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7 Terrain Tricks Greg Hill (literally) can’t live without

SuuntoClimb — 20 December 2016

Last month, we introduced you to  Greg Hill’s five favorite rules . Now it’s time for tricks. But before you get excited, these aren’t shortcuts (especially trick number 2) or hacks – these ‘terrain tricks’ are built to help you pull off the greatest trick of all: staying safe in the backcountry. We’ll save the tricks themselves for the video below – have a look, then come back to learn a little bit more about how Greg figured out his not-entirely-magic act.

Watch Greg Hill’s "7 Terrain Tricks"


This sounds like a lot of thinking to do.

That’s OK – it takes a lot of time to go up. It’s all about developing a loop of thought patterns that you keep going over and over – where’s the next safe spot? What’s above me? What dangers am I exposed to, and where am I going if something happens? – that’s what keeps you safe.


And it’s not about making things tough – sometimes it’s about making them easy.

Yeah – especially the ‘fight the smallest guy at the bar’ trick. You want to go up the safest, easiest terrain, because often, it’s the least exposed to danger. If I’m touring in a new area, I’ll have looked at a map, found the smallest slopes, and used that information while I’m out there. 


Greg, who taught YOU the tricks?

Most of these I picked up at the beginning of my skiing career – but mostly, I’ve learned from the mountains themselves. If you watch and listen, you can learn a lot – and that’s at the heart of what many of these tricks are about. Nothing can teach you something like a real-life example. Early on, a mentor taught me to ‘always ski from the top’. Not long after, I found myself on a tour, about to drop into a line, and realized, I wasn’t at the top. So I got back on the ridge, worked my way to the top. The third turn in I sent down a Class III slide that would have almost certainly killed me.


That’s not the only time you’ve seen these tricks work in real life.

Absolutely not. "Seeking the higher ground” – we were on Mt Manaslu in 2012. We camped on the highest ground we could find. That night, an avalanche caught 30 people sleeping in tents. Camps II and II got hit. 12 people died and 30 were caught in their sleeping bags. We were above the slide because we’d picked a spot with no risk from above – just 50m away from where the slide hit.


You want to reduce your time of exposure – but that doesn’t mean you need to rush.

Yes – movement between safe spots should be fast, but don’t make hasty decisions. Move quickly, think calmly. You don’t want to rush decisions.    


Is it possible to reduce risk to zero?

Absolutely not. And for me, that’s part of the definition of adventure – it’s an activity that involves risk.  That admittedly is part of what makes it exciting and interesting.


Stay tuned for more from Greg Hill in the next instalment of his video series – and ski safe!

Main image: Bruno Long


Greg Hill's mountain rules