Peeing in the mountains: Dos and Don'ts

The call of nature doesn't always come at the most convenient time.

On occasions when we are in the wilderness, we sometimes just have to go. This week, The Outsider looks at the etiquette of the number one.

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Urine has little impact on the environment, giving humans the liberty of relieving themselves in a spot of their choosing. But when you start having hundreds of people frequenting the same locations, the pee can get a bit out of hand.

Let's start with the resort. There are washrooms at every lodge on the mountain, so you are never really out of reach of a toilet. The ladies know this well and will take a strategically timed pee break at congregation points like Raven's Nest and Glacier Creek. But the guys don't always want to stop, particularly if it's a powder day.

I've spotted yellow-rimmed holes in alpine bowls, at the entrances of double black runs and within centimetres of a lift shack. Apparently if you're on snow, people think it's acceptable to pee anywhere they want, expecting others to obey the golden rule of "don't eat the yellow snow."

Skiing over someone's pee isn't necessarily going to make your edges rust or give you a disease, but it's the principal. Finding a tree isn't that hard, so why do some runs feel like a slalom race between pee stains? Accidentally planting your pole in a yellow crater is an absolute cringe-worthy moment. Perhaps Whistler Blackcomb can design some signs similar to those in the lift lines that read, "No smoking, no foul language." A couple of "If you need to pee, use a tree" signs posted at the top of lifts would surely make a difference.

Despite having significantly less traffic, the backcountry is where peeing gets the most out of hand. On popular routes such as the Spearhead Traverse, points of transition (where you take your skins on or off) seem to be a hotbed of pee activity. The worst spot is the East Col, the first transition after exiting the Blackcomb Glacier gate on the way to Disease Ridge and DOA. Fifteen to 20 minutes after setting off for a day trip seems to be when everyone has their morning coffee catch up to them resulting in the East Col looking worse than a dog park in the winter.

Some aren't even bothered to take two steps away from their belongings, leaving a booby trap for the next group setting down their packs. If everyone found a spot at least 20 feet away from the transition spot - preferably onto a rock where the pee can evapourate quickly - backcountry travellers can enjoy a pee-free day.

Sometimes the call comes in whilst on the skin track itself. Instead of stepping a considerate 10 feet away from the track before turning on the hose, guys simply rely on the distance of their arc. If you can reach the pee crater with your pole from the skin track, it's too close. And if you kick a bit of snow over your crater, no one needs to even know you were there.

Vince Shuley is an advocate for keeping snow white. For questions, comments or suggestions to The Outsider email or Twitter @vinceshuley.

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