Photo Credits: Frida Carlsson

Common Sense in the Mountains

An International School Experience

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Back Country Skiing

As a Whistler Adventure School student, you learn from your instructor, then you apply this learned knowledge in real life.
The Ski/Snowboard Guide Training Program teaches you backcountry life skills that could save your life. Living in the mountains, we understand how quickly circumstances can change. With every outback adventure, there is extensive preparation.
Frida is a Ski/Snowboard Guide Training alumni from Sweden who is sharing her experience in the mountains and what she learned in class.





I had a conversation with one of our instructors the other day about mountain sense. Which he described as common sense applied in the mountains. The definition of common sense is “a sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts”. By seeing and assessing our surroundings we can build a story in our head about what is going on.

In the mountains maybe that would be something like this; What is going on with the weather, the wind, clouds, sun, snowfall, snow quality, temperature, moisture? Any avalanche activity, when? Where? What aspect, how was it triggered, how big? Drums, cracks, whoomphs? And so on..

Apparently, mountain sense is defined as “having the ability to elegantly apply the right technique at the right moment in the right place.” So, to put all this information together and assess our surroundings. Assess risks, where to travel, where not to travel, where is the danger, where is it safe?

By spending time with our instructors who have spent countless hours in the mountains, asking (too many) questions and seeing how they act, I’ve learned some about the thoughts that are going through their head when they are out in the mountains. How they understand nature. How much information a look around can provide for them.

We can all see mountains with white fluffy snow. And sometimes that’s all that stays in our head. But the more we learn, the more we see. The more we try to understand, the more information we get. The more we know about our surroundings, the longer we can go and the more time we can spend safely in the mountains.

But sometimes I go into the mountains to leave common sense, judgment and just be. To look at the white fluffy snow as white fluffy snow without judgment. Just see, hear, feel, smell and taste and be with what is. Get away from the norms and whatever our society is telling us to believe in.

Maybe it’s about learning the balance between equanimity and mountain sense. The mountains make me think but they also provide such a stillness and space. You can be a decision away from death but also feel more alive and secure than ever. Oh mountains I love you.

– Frida Carlsson, Ski/Snowboarding Guide Training Alumni

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