Avalanche Avoidance – Part I

| July 18, 2008 | 0 Comments

You know what an avalanche is, huh?  It’s what’ll kill ya.

Gabe – Alta Ski Patrol

The avalanche path and the skier can never truly be friends.  In the backcountry, the skier wants what the avalanche path has (steep & deep) but the avalanche  could care less about the skier and always has the upper hand.  It’s an uneasy relationship at best and it is important not to get too cozy with slide paths as they have a temperament of their own and should never be trusted.

An early morning avalanche.  At the time, avoiding getting swept down in the debris seemed like it was based on skill.  18 years later, I think it had as much to do with luck as anything!  Photo by Doug Hall.
An early morning avalanche. At the time, avoiding getting swept down in the debris seemed like it was based on skill. 18 years later, I think it had as much to do with luck as anything! Photo by Doug Hall.

As a base concept, avalanches are best avoided to begin with as it’s rare to win a fight with even a small one.   If you find yourself thinking that a slope will probably slide, but that it won’t go very big, or you’ll be able to outrun it, that is a classic Red Light.  Once you are caught, all bets are off and anything can happen, including terrain traps, shallow burials and stepping down.  Avalanches are difficult to accurately forecast in advance, yet painfully obvious in retrospect.  For this reason, I prefer to focus on avalanche avoidance instead of prediction.  Assume slopes are guilty until proven innocent and always watch your backside.

continued tomorrow…

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Category: 07 Avalanche Avoidance

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

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