Forecaster Blogs

Blog: Observations of Companion Rescue Practice - 03/4/2014 - Tom Diegel
Reprinted with permission from When we arrived at the Valhalla lodge a couple of Saturdays ago our group of 10 started our week with avalanche rescue practice and -  as always - it was a great learning experience for all.  Subsequent to that brother Paul spent a day in the Uintas with a snowmobile avalanche class doing the same.  We agreed that a bit of a discussion regarding avy rescue practice was worth a blog post.  It is important to shift the discussion from “beacon search” to “avalanche rescue”. New beacons are good enough that people with no experience...

Blog: Storm Analysis - % Change in SWE - 02/18/2014 - Bruce Tremper
When forecasting for any avalanche, probably the most important relationship is strength vs. stress.  In other words the strength of the weak layer compared to the amount of weight added on top of that weak layer.  With a depth hoar snowpack, thin snow is weak snow.  So when a storm approaches, I like to make a mental map of snow depth.  If the storm adds the same amount of weight on all slopes, then the thin areas should slide first.  But storms seldom load all slopes uniformly, so you have to do a little simple math.  Like I say it's the relationship that's important--strength vs. stress...

Blog: National Avalanche School Field Session - 01/31/2014 - Evelyn Lees
The US Forest Service and the National Avalanche School want to give a huge thanks to the host resorts of Snowbird and Alta Ski Lifts and to UDOT for sponsoring a 4-day National Avalanche School field session.  These sessions provide focused training for avalanche mitigation program professionals, and the complexities of Little Cottonwood provided a great classroom.
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Blog: I Just Cant Help Myself - 01/16/2014 - Hardesty
Chris Cawley, Alta Ski Patrolman and frequent backcountry observer, recently shared a great link from NPR about "free will" with decision making...that, according to author Sam Harris, "our brains decide a course of action before we know about it". I hope Chris follows up with a guest blog post... But in thinking about it, it may be that this is how we survived as a species - quick instincts and reactions - to avoid being stamped out by the mastodon or becoming a sabre tooth's snack... It may be a way to attribute why we dive into avalanche terrain - knowingly - (ah, that gets to the heart...

Blog: Avalanche in the Fairgrounds - 01/15/2014 - Weed, Pagnucco, Kobernik
Check out the Accident Report and amazing story ....... HERE

Blog: Snowmobiler survives avalanche near Logan - 01/15/2014 - Bruce Tremper
Here is a great story from KUTV (Channel 2) on the miraculous survival story of a father and his two sons who triggered an avalanche on Logan Peak.  Utah Avalanche Center forecasters investigated the incident and you can find their report HERE. In addition, there was a close call in Farmington Canyon by a snowmobiler. Bruce Tremper  

Blog: Disney movie, Frozen - modeling snow behavior - 01/13/2014 - Bruce Tremper
The new Disney movie, Frozen, used a very sophisticated computer model of snow behavior.  Director of the Forest Service National Avalanche Center, Karl Birkeland visited the Disney studio early in the project to talk to the team about snow and avalanche behavior. He was accompanied by snow researchers, Jeff Dozier and Ken Libbrecht.  He said they had a very talented and creative team working on this. Here is a very cool video of how they did it with lots of examples.  If you're not a modeling or algorithm geek, be patient with the first minute of this video.  Now, if we could just get these...

Blog: Do Cell Phones Interfer with Beacons? - 01/10/2014 - Evelyn Lees
Yes!   Especially in SEARCH mode. Several reports from failed or severely disturbed and delayed rescue action in the last years have shown that electronic equipment can have a very unpredictable and severe influence on avalanche rescue transceivers. Basic recommendations: In SEND (transmit) mode keep items like cell phones, radios, iPods, and cameras with wireless capability at least 20cm away from your transceiver.  Further is better.  If your cell phone is on, it should be in Airplane Mode to minimize interference.  Better yet, turn off all electronics and put them in your backpack. In ...

Blog: Backcountry Avalanche Activity Rose Dec 1 - Jan 8 - 01/9/2014 - Hardesty
Last significant human triggered slide in the backcountry noted on Christmas Day.  With storms overhead and on the horizon, let's take a quick look back at an aspect/elevation diagram of human triggered slides (into faceted snow) since December 1.

Blog: Travel Advice for the Avalanche Problems - feedback requested - 01/2/2014 - Hardesty and Wagner
This fall, Wendy Wagner from the Chugach Avalanche Center in Alaska and I started working on travel recommendations/advice for each of the Avalanche Problems associated with the avalanche forecast.  We've been querying others across the field as well as consumers of the avalanche products.  I consider the Wasatch to have the savviest and well-educated backcountry folks around - so - we'd love to have your take/feedback on the project.  (feedback box below or direct - Our project set about to create a set of travel recommendations for the Avalanche Problems that...