You definitely won't be skiing the bunny slopes when you're alpine touring, so it always pays to be as safe as you can. Here are some emergency items that you might want to pack:
- Helmet. Because things fall -- especially rock and melting ice. And you really don't want to get knocked out cold in the middle of nowhere.
- Avalanche beacon. This transceiver allows other beacons to locate you beneath the snow. They're available in digital (easier for the inexperienced to learn, but less precise), analog (more precise, but tougher to learn) and combination models. This tool can be pretty complicated, so it's important to practice using it.
- Avalanche probes. These segmented poles, which typically extend to about 8 feet, can dig through avalanche debris.
- Shovels and saws. These essentials can cut through slabs of ice, and some models can be attached to ski poles.
- Compass or GPS. This comes in handy in all kinds of emergencies -- from avalanches to whiteout conditions.
- ABS Escape. You can often rent this newer, fairly pricey safety device from ski resorts. It's an airbag that inflates instantly when activated, displacing the snow that could bury you in an avalanche.
- First-aid kit. Make sure there's an emergency warming blanket and enough medical supplies to allow you to survive a trek out of the wilderness.
- Backpack. You can purchase special alpine-touring packs to haul your gear.
In the next section, we'll look at one of the most dangerous pitfalls for an alpine skier: avalanches.