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Avoiding Avalanches - some on line exercises

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

After several pros were caught in unstable snow this past winter, it became crystal clear that even when you're really careful and do everything you can, sometimes you just can't know when an avalanche will happen. 

 

This is interesting to me on a couple levels, mostly because my BC skiing has been very limited, and I'd like to do more, with proper education, but also because there have been some critical avalanches 'in bounds' in the past few years in areas that are not so easy to make perfectly safe.  

That tells me that slack country skiing, or the more adventurous in bounds skiing is also an area that I need to be educated about.  

But, even if you do everything right, sometimes something can go terribly wrong. 

 

Kim Kircher talks more about avalanche risks in her Blog. 

http://kimkircher.com/2012/06/26/so-you-think-you-can-avoid-avalanches/

 

 

Did I mention that I really like to read her blog? 

biggrin.gif

 

Edit: add a link from Kim's Blog with some exercises 

 

http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/training/online-course/reducing-risk/route-finding-exercises


Edited by Trekchick - 6/27/12 at 8:27am
post #2 of 20

That  was fun, but I may have fallen in a crevasse eek.gif !

JF

post #3 of 20

I think it is important to note that in every avalanche accident last season, the warning signs were there and mistakes were made.  Does this mean I would have seen them and avoided it?  Not necessarily.  Reading the reports that identify what went wrong hopefully give you the knowledge to avoid a similar trap is all.  Learn from other people's tragedies.  What I do today is far different than what I did when I first got into this game over 10 years ago.  I suspect in another ten years, my decision process will be far different from today.  It's a constantly evolving thing.
 

post #4 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4ster View Post

That  was fun, but I may have fallen in a crevasse eek.gif !

JF

I forgot to mention that there was a skills exercise in the blog link.  

Lets just say, I  did not choose wisely. eek.gif

 

Here is the link with other exercises. 

http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/training/online-course/reducing-risk/route-finding-exercises

post #5 of 20

Many years ago during my pro patrol days I attended an avalanche seminar in Jackson Hole.  The big name speaker was Ed La Chapelle, who was on the forefront of avalanche research in the world at the time.  After being introduced as an "expert" on avalanches he said something I have never forgotten, which was to the effect of  "All the avalanche "experts" are dead.  If you think you are an expert and can predict the safety of a slope with certainty you will die too.  Avalanches are a bitch!"  He was a very wise man and lived to an old age.  Take every precaution every time, but don't ever think you have it wired, no matter how much of an expert you think you are.

post #6 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekchick View Post

Even the pros get caught

 

No question about that, while some of the avalanche accidents are caused by lack of education, caution and bad behavior in the backcountry, pros get caught no matter how good and careful they are. As you read in most of the Avalanche books and as an example Bruce Tremper repeats that over and over in his book. The more educated and the more skills you have the more risks you are willing to take, more dangerous terrain you are gonna go look for...

 

Nobody will get more education and skills and keep doing the same kind of thing, you start taking risks and going for dangerous terrain more and more... 

 

I wish we don`t have to live with such thing as avalanches! But that`s not possible... reward and risk are tight together unfortunately!

 

Btw, nice blog, I`m gonna start reading it, have some nice posts!

post #7 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4ster View Post

That  was fun, but I may have fallen in a crevasse eek.gif !

JF

haha ... I had more trouble drawing the line with my trackpad than I did route finding. 

post #8 of 20

Based on those exercises...I'm dead

post #9 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekchick View Post

I forgot to mention that there was a skills exercise in the blog link.  

Lets just say, I  did not choose wisely. eek.gif

 

Here is the link with other exercises. 

http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/training/online-course/reducing-risk/route-finding-exercises

 

I did worse than choose wisely, I think I made it through only two without retries...

 

Thanks for the links, I registered and will go through the online course this summer. Then take a course on av safety at MEC in Toronto in the fall. Next season, I may make a trip to Section8on Mt Washington to do some training with them - that's skinerd's outfit, supporting the EpicSki community!

post #10 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by mudfoot View Post

Many years ago during my pro patrol days I attended an avalanche seminar in Jackson Hole.  The big name speaker was Ed La Chapelle, who was on the forefront of avalanche research in the world at the time.  After being introduced as an "expert" on avalanches he said something I have never forgotten, which was to the effect of  "All the avalanche "experts" are dead.  If you think you are an expert and can predict the safety of a slope with certainty you will die too.  Avalanches are a bitch!"  He was a very wise man and lived to an old age.  Take every precaution every time, but don't ever think you have it wired, no matter how much of an expert you think you are.

I second that,  and for the record, there is NO SUCH THING as an expert BC skier.   Nature owns that title. 

post #11 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
........  and for the record, there is NO SUCH THING as an expert BC skier.   Nature owns that title. 

 

 

No Doubt!

post #12 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by killclimbz View Post

I think it is important to note that in every avalanche accident last season, the warning signs were there and mistakes were made...
 

 

Yeah, certainly every accident that was broadly discussed, at least.  The "pros" who were in headlines due to being caught in unstable snow were clearly pushing things, and we will see more of this, in part due to heightened risk tolerance because of equipment evolution (for instance, while it makes no sense from a logical perspective, a group having ONE member with an ABS pack seems, through the social dynamic, to make the whole group more accepting of risk). 

 

Those routefinding photos are fun, but some are pretty complex, and not representative of what a bc or sidecountry skier likely needs skill-wise in terms of making good decisions in, say, UT or CO.  Knowing the local terrain and choosing it appropriately for conditions can go a long way to reducing risk. 

