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|This best-of list comes with a warning. Don't be an idiot: Take safety precautions in the backcountry.|
Introducing ESPN's Sidecountry Awards, the 10 best out-of-bounds stashes accessible from resorts all over North America. Sidecountry is a word that didn't even exist until a few years ago. If you've been living in a compound in Pakistan and you don't know what the term means, here's a definition for sidecountry: Backcountry terrain accessed by chairlifts at a ski area. Sure, sometimes you have to hike to access these just-outside-the-boundary stashes, but for the most part, they're a lot easier to get to than something involving skins, energy goo and long approaches.
In recent years, a lot of resorts have started opening their boundaries, providing gates and sometimes even backcountry tours and instruction in sidecountry terrain. Like Sierra-at-Tahoe, Calif., which opened Huckleberry Canyon in 2009 and now offers free tours of the terrain, backcountry gear rental, and starting next winter, a snowcat to access it. Many other resorts around the country now have posted signage to let you know you're leaving the resort boundary.
And here, of course, comes our obligatory "Be careful or you will die" warning. Skiing and snowboarding can be dangerous activities, especially in the backcountry, where you have to watch out for avalanches, unmarked obstacles, variable snow, inclement weather, crevasses, other skiers and riders who don't know what they're doing, and a whole heap of other scary-sounding things. So if you leave the resort boundary, take caution. Bring a beacon, shovel, probe and know how to use them. Never go alone. Check avalanche forecasts and be smart.
Now that you've been sufficiently lectured, onto the good stuff. Launch Gallery of Top 10 Sidecountry Spots »