trend. AT boots went up almost double, uh, I think more than doubled last year. So that’s a huge growth sector while the rest of the industry is pretty flat. We’re seeing more and more people in the backcountry every year. It seems like every year there’s twice as many people out there. It’s just being loved to death.
Everybody wants the same thing; they want powder, and they want solitude, and peace and quiet as well and just to be in the backcountry.
All these folks are headed into the backcountry. There’s a lot of new user groups going in the backcountry and they’re the main problems. The new kids on the block have to learn about avalanches the hard way. It’s hard for us to educate these new user groups that are going into the backcountry.
So we as avalanche centers are operating on very modest funding and we just don’t have the resources to combat all the extreme videos that are out there…shooting all these movies that are encourging people to go out there and just rage.
Those are the patterns that we’re seeing. When we’re at level 3 danger, orange or considerable, which means it’s dangerous conditions, that’s when people are streaming into the backcountry hucking themselves off cliffs, going to steep terrain, running their GoPro camera and posting, and that’s really inappropriate to chose that terrain in those conditions. People are mismatching terrain with the snowpack. It’s very difficult for us to communicate they just need to cool it during those times. The time to go to the extreme terrain is when you have very, very stable snow.
It’s like base jumping, y’know, one mistake and you’re done. With extreme terrain you have to chose extremely stable snowpack.
That’s our job, to try to communicate that to the public. What’s the appropriate terrain they can go in to in certain kinds of conditions and it’s very difficult.
Thanks to Verde PR and Outdoor Retailer for hosting the Business of the Backcountry Forum.