Episode 1: Reading the Avalanche Forecast

The number one step before heading into the backcountry is reading the forecast first. In this episode, Mike Barney teaches us how to properly read an avalanche forecast, from the terminology you’ll encounter, to the diagrams you’ll see.

Winter is coming, so that means it’s time to not only sharpen your sticks and boards, but also hone your snow safety skills. To kick off the season, we reached out to our trusted friend and athlete Mike Barney to pick his brain on snow safety, and we’re stoked to share three episodes of his Backcountry Beta. But first, a little background on Mike.

Few people spend more days on snow than Black Diamond Athlete Mike Barney. He’s been a ski guide for the last two decades and spends an average of nine months a year taking clients into the backcountry. He’s amassed a level of knowledge in the mountains that’s unparalleled, which is why he’s continually sought after by the best guiding outfits around the world. He’s also previously worked as the avalanche forecaster for Silverton, Colorado, using his extensive knowledge to keep backcountry users safe.


In this series, Barney covers the basic beta for avalanche safety. From understanding how to properly read a forecast before leaving your home, to the correct techniques of avalanche rescue, these videos provide an educational look into the world of snow safety. Use them as a reference-guide to better understand the basics, but please note what Barney mentions at the end of each episode: these videos are no substitute for taking an in-field avalanche safety course.

Black Diamond Athlete Mike Barney skinning up a skin track.

Episode 2: The Beacon

Barney gives us the 101 basics of a beacon check, discussing why it’s so crucial to perform this check before every mission into the backcountry. Plus, he gives an overview of a proper beacon search in the field.

Episode 3: Probing and Shoveling

 In this episode, Barney discusses the strategies used for probing and shoveling during a rescue in the field. As he explains, these steps are possibly the most physically draining during a rescue, so it’s important to have a handle on the correct techniques of using the probe and shovel.


Join Mike as he skis in Colorado, Alaska, Iceland, and Chile this winter.

Follow @michael.barney
Black Diamond Athlete Mike Barney investigating the snow crystals to determine the faceting.
Black Diamond Athlete Mike Barney attaching his skin to his skis.
Black Diamond Athlete Mike Barney making a turn in some deep snow.
Black Diamond Athlete Mike Barney skiing at dusk.

Want to Ski With Mike?

Head over to Alaska Backcountry Guides for the ultimate powder experience.

Click Here