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post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I am moving to Alta this coming up season, and I am a little worried about avalanches. I know I will probably be skiing out of bounds quite a bit. The resort I used to ski at has virtually no avalanches, thus I have never felt the need to learn about them. So now I think I need to know more about avalanche safety because being buried alive in a moving mass of snow does not sound appealing. Does anybody have any suggestions or references I could check out?
post #2 of 7
It's good to be worried about avalanches, especially in the area surrounding Alta. I recommend you take a class, get some safety gear (shovel, probe, transceiver), and hook up with a buddy or two.

More important than any safety gear is learning how to judge the safety of a slope. There's an Avalanche Safety Center near you in Salt Lake City, and there are several classes you can attend.
post #3 of 7
Exactly what Terry said. If you don't know, don't go OB. Have the knowledge, equipment and partners and your BC experience will be prime, w/o it could be a disaster. If you lack the knowledge, its not just you in danger, its your partners and SAR team sent to find you. The Wasatch kills a lot of people every year, its some of the most slide prone slopes in the US.

Avalanches scare the crap outta me. A few seasons ago I got burried in a sluff after going over the handlebars on a huge April powder day, inbounds. The slide probably didn't even fall 100 vertical, but when it came in around me, I could not move. It was dark, hot and solid. I thought that I was dead. People at Alta look out for each other in ways that I have never seen at a resort before, its a community. Thank god...

I don't want to sound like I'm preaching not to go BC, but know what your doing before you head past the gates. I myself am toying with the idea of getting trained/equiped to do it. I also wish you the best of luck when you do go, as I hear its a great time!
post #4 of 7

You're very smart to be considering snow safety and educating yourself about avalanches. You're going to be spending the season (doesn't that sound great?!?) right in the heart of "avalanche central". The Alta area has lots of avalanches, but it also has some of the most talented and knowledgeable snow safety experts anywhere.

Terry's suggestions are excellent. Both REI and Black Diamond in Salt Lake City host free avalanche awareness lectures. I would *highly* recommend one of the introductory avalanche classes - either the one by The American Avalanche Institute or a class arranged with Exum Mountain Guides of Utah. They consist of an evening lecture followed by a day or two of practical on-snow work in digging pits, evaluating snow structure, route-picking, safe skiing/traveling practices, beacon work, rescue techniques, etc.

Get at least one of the following books, perhaps all three, and study them: "Snow Sense", "The ABC's of Avalanche Safety", and "The Avalanche Handbook".


If you only get one, "Snow Sense" is probably the best source for concise, practical information for skiers.

Perhaps most important of all - and you seem to already be on the right path for this - is to adjust your attitude to recognize the potential dangers when you go outside the boundaries. No one else is making things safe for you out there. The choices you (and your partners) make could lead you to some of the most incredible skiing you've ever experienced, and they could also kill you.

You need to get all the gear and practice a lot. Pick your partners carefully, because good ones will keep you out of trouble in the first place and if something does go wrong, you may need them to dig you out.

Alta's gate policy provides access to some fantastic backcountry skiing. Not only that, but right across the street from your lodge is more unbelievable skiing just an hour or so of skinning away. You're going to have a blast.

post #5 of 7
Good to hear that you are interested in learning about the BC rather than just skiing it. There are some great books out there and there are some free classes offered at REI that are a good introductory. Also, if you are going to be spenidng your time at Alta, hook up with some locals who are willing to show you the ropes. They may be skeptical at first to allow you to join them, but if you're cool and willing to learn shouldn't be a prob. Also, there are a ton of people on this board who may be willing to go bc with you. Check out some of the other online message boards as well. Biglines, powder mag (despite what people here say about the place), teletips, etc all can be a good forum to meet people with similar interests.
post #6 of 7
Don't settle for a "seminar" or short introductory course. Take a Level 1 snow safety class that includes at least 2 full days of hands-on practice.

You will also need a pack, shovel, probe and beacon, and you will need to learn how to use them. Just knowing how to read a slope isn't going to do you any good when you're trying to find someone who is buried. It's the hands-on practice that will make the difference.
post #7 of 7
The best avalanche text book and most up to date book on the market is STAYING ALIVE IN AVALACHE TERRAIN, by Bruce Tremper. REI and Black Diamond carry this book.
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