Forecaster Blogs

Blog: Avalanche Airbag Effectiveness - Something Closer to the Truth - Mar 4, 2013 - Bruce Tremper
  This winter I noticed a magazine advertisement for an avalanche airbag pack that claimed “A 97 percent success rate in real world conditions.”  What the advertisement didn’t mention was that people caught WITHOUT an avalanche airbag have an 80 - 90 percent success rate.  In other words, most people caught in an avalanche will get a cheap lesson; they will either escape off the slab, grab a tree, dig into the bed surface, ride on top of the debris, it will be a small avalanche that wouldn’t burry them anyway, they could be saved by a beacon recovery or...


Blog: Danger in the Danger Ratings - Mar 3, 2013 - Hardesty
Who was it that said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the other ones."  Mark Twain?  Rather, Winston Churchill, just after the war, and it's likely he borrowed it from someone else.  (Perhaps Twain, again.)  I think it's the same with our Avalanche Danger Ratings.    At the Black Diamond Fireside Chat a couple weeks ago, I had a surprise for those who showed up.  I guessed that most of them had come to learn something from me...but I told them that I was going to turn the tables...


Blog: What is the Risk of Riding in Avalanche Terrain? - Feb 26, 2013 - Bruce Tremper
  Risk.  Our lives revolve around risk but it’s a concept most of us don’t understand well.  The human brain is good at many things such as pattern recognition and the nuances of social interaction but our brain is notoriously poor at statistics and probability. People who are afraid to fly don’t mind driving although, on average, you would have to fly every day for 4,000 years for you to be killed on a commercial aviation flight.  Automobile fatalities are so common you hardly see them mentioned in the newspaper anymore (32,000 per year in the U.S.) We...


Blog: Avalanche Problems Explained - Feb 18, 2013 - Bruce Tremper
Avalanche problems.  What are they and where did they come from?  Why do we use them?   Here is an online version of an article we originally published in the Avalanche Review, which is a professional avalanche journal in the U.S.  Several years ago, the Utah Avalanche Center came up with the current list of avalanche problems, which we distilled down from a paper presented by Roger Atkins.  The avalanche problems and the icons we created have spread to many other avalanche centers in the U.S. and around the world. I was on the committee last summer that came up with...


Blog: Avalanche Charts for the Season - Feb 14, 2013 - Bruce Tremper
Here are some charts of the backcountry avalanches in our database so far this season. As usual, the aspect northeast comes up again and again.  This is because of the combination between shady, cold slopes, wind deposits and slope steepness and the number of people.  1) Slopes facing the north half of the compass are colder because they are shadier, which form and preserve faceted snow, which causes almost all avalanches in our region.  2) Wind blows from the west, so it tends to drift snow onto the east facing slopes.  3) Because of the above two factors, glaciers from...


Blog: Terminal Cancer - Feb 13, 2013 - Hardesty
I went skiing in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada on my day off on Monday.  When your good friend with prostate cancer from out of town calls on Saturday night and says, "We're going skiing in the Rubies on Monday and you're coming as well",  you have no choice but to pack your stuff.  Fittingly, he and mutual friend Terry picked a line called Terminal Cancer, a striking line plucked by Joe Royer back in the late 70s.  Plenty of folks like to post the rad sick line they just hit...but the goal here is to convey the homework that goes into it - at home, and in...


Blog: Glide avalanche primer - Feb 11, 2013 - Bruce Tremper
This seems like a good time for a primer on glide avalanches since there was a skier buried to his neck and injured his leg in an avalanche that appears to have been a natural glide avalanche that released high on the slope above the party.  We will investigate the slide today and let you know the final verdict. Glide avalanches occur when the entire snowpack "glides" slowly down the slope--similar to a glacier--until it releases catastrophically at seemingly random times.   See the animation below created by Jim Conway for the Utah Avalanche Center.  


Blog: Spatial Variability - Feb 9, 2013 - Hardesty
You'll see below one of the reasons we started a BLOG.  We were forever receiving great questions via email...but often wondered if many others had the same question and/or would benefit from the same answer.  The email is from a participant in our most recent Advanced Avalanche Class.  My agenda for the class - How to Make Better Go/No Go Decisions in the Backcountry - is below: Take a microscope to the 7 Avalanche Problems (Storm Snow, Wind Slab, Persistent Slab, Loose Snow, Deep Slab, Wet Snow, Cornice) with the goal of better understanding why, how, and where they...


Blog: 4Frnt Tech Talk - Touring - Feb 8, 2013 - Evelyn Lees
A great video I found on New Schoolers.  http://www.newschoolers.com/watch/609717.0/Tech-Talk---Touring?c=11&o=8&t=6    


Blog: Human Triggered slides Jan 31 - Feb 3 - Feb 3, 2013 - Bruce Tremper
We've had a rash of large, human triggered avalanches these past few days.  Here is a rundown on all the slides and where they have been occurring by aspect and elevation and a few thoughts about the nature of the beast. Here, Evelyn and I plotted all the human triggered avalanches since Jan 31.  There are 11 human triggered avalanches with 6 people caught, two total burials (with beacon recoveries), one partial burial and one injury.  (Add one dot to the graph for late-breaking news, 8,900' NW.) Notice they fall generally on the aspects where faceted snow both forms...


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