According to the SnowSports Industries America (SIA), over 5 million skiers and riders ventured into backcountry terrain last season. Backcountry really means land outside of ski resort property that is not patrolled by resort ski patrol nor is the terrain subject to avalanche mitigation under the auspices of resort ski patrol. The difference in the terms backcountry and sidecountry boils down to how a skier or rider accesses that terrain.
So, if skier A uses a lift - with a lift ticket - to exit the resort gate he or she is technically understood to be skiing sidecountry but if skier B drives or hikes to a trailhead and skins into the unpatrolled and uncontrolled terrain he or she is skiing the backcountry.
What if skier A and skier B meet up - where are they? The truth is it's all semantics and once skier A exits the resort that skier is just as responsible for all the dangers associated with unpatrolled and uncontrolled terrain as is skier B - period. What worries me and others is the false sense of security 'sidecountry' can give to people skiing within sight of the chairlift and it gets even worse when compounded with the 'it won't happen to me' belief of young skiers.
Parents, especially parents that don't ski, need to understand that when their young skier says he/she is just going out to ski a bit in the sidecountry of their favorite resort there is an inherent danger the youngsters need to be aware of and prepared for because accidents, avalanches and getting lost happens in sidecountry as well as backcountry.
Read More: Backcountry or Sidecountry
Skiing Sidecountry Copyright Mike Doyle