By John Clary Davies
A longtime fixture on the competition circuit, Griffin Post just landed the big one. The Jackson Hole skier is a featured athlete in Teton Gravity Research's recent release, One for the Road. Post is also—along with the likes of Ian McIntosh, Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, Jimmy Chin and Xavier de Le Rue—one of the featured athletes in a new avalanche safety webisode series by The North Face called “Know Boundaries,” which was produced by TGR. (Episode #1 appears up top.) Powder.com recently talked with Post about backcountry safety and scenes and scenarios viewers don’t usually see in the movies—like when they dig snowpits, practice with their beacons, or back off suspect terrain.
People see the movie and see us skiing powder or skiing gnarly lines and they take it at face value, but they don't see all the behind-the-scenes stuff safety-wise. A lot of times we go out there, to the saddle on Cody Peak, and don't hike up. Even though it's totally bluebird, we pack up the show and head down. We don't take those chances and don't let it hang out there that much when the risk is there. Play it safe and live to ski another day.
Particularly filming in Jackson, you know it's going to get skied, and at the end of the day there might be 100 tracks and it's solid and might have been safe all along, but you always got to keep the big picture in mind. It's really easy to slip into the tunnel vision of powder panic and the comfort of stuff you ski all the time, but the reality is that there is no guarantee.
It's super easy to have that one track mind, especially when you see other people going out and skiing stuff you're a little nervous about, and social confirmation, ‘Oh, that guy went, it must be OK.’ The bottom line is to judge each scenario independently and on your knowledge, not on what other people are doing. I feel like the most dangerous thing is in crowded spots, when people see a skier ski and it doesn't slide. Just because he skied it, doesn't give you a hall pass to not do your due diligence, to approach each slope as a new decision and a new puzzle, to make a full assessment every single time.
In Jackson, we are super lucky because we ski almost the entire winter here, so I am really familiar with what the snowpack is doing. That's an underrated knowledge to have—where the weak layers might be.
The biggest thing we have going is everybody is pretty knowledgeable, and the group dynamic, everybody feels comfortable speaking up and saying their opinion, and I think your group can be the biggest asset you have or the biggest downfall. If you have one really strong personality and others are afraid to speak, you could have that one person leading you down a really bad path. We don't have the strong personality, and everybody respects everybody else's opinion. We have worked together enough where we have that communication. That doesn't happen overnight.
One of my favorite things to do is the totally random beacon search when [your partners] are not expecting it. When you're waiting for somebody at the bottom of the run, bury it somewhere and spring it on them. That's realistically how it's going to go down. You're probably not going to be prepared for it.
I've been in a couple of slides. It's pretty terrifying, like an, 'Oh, this is how it's going down' moment, but luckily I've been able to self-arrest or swing out of it. That's the reality of skiing. No matter how safe you are, if you are out there long enough, you're going to get slayed, so you got to be as prepared as you can for that.
One of the slides I had been in was with a guide in South America, and the guide told me the slope was safe, and I dropped in and the first thing it did was spider web across a giant bowl above exposure. The take away message is that even when you are with a guide, you still need to constantly be making your own assessment. If something feels uncomfortable, you need to speak up about it.
Look for more Know Boundaries webisodes and candid safety meeting-style chats here on Powder.com.