Forecaster Blogs

Blog: Effectiveness of Avalanche Airbags - A Quick Primer - 01/25/2016 - Bruce Tremper
  Because of the recent, tragic fatality on Gobbler’s Knob, the Utah Avalanche Center has received many questions about the effectiveness of avalanche airbags.  The skier caught in the avalanche deployed their airbag but died anyway.  So what gives?  Here’s the short answer followed by a quick primer on avalanche airbags and where the statistics come from: Answer: According to the latest, peer-reviewed, statistical study, a deployed avalanche airbag will reduce mortality by 50% (22% vs. 11% in the study).  But because 20% of the people in the dataset were not able to deploy their airbags, if...


Blog: The Selection of Desires - 01/20/2016 - Excerpted from the Roger Atkins essay, "Yin, Yang, and You"
Avalanche travel decisions are about risk vs rewards and penalties – we use an assessment of hazard to choose how to satisfy our desires without realizing our fears. The traditional focus is on assessment and management of the risk side of the process and assumes that the reward side is a fixed entity, but it is also possible to influence choices by altering the perception of reward. Choices are driven by our desires and our desires can be manipulated, either by external influences or by a deliberate choice to alter our desires. The traditional view of risk treatment is to adjust one’s...


Blog: Thoughts on Snowpack, Jan 19, 2016 - 01/19/2016 - Evelyn
  With another storm on the way, some thoughts on the current snow pack.   In recent days, slopes that have slid one or more times this winter have been the most active and I expect that will continue. Sunny slopes have buried thin to medium sun crusts, some with facets beneath, and could be come more active. At some of the lower elevations, there are hard, slick surfaces beneath the recent snow - good bed surfaces for sluffs and soft slabs.   Many of us are curious that the buried January near surface facets have been so unreactive....so far. Surface snow weakened overnight - and is mixed...
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Blog: Forecast Addendum: Jan 14, 2016 - Weak layer outlook - 01/14/2016 - Brett Kobernik
I like to ski and snowboard powder in avalanche terrain when appropriate.  I also like to take my motorized snowbike into crazy terrain when I can.  This is a big reason why I'm in the business I am.  So, I pay close attention to things that clue me in to when getting into avalanche terrain is appropriate.  Here are some current thoughts. CURRENT SNOW SURFACE AS OF WEDNESDAY, JAN 13: In many locations, the snow surface has changed during over the last few days during the high pressure.  There is also some surface hoar present.  The surface snow from the last storm has changed into small...


Blog: No Exit, or Tragedy of the Commons - an Act in III parts - 01/5/2016 - Hardesty
Scene 1.  The Room.  Jean Paul Sartre's 1944 play No Exit depicts an afterlife where three people sentenced to Hell find themselves locked in a room together.  Each of them wait and wonder how they will be tortured...until after some great length of time, they come to find that they are there to torture one another.  Forever.  The reader might be expected to come away with a perverse view of humanity; that is, the idea that "L'enfer, c'est les autres" or "Hell is other people" after being a voyeur of the unfolding relationship of the three.  Kirk Woodward writes that the three are in hell...


Blog: Do Cell Phones Interfer with Beacons? - 12/21/2015 - 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: How We Create Forecasts - 12/17/2015 - Staff Blog
  Ever wonder how we create forecasts?  Wonder no longer because we created a 5-minute, entertaining video. And here's the direct link: https://youtu.be/1KYwEk4G9Js


Blog: Forecast Addendum - Dec 16, 2015 - 12/16/2015 - Brett Kobernik
There is lots going on with the snow, weather and avalanche danger right now. Looking at this from a backcountry powder skiers perspective, I don't like it.  The older snow from November has become so weak that it is not going to allow me to get onto my favorite steep slopes for quite some time.  I was fairly optimistic until about a week and a half ago when I finally had to admit defeat.  The the old faceted snow has progressed to the stage that it's going to cause problems.  Now we are loading it up and it seems inevitable that we'll see avalanches.  It is going to take a good amount of...


Blog: Utah Avalanche Fatalities in the Modern Era - 12/10/2015 - Hardesty
Analysis of Utah Avalanche Fatalities in the Modern Era             The Utah Avalanche Center (UAC) has records of Utah avalanche fatalities for the modern era, totaling 114 deaths. The modern era refers to the post-mining decades (the late 1800s and early 1900s) and for this study, it begins with an avalanche fatality near Alta, Utah on January 1, 1940.  The primary aims of this study were to understand who was getting killed in avalanches, where they were getting killed, and what types of avalanches were killing them.  By understanding these factors, and looking at trends over time, we...


Blog: Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop - October 31, 2015 - 11/29/2015 - Bruce Tremper
Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop 2015 - October 31, 2015 The Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop (USAW) was yet another smashing success with over 600 attendees and 29 commercial exhibits.  Each year, USAW provides critical, continuing education for both professionals and the public with attendees and presenters from across the Intermountain West.  The chief organizer and MC, Craig Gordon, wore his usual tuxedo, combined with the energy that only Craig can deliver. Because USAW evolved from being a continuing education seminar just for professionals, it features talks with more interest for...


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