 

There were a number of instances last year where parties continued to ski not only after seeing other avalanches occur, but in a couple cases while rescues were in progress on slopes that should have been visible to them.  In an amazing number of cases, parties had not checked the avalanche advisory, though of course with recent avalanche activity and other signs of instability in front of their noses, in some ways having checked the advisory wasn't needed by the time they were where they were to know that slide danger was very high.

post #13 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekchick View Post

After several pros were caught in unstable snow this past winter, it became crystal clear that even when you're really careful and do everything you can, sometimes you just can't know when an avalanche will happen. 

 

This is interesting to me on a couple levels, mostly because my BC skiing has been very limited, and I'd like to do more, with proper education, but also because there have been some critical avalanches 'in bounds' in the past few years in areas that are not so easy to make perfectly safe.  

That tells me that slack country skiing, or the more adventurous in bounds skiing is also an area that I need to be educated about.  

But, even if you do everything right, sometimes something can go terribly wrong. 

 

Kim Kircher talks more about avalanche risks in her Blog. 

http://kimkircher.com/2012/06/26/so-you-think-you-can-avoid-avalanches/

 

 

Did I mention that I really like to read her blog? 

biggrin.gif

 

Edit: add a link from Kim's Blog with some exercises 

 

http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/training/online-course/reducing-risk/route-finding-exercises

 

Thanks Trekchick for the mention and for starting this thread. I'm glad you liked the exercise. While a little tricky to do on the computer, I found it worthwhile. In fact after getting through all the exercises without dying, I redid them and purposely went into dangerous territory just to read the warnings, which were quite well done. 

Quote:
 
post #14 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kimkircher View Post

 

Thanks Trekchick for the mention and for starting this thread. I'm glad you liked the exercise. While a little tricky to do on the computer, I found it worthwhile. In fact after getting through all the exercises without dying, I redid them and purposely went into dangerous territory just to read the warnings, which were quite well done. 

You died on purpose!!!!eek.gif

 

 

 

 

Just kidding.  That's actually a pretty smart way to learn what not to do. 

post #15 of 20

Neato!

 

But, on the serious side..  It seems that the goal of finding the ultimate powder ride frequently involves taking it to the limits of slope soundness.  Those most killer (no pun intended) ski porn descents are the ones where it breaks loose just behind them, but not the whole mountain, just enough of it to make them go "whew!". 

 

Granted, there are more safe conditions where plenty of light, fluffy gorgeous skiing can be had.  It just seems that the most core (er umm crazy) folks avoid avalanches right up to the absolute limit of not avoiding them.  The more sound it is, the faster it gets tracked out right?

post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by crgildart View Post

Neato!

 

But, on the serious side..  It seems that the goal of finding the ultimate powder ride frequently involves taking it to the limits of slope soundness.

Not necessarily.  The average Joe or Jane can find fairly easily-accessed slopes that are pretty straightforward in most conditions, without taking on a huge amount of risk.  A map, some social skills and common sense, and even simply checking avy conditions before heading out can go a long way.  Whether people want to do those simple things is a different issue.

post #17 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by segbrown View Post

haha ... I had more trouble drawing the line with my trackpad than I did route finding. 

+1 Killed myself several times. Good thing no one will go with me...

post #18 of 20

The problem ( I haven't tried it yet ) is that you don't have a topo map to help you interpret the terrain as you would prior to and during a trip in unfamiliar terrain.

 

I'll give it a go when I have more time.

post #19 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by crgildart View Post

Neato!

 

But, on the serious side..  It seems that the goal of finding the ultimate powder ride frequently involves taking it to the limits of slope soundness.  Those most killer (no pun intended) ski porn descents are the ones where it breaks loose just behind them, but not the whole mountain, just enough of it to make them go "whew!". 

 

Granted, there are more safe conditions where plenty of light, fluffy gorgeous skiing can be had.  It just seems that the most core (er umm crazy) folks avoid avalanches right up to the absolute limit of not avoiding them.  The more sound it is, the faster it gets tracked out right?

 

Not at all.  In fact, if I am out with people who are pushing the limits, I am going to quickly be making an exit.  That said, everybody has different tolerances, so I am sure some people will think that I am crazy for choosing to do certain lines while others will think I am being overly conservative. 

 

The thing with riding in the bc is that you can't be all that goal oriented.  I'd say somewhere around 2/3's of the time when I am going out, I end up doing something different than what we were thinking about at the beginning of the day.  You got to look at what mother nature is giving you and be willing to change your plans instantly.  Going to an area that you are familiar with helps as you know the terrain and your options. Most of the time it means you are dialing it back to choose a safer option.  Sometimes the opposite happens and it's "safer" go for more aggressive lines. 

 

It is definitely unforgiving if you make a critical mistake out there, but the rewards are also pretty amazing.  Education and then putting it to practice is key.

post #20 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by killclimbz View Post

The thing with riding in the bc is that you can't be all that goal oriented.  I'd say somewhere around 2/3's of the time when I am going out, I end up doing something different than what we were thinking about at the beginning of the day.  You got to look at what mother nature is giving you and be willing to change your plans instantly.  Going to an area that you are familiar with helps as you know the terrain and your options. Most of the time it means you are dialing it back to choose a safer option.  Sometimes the opposite happens and it's "safer" go for more aggressive lines. 

 

Education and then putting it to practice is key.

 

Wise words.

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