The Extended Column Test (ECT)

| January 6, 2009

As much as anything, I love learning new snow stability test as I get bored doing the same old ones over and over.  I use to do a lot of Reusch Block tests, but over the years they started getting smaller and smaller.  Nowadays, I’m into digging a pit which is big enough to preform three isolated column tests – one shovel shear, one compression, and then a repeat of whichever of those two seemed most valuable.  I prefer lots of half-assed pits over one mega pit as conditions vary so much.  Because of this, I dig a lot of my pits with my skis on and only spend about 5-10 minutes max per pit.

I was out with Dylan Freed the other day who showed me the Extended Column Test, which I like as it uses the same pit format as the above tests and shows not only weak layers, but also gives you an idea of how easily they will propagate. The test is just like a compression test, except you use an extended, triple-wide column, and thus the name – the Extended Column Test.

Dylan also passed along the written description from the  Applied Snow and Avalanche Research at the University of Calgary which can be found here.

Help support and pit-out with the best of the best shovels, the G3 AviTECH Shovel from Click on the photo below…


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.

Comments (14)

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Sites That Link to this Post

  1. AST II - Day 2 - David Hayes | February 24, 2009
  1. Fenris says:

    Now what are those skis behind him?

  2. Rich Hatton says:

    Hey Andrew, really enjoying your avie posts and videos. Keep up the good work!

  3. jared says:

    nice. but what i enjoyed most was the mohawk-mullet.

  4. Andrew says:

    Fenris – They are some BD proto skis, which actually look like they’d be good for the backcountry (partially about the up).

  5. Andrew says:

    I had lunch with Dylan today and he explained how he was going to have to trim the ‘hawk down a bit for safety purposes – you don’t want some freak grabbing in a fight and using it to his/her advantage. I’d never considered a haircut as a safety item before.

  6. Ben says:

    “… … No.”


  7. Ralph S. says:

    I notice more craters from Telemark skiers than avy pits anyways… At least they are always kind enough to do bitchin’ ski cuts (even if that’s not the intention)!

  8. randosteve says:

    Tell Dylan a website works better than a mohawk at attracting sponsors.

  9. Chris says:

    Is the ECT documented anywhere – so that if I mention it to the local avie forecasters they don’t say “whay?”

  10. Andrew says:

    Hi Chris – you can find the written description of the ECT test on the link in the above test, and it just so happens that it is also detailed in the latest BackCountry Magazine.

  11. Fenris says:

    Steve – I think Dylan is trying to take a page out of Plake’s playbook.

  12. pfiatenamitnand says:

    Hallo Andrew.

    This is a nice short article about the ECT. And as I am an advocate of the ECT I agree with you on all points. :)
    So keep up the good work and keep on diggin’ snow pits.

    But there is one little thing I’d like to remark:
    You speek about the “Reusch Block test”. The spelling is incorrect. (But the pronunciation is correct.)
    The right spelling is “Rutschblocktest”. It is a german word and it comes from the verb “rutschen”, which means “to slip”.

    Best regards
    Allgäu/ Germany

  13. Erwin says:

    I would like to mention the it’s 10 from the wrist and 10 from the elbow. The way he is hitting the 2nd wave is 10 from the should with a bend elbow…

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