Proud of my increasing skills as a cross-country skier, I headed into the backcountry near Stowe, Vermont, with my friend Ed, an experienced outdoorsman. Mistake 1: We let my then-boyfriend Mike, a weak skiier, tag along. Mistake 2: We forgot how early it gets dark in the winter. Mistake 3: We chose the coldest weekend of the year. —Heather Liston
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Sascha Paris is Sierra Club Outings' training manager.
"Heather, it's a lot easier to avoid it altogether. Pre-trip preparation is vital. Evaluate the experience and fitness level of all members of your party and whether they have appropriate equipment for the (possibly new) activity. Remember that groups travel more slowly than individuals. If possible, scout snow conditions, routes, and bail-out options in advance; at minimum, call a local outfitter or do an Internet search. Finally, share written trip information with all parties--plus a loved one at home, in case you don't return on time."
Illustrations by Koren Shadmi