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
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
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
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:
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.