After hours, perhaps days, or sometimes even months of stalking the Great White Chute, you are at last poised on top of your prey. The hard part is over and victory seems so close you can taste it. A set of Whippets gleam like eager canines as you survey the broad expanse of untracked bliss streams from your edges down to the valley below. In the back of your mind, you know that you still have to be very careful about tackling this beast. Will it slide? What are my contingency plans? Can I skirt around that cliff band, or will I have to rappel over it? Do I have enough gear? A long enough rope?
The plot thickens as you commit to your first turn.
Chute hunting is an all encompassing sport. It requires an even blend of climbing skills as well as skiing ability and has a long mandatory apprenticeship. The rewards are strictly self satisfaction and itís unlikely that youíll ever see a chute skiers face on a box of Wheaties. Thereís no real reason to do it, other than itís a blast.
Like all predatorily activities, it pays to start small and work your way up. The things you learn at your local roadside attractions will be building blocks for larger and larger outings, and there is no such thing as a wasted day. At first, your success ratio might be pretty low, with lots of aborted outings and safety days. A big, fat hit list of things to do can help fix that. Think of descents in terms of which way they face (more or less snow and/or avalanche hazard), what elevation they are at and which way the wind has been blowing (loading snow). If you are heading out to tackle a big project, think about doing something in the vicinity the weekend before so you can get a good idea of the coverage and potential conditions. Also consider where you might go if the weather socks in or the stability goes south. Having a goal in mind but a flexible attitude is the first step to increasing your success ratio.
Being prepared is another key factor. I like to try and sneak up on chutes early in the day, before they have had a chance to wake up and get cranky. A good night time freeze helps keep everything in place and makes for easier skiing. Later in the day, they can start to get temperamental as it heats up and are more likely to try and bite. Packing everything youíll need the night before is a good idea. When you are thinking about a starting time, take a reasonable hour and subtract two hours from it. Sometimes that hardest part of a day can be crawling out of the sleeping bag!