I have been taking an avalanche course
through my wife’s ski patrol group over the last couple weeks, and have been
meaning to post a little word to the group on the subject.
The snow pack in the back country around
here is just as unstable, and it is expected to remain so for most of the
year. Our late, cold snow will be a persistent weakness until spring thaw
restructures the entire pack.
As we kiters become more advanced, we
become more daring, seeking more challenging terrain and higher adventures,
which takes us into areas of greater and greater risk. Climbing over
mountains and shredding cornices. Being aware of the increased avalanche
hazard is important to ensure we do not start a new list of statistical
idiots in the back country seeking our own Darwin awards.
Here’s a few things to keep in mind:
Most avalanches occur on slope angles
between 30 and 45 degrees, with the “sweet spot” being about 37 degrees.
97% of avalanches that result in human
burials are human caused.
Most avalanches that matter are “slab”
avalanches, which is a slab of more consolidated snow sitting on top of a weak
layer. Additional loading causes the weakness to collapse and the slab to
release. Slabs can be HUGE. If you are kiting around and you hear a
“whoomp,” that is weak layer collapsing under the slab you are skiing on top
of. You can even be on the flats next a hill and have cracks propagate up
onto the slope, triggering an avalanche.
An avalanche does not have to be big to
kill you. Just enough to burry you. A small slide into a gully
could dump several feet of snow on top of you.
Slabs will tend to develop on the lee
(downwind) side of a hill. Which is good, since we tend to kite the
windward side of things, but keep in mind that we typically get wind from the
SE followed by wind from the NW and vice versa, so where we kite today may have
been the lee side yesterday.
Even some of the brightest and most
trained people traveling in the back country have been killed by
avalanches. Frequently as a result of their hubris getting the better of
them and pushing the envelope of safety beyond the limits to get that extra
little piece of thrill.
If you plan on getting off the flats and
into the hills, take some time and familiarize yourself with avalanche
safety. At least grab a book on avalanche safety. Oh yeah…,
AND READ IT!
I don’t personally think that we all
need to be running around with probes shovels and beacons, but we need to be
aware of the potential hazards, and have some idea of what they look like
before we find out the hard way. Remember that slide in Fairfield a few
years back that buried that house and killed the people inside? That was
right in our backyard and on just the kind of terrain we like to ride!
Check out www.avalanche. org
you can get the Sun Valley and McCall avalanche reports, as well as get
additional information on avalanches. Current Sun Valley report: http://www.avalanch
e.org/~svavctr/ adv_current. php
All of those who have died in avalanches
so far this year have left families and loved ones behind to bare the grief of
tragic loss. Regardless of who they are and how they lived their lives,
they deserve our respect and to their loved ones our condolences. We can
honor them by heeding the warnings their tragic loss heralds.
May all of us, and all the people
we care about, as well as everyone who seeks to embrace the fullness of life by
whatever means have a safe and adventurous new year!
snowkiteidaho@ yahoogroups. com [mailto:snowkiteida ho@yahoogroups. com] On
Behalf Of Whitney Rearick
Sent: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 9:07 AM
To: snowkiteidaho@ yahoogroups. com
Subject: [snowkiteidaho] avalanches
In case you're traveling and plan on hitting the alpine
slopes, here are some posts from another listserv. On the other hand,
maybe natural selection is finally weeding out those dopes on snowmobiles:
"3 snowmobiles in UT in the last few days have died in
avalanches. Teenager near Kamas, UT was the latest fatality yesterday. Be
careful out there.
----- Original Message -----
To: idahowhitewater@ yahoogroups. com
Sent: 2008-12-29 21:38
Subject: [idahowhitewater] Re: JH
--- In idahowhitewater@ yahoogroups. com,
"Laura" <kos-howe@.. .> wrote:
> For all you idaho boaters/skiers interested in Jackson
> slides going on over there. Besides the death the other day, today is
> another bad day. The headwall slid this morning, I don't think it had
> slid significantly since a major one in '86. I don't know how far it
> went down the mountain, but it blew through a mid-mountain chalet.
> Rumor also has it other on-area bowls have slid. No real information
> yet on people, other than no reported fatalities. It happened before
> the mountain opened.
The whole backcountry from Colorado to Utah and
BC has been currently
described at " plywood sheets on top of ball bearing". 8 snowmobilers
with beacons were buried yesterday up near Fernie ( 3 survived). A
skier died in an in bound slide at Snowbird last week, and those are
just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Be careful out there.