Photo courtesy of the AS Outdoor Center

Those wishing to ride the slopes and hit Mount Baker can do so in a way they never have through the Associated Students Outdoor Center’s Backcountry Ski/Snowboard Days.

The Backcountry Ski/Snowboard Days to Mount Baker are on Saturday, Feb. 4 and Sunday, March 4 and cost $35. These Backcountry Ski/Snowboard Days bring intermediate and advanced-level skiers and snowboarders to the backcountry of Mount Baker, which is the area outside of a normal ski resort, said AS Outdoor Center Excursions Coordinator Eric Messerschmidt.

The goal of the excursion is for those on the trip to hit the mountain in areas they never have before while also being educated about avalanche safety, especially since the backcountry is not monitored or regulated like a ski resort would, Messerschmidt said.

“Education is the most important thing,” Messerschmidt said. “You really have to know and have avalanche education if you come.”

While each trip is tailored to the group’s needs, which are established at a pre-meeting, the main focus is to show skiers and snowboarders new ways to remain safe while on a mountain, said AS Outdoor Center Trip leader Henry Hagood.

Some of the lessons focus on group dynamics, which involve making decisions as a group, while other lessons involve analyzing the dangers of trees and large snow slopes while being caught in an avalanche, Hagood said.

“There are features that would increase the consequences of an avalanche,” Hagood said. “We do terrain evaluation [and] what kind of terrain would have more consequences if it slid.”

While education and teaching safety is the most important aspect of the trips, both Messerschmidt and Hagood agreed riding the slopes and having fun doing so is never left out.

“We touch on riding with back packs and riding in powder and fresh deep untouched snow a lot of people haven’t before,” Hagood said.

Although the thought of being on a mountain that may be prone to avalanches might turn some away, Hagood assures those who haven’t been on the Backcountry Ski/Snowboard Days that their safety is most important and that the trip will show them how to enjoy skiing or snowboarding in a whole new light, Hagood said.

“We have a pretty impeccable safety record and that’s because we’re on an institutionalized trip and we have a pretty low of margin of risk,” Hagood said. “We want to show them what the back country has to offer and expose them to a world enough where they want to learn about it more themselves. It’s super fun, it’s super cheap; everyone should ride out.”