“There’s nothing like getting
Boyd started skiing as a young girl in Tahoe, California but switched to snowboarding when she was 10 years old. As resort riding began to lose its luster, she tried boot packing and snowshoeing into the sidecountry and backcountry with her board strapped to her back.
She’s been doing it ever since.
“Once you start exploring, it’s a really rewarding experience,” she says. “I love the freedom of expression [you have in the backcountry]…the interaction you have with the mountain and playing with all the natural freedom the mountain creates…”
“It’s an incredibly powerful experience. It’s that level of, ‘Wow, this is much bigger than me.’ It’s a constant state of awe.”
But there were steps she took to get to that level.
I chatted with Boyd about those steps and her experience with traveling in the backcountry.
Transitioning into Backcountry Snowboarding
“Ultimately, you’re responsible for your own safety,” Boyd said, noting that being responsible in the backcountry means gaining knowledge in areas such as risk management and preparedness. After her first few ventures into the backcountry with friends, Halina realized she needed that knowledge.
So she signed up for the U.S. Level 1 course in avalanche safety. The course gave Boyd an overview of avalanche gear and skills needed to stay safe in the backcountry, as well as the confidence of being more prepared.
“There’s an innate level of risk when you enter the backcountry since it’s non-mitigated terrain,” Boyd said. “So, just going into the backcountry is a risk assessment. Are you willing to take those risks? It’s always going to be an unknown environment, so you need to feel confident.”
Balancing the Desires and Realities of the Backcountry
“The more you’re out there, the more comfortable you get,” she said. “But you never want to get too comfortable. You never want to get too familiar with anything out there. You want to treat it like your first time every time going into a zone.”
She suggests practicing often, testing your skills and gear in the backyard, at a park with friends, at a resort beacon play area, or even in the backcountry — avoiding steeper slopes until you’re confident and ready. “Don’t go for the nice juicy ridgeline that’s calling your name.”
Beyond knowing your gear inside and out and practicing your skills, Halina stressed the importance of having the right partners. Backcountry enthusiasts should think about who they are venturing out with each and every time, since those partners are the ones tasked with the possibility of saving your life.
“Knowing you can trust your partners of being able to perform…is important,” Boyd said, pointing out that if you have put in the time and effort to be prepared, your partners should do the same.
This past season, Boyd began riding in more technical terrain and pushing her limits as an athlete. Though she was more experienced in the backcountry, she had continual concerns for safety. She answered those concerns by continuing forward in her quest for knowledge and registering for Wilderness First Responder (WFR) training.
Boyd says having more education and tools to draw from made all the difference in her level of confidence in the backcountry. Knowing that she has had the proper training and practice, she is able to determine if the doubts that may arise while she’s out there are stemming from fear or intuition.
“You must listen to your inner voice and common sense. You never really want to question those voices because they’re there for a reason,” she said.