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Alex Willie

Affiliation: American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education
Occupation: ExpertVoice Employee
Location: United States
Joined ExpertVoice: 2019

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We caught up with ExpertVoice’s own Alex Willie, our resident ski expert and AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) member. In the winter, when he’s not at work, he’s exploring Utah’s mountains on skis. We asked him for advice on skiing both inbounds and backcountry areas, inquired about his personal experiences and discussed the gear he considers crucial for a great ski day.

How did you get into skiing as a hobby? 

I grew up in Longmont, Colorado, so you kind of have to! My parents had me on skis before I was two years old, and I’ve loved it ever since.

Boot packing up one of Alex’s favorite couloirs in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

What kind of training is required to get your AIARE 1, AIARE 2 and Companion Rescue certifications?

Each of those certs is its own course. In order to take an AIARE 2, you must complete an AIARE 1 and a Companion Rescue course as a prerequisite. The AIARE 1 is a three-day course with one classroom and two field days. The Companion Rescue is one field day and the AIARE 2 is three full field days. I strongly recommend spacing these courses out to bring as much real-world experience into each course as possible. Think of them as building blocks to your avalanche training and education.

How does your backcountry ski gear differ from your resort gear?

My inbounds skis are much more stout, a bit longer and have beefier bindings. When I ski resort, I really am a minimalist — throw a buff and Clif bar in my jacket pocket, and I’m good to go. For touring, my skis are much lighter, the length and width are based on objective and conditions and I tour in tech bindings. My backcountry pack is quite extensive; I have everything I need in there to survive a night in the mountains: gear to start a fire, extra food and water purifying tablets, bivy (for both rescue and shelter), spare parts, rescue tools, etc. 

Which products on ExpertVoice have been crucial to your ski experience?

Mammut makes some incredible products. I use the Barryvox S transceiver, Alugator Pro Light shovel and 320 speed lock probe. Your beacon, shovel and probe are your (and your partner’s) lifeline in the mountains, so being comfortable with those pieces of equipment should be your highest priority.

Alex’s Top Picks: Mammut Barryvox S, Mammut 320 Speed Lock Probe and Mammut Alugator Pro Light Shovel.

What is the most influential piece of advice you’ve received throughout your skiing career that you’d like to share with other skiers/snowboarders? 

Alex finding some powder in Habuka, Japan.

Stay humble in the mountains. The snowpack and mountains don’t care how many avalanche safety classes you’ve taken, days you’ve skied, or years of experience you have. You need to always pay attention to your surroundings, evaluate the snowpack and don’t be ashamed to bail on an objective if the conditions don’t align with your plans that day. The mountains aren’t going anywhere. An old mountaineer is a successful mountaineer.

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