How quick pits improve decision making
This article orginally appeared in BackcountryMagazine.com on February 1, 2019 How quick pits improve decision-making In another article on BackcountryMagazine.com, Sarah Carpenter described six steps for doing a “quick pit” and answering the question “Am I missing anything?” Make sure to read if you haven’t already. I’d like to offer a few reasons to dig a quick pit, including how it helps our decision making. In mid-December I was skiing on Kessler Peak in the Wasatch Mountains. Strong winds had ruined the skiing on many slopes, and we were searching for …Read more
Springtime Tech Tips
Springtime in the mountains is one of the best times of the year. Longer days and lots of sunshine bring on great corn riding, bigger objectives, and changing avalanche problems. While those pesky weak layers we’ve been worrying about all season start to become dormant, we begin turning our attention to wet avalanches. While these avalanches are harder to predict than dry avalanches, a few signs can indicate the potential for these slow yet powerful slides to release. Recent wet avalanche activity, roller balls or ‘cinnamon rolls’ beginning to fall down the mountainside, …Read more
What does Acceptable Risk even mean?
What does Acceptable Risk even mean? Not long ago, I was asked this question by another long-time avalanche professional after sitting in one of our annual fall Snow and Avalanche Workshops. In an avalanche accident this winter, I found - what I believe - to be a clear example. First some definitions (these are my definitions): Risk - the potential of danger, harm, or loss to someone or something. In the mountain setting, risks may involve injury or death due to the interaction with objective hazards, such as rockfall, lightning, or avalanches. Reward - …Read more
Early Morning Pattern Hunting-What's the Problem?
Spring has sprung and we’re just now passing the max SWE (snow water equivalent) for Snowbird (black line) for this time of year. Not that we needed a chart to know that this is the type of season that keeps people in Utah for decades. You can tell by the smiles on riders’ faces, and talking to friends who are too tired to keep skiing, but keep after it because it’s that good. There are decisions being made right now that will change the path of someone’s life long into the future and they involve sliding on snow in the mountains. So simple- yet so rewarding. It was …Read more
Avalanche Transceivers - Electromagnetic Interference
Avalanche transceivers are susceptible to interference by electronic devices, metal objects, and magnets if they are too close. Every day there are more electronic devices being carried into the backcountry. Of particular concern may be heated clothing. The guidance below provides practical guidance on how to avoid problems with interference. It was created through a collaboration by Avalanche Canada, the US National Avalanche Center, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Utah Avalanche Center, Northwest Avalanche Center and the six avalanche transceiver manufacturers: Arva, BCA, …Read more
"Ten Contributory Factors Leading To Direct Action Slab Avalanche Formation."
Ed LaChapelle and Monty Atwater worked in Little Cottonwood Canyon in the 1950's. Atwater put together Ten Contributory Factors for avalanche hazard evaluation in 1954. Check out his typewritten notes on direct action slab avalanches that are still relevant to today's avalanche problems. For further reading on contributory factors from Ron Perla there is a more in depth article from 1970 HERE.Read more
Forecaster Mindset on the Persistent Weak Layer - 27 Dec 2022
We're in for a run of large storms that began on Tuesday December 27, 2022 set to impact the state throughout the next week. See Trent and Mike's weather discussion HERE. The buried persistent weak layer (PWL) has plagued us since it formed during high pressure in November. It was subsequently buried at the end of November and we saw low elevation avalanches on this persistent weak layer at elevations below 8000' including a few close calls with people getting run through forested avalanche terrain. Since the first avalanche cycle ran it's course in mid December this PWL has been …Read